Today’s weekly grocery shopping began relatively normal. Surprisingly we scored a parking space near the store and successfully dodged saying “No, thank you” to the Cub Scouts selling popcorn. We even got a clean cart without cuckoo wheels. As always, I began showing my daughter how to select produce and carefully bag and place it in the cart so as not to make our hunt void. We were nearly done with the produce section, picking out radishes when the couple next to us caught my attention. Mainly, the husband’s tone of voice banged a gong in my head and caused me to freeze.
It was a tone, I recognized. Half joking, half authoritative. A no-nonsense “I am to be obeyed, but because we are in public, I will pretend to joke.” The argument was over green onions. The wife was looking for a good bunch and the husband was telling her she was wasting her time as the onions were too small to put on his food. She was trying to say something about the size and the purpose but I honestly heard little of what she said. He was overbearing. He began to puff up like a peacock. He grabbed the handles of the cart like he would break them and called her stupid and silly in that sickly sweet half-joking voice. I stepped back and pulled my daughter with me. I didn’t expect drama, really, I just didn’t want to be so close to a scene replayed from my own past.
I was that woman six years ago, trying to complete a simple task. Trying to keep my husband happy by any means. Pretending the “half-joke” was just his way of talking to me now. Suffering the name calling and veiled insults. Doing my best to keep the anger that was starting to grow inside me from over taking me before I did something that would make him yell at me, or worse, leave me. I saw myself in that woman. The embarrassment. The inward thoughts of “how can I keep the situation from escalating to the point of drawing unwanted attention?” She did what I would have done back then. She put the onions away, succumbed to the insistence of her suddenly proud husband and moved on to the deli counter like he wanted.
This was a simple event. Many would not have even noticed it. Never would have heard the way he was speaking. May have even dismissed it as the joke he was trying to make it sound. Invisible public abuse. Just a little thing. doesn’t mean anything. But this is only what happens in public. People forget about what happens when the doors are closed. My life changed when I followed my husband to a land where we were alone. The two family members I had in Oregon, my husband tried to forbid me to see. Only through a constant reminder of how close my family is, did my husband reluctantly give up that fight choosing instead not to attend events they invited us to and teasing me about them when I returned home.
The event in the grocery store today was so simple. So easily unseen. So easily forgotten. So easily dismissed. So telling of what happens at home. I wish I could have said something to the woman, but remembering who I was and how I was thinking, no stranger could have come and told me anything. It only would have increased my desire to work harder to please my husband regardless of any sacrifice I would need to give. I was conditioned and so was she. There was no help I could give and it hurt to know it.
So now, all I can do is release my feelings about what I witnessed. Be proud of how far I have come and the freedom I have gained. It was a long, hard, cold, lonely journey to where I am now, and I’m still not done. More of the journey is behind me now though and there is light ahead. Someday my face will feel the sun again and my eyes will drink in the joy of true affection. My heart will know what it means to be truly cared for and even loved. My heart is open to it. But thankfully, my eyes and ears are still open to what many would dismiss as trivial. Hopefully by sharing what little I saw and the 20/20 vision it gave me, I can be that bell in someone else’s life. When she’s ready to throw caution to the wind and be her own person again, I hope she remembers what she suffered.
A marriage license is not a free pass to over power and suppress another. It should not be okay to ignore a spouse calling the other stupid in public. What is done in public is exponentially worse when the doors are closed.