That is the end of one of my favorite quotes from my all-time favorite movie.
The movie: Pretty Woman
I remember going to see Pretty Woman at a movie theater in 1990. The movie instantly became my favorite. I am not joking. I loved it deeply, right away. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve seen it. I own it on VHS (2 copies actually, thanks to great friends) and DVD.
I always giggle when asked what my favorite movie is, slightly embarrassed that I love a movie that was about a prostitute who found true love with a billionaire. How cheesy. Why couldn’t I say “Monty Python” or “Citizen Kane”?
It wasn’t until today, 27 years later, that I figured out exactly why.
I know. I’m slow sometimes… especially when it comes to figuring myself out.
See, the past 5 days have been extremely hard for me. Old wounds seem ripped open. Disappointment has set in. It’s all a complicated story, and one I will continue to keep off this blog.
However, it is a story that is inspiring me to speak more about my past abuses.
I feel compelled, because so many people still seem to want to victim shame in a time when women are rising up and speaking their truths. I feel like it is my mission now to explain why women wait to speak, why they make decisions others can’t understand, and why they don’t stand up for themselves.
And, then, today, the quote popped into my head. Like a magic trick:
“I know. It’s a really good offer for a girl like me.” Vivian Ward
Oh my. That quote. Do you remember?
She is in Edward Lewis’ hotel suite. He has just offered to put her up in an apartment, get her a car, have stores suck up to her. Get her off the streets. Sounds awesome…. for a prostitute.
He wants to be with her…. just not enough to BE with her.
And, she says no. NO!
Here was this prostitute, this seemingly broken woman, who was being offered to be put up and cared for… and she said NO!
“I’ve never treated you like a prostitute.” Edward said, as he left the hotel room
“You just did.” Vivian whispers
She knew something I would still take another decade to figure out for myself. She knew she was worth more. In that moment, my desire to have self-respect was played out on the big screen.
“This is all I’m capable of right now.” Edward
She was holding out for love. She wanted love.
Until today, I had no idea that the movie actually touched me that way. I swear. I just knew I loved it and could watch it forever.
And then, that quote… on repeat…. all day… in my head.
So many victims of sexual abuse feel no real value. We tell ourselves we are lucky if someone is nice to us. We cling to it, even when they stop being nice, because we want the nice to come back.
More often than not, victims will make decisions others can’t understand because they truly believe they don’t deserve more than the apartment and sugar daddy money. For the record, none of my boyfriends ever had sugar daddy money.
Vivian saw through the “nice” part of the relationship. She held out for something that showed her true value.
I wanted to be more like Vivian. I wanted true value.
As that quote, “…for a girl like me.” played on a loop in my head, I started wondering why.
Then, the name Jeff popped in my head, and I figured it out.
You all need to understand what happens when a girl has all her self-esteem stripped away. You need to know why… WHY… women make decisions that seem so stupid.
So… Jeff. I was dating him when this came movie came out… a weird coincidence that doesn’t escape me right now.
I met Jeff while I was working at Bob Evans as a waitress. My high school sweetheart also worked there, and we had just broken up. That boy broke my heart, and I was a mess. This was 5 years after I was raped. This was 6 years after a man tried to assault me in front of his young daughter on their family room floor. This was 9 years after the last time a man named Mr. Smith assaulted me, ending his 5 year streak.
I was broken.
In swooped Jeff.
Man, did he make me feel better. We didn’t date right away. He just complimented me a lot. He slammed on my ex a lot. He included me in cookouts and parties. One night after one of those cookouts, as we piled into a car and headed home, I was quietly crying, missing my ex. His hand slipped from the back seat to the front (around the seat) and held mine. He comforted me. He was my friend. When I was with him, I was funny, beautiful, smart.
Somewhere in there, we started dating. That was when it all went dark. Very dark.
It started small. First, the compliments ended pretty quickly. He actually would say little jabs about my looks, even if I had done the same I always do… same makeup, hair style. Then, he would go to cookouts and parties without me. When he got angry, it would make me cry. No more comforting… instead he called me weak. It progressively got worse. Then it got physical.
I will spare you all the stories. There are too many to tell. However, one will always stand out in my mind. I remember all the details. The way the rooms look, the order of the furniture. The tiny bathroom.
He said we would watch movies. I came over to his place. When I got there, the living room was full of boys… his brother, his friends. He took me in his room, and told me to watch TV and they would all leave. We got, well, friendly, for a bit. He then said he was being rude to his friends and left the bedroom. Before he walked out, he told me to stay in there, and don’t come out. I was watching TV, when I had to go to the bathroom. I held it for a while, but I really had to go. Besides, the bathroom door was right outside his bedroom door.
So, I snuck out, and into the bathroom.
The bathroom door was thrown open. I was on the toilet. He screamed at me to finish. I did. As I was washing my hands, he grabbed my arm and pulled, then pushed, me into the bedroom, and slammed the door. The next few minutes were violent. I will leave it at that.
During that struggle, I got to hear how stupid I was that I couldn’t follow simple instructions to stay in the bedroom. How I was a whore who wanted all his friends to look at me. I got to hear how my ex cheated on me because I wasn’t worth anything. How lucky I was to have him….
Right now, you are thinking…. you left him, right?
I thought I might leave him.
But then… the next day, he was so sorry. How could he treat a beautiful woman this way? He couldn’t ever live without me and he was just having a bad day. Flowers, love, on his knees, love, begging, love, please, love!
This hadn’t been the first time. It wouldn’t be the last.
So, why would a woman stay? I must have been weak. I must have been ignorant.
Sure, maybe, that is part of it. But, I was also so incredibly insecure, that I believed what he said to me the night before, and so badly wanted him to be the person he was the next morning. So, I was worth nothing, and he was on his knees. He could quit the abuse, and just be the guy on his knees.
I wanted what Vivian wanted.
“I want the Fairy Tale.” Vivian
I just didn’t know, I didn’t understand, that the morning after was never the fairy tale.
Obviously, I ended up leaving him. So what did it?
Well, two things:
1. Oh, this is embarrassing. His mom actually beat me up one morning. I am not sure really what led up to it, but she stormed into his room, pulled me by the hair into the living room and started punching until Jeff and his brother got her off me. She was screaming about how I was a slut, and taking her son away. That was the moment I realized he came by his abusive anger honestly.
2. He went off to the first Gulf War. He kept in touch, and we sent each other letters, but it was over.
So, I didn’t get strong, and leave him. His mom and a war broke us up.
And, he wasn’t the last abusive relationship I had.
I will continue that in my next blog entry, because this is a lot. I am spent.
I think it is so important for the world at large to understand WHY. WHY in the hell do we stay? WHY don’t we tell? WHY do we comply? It comes down to our self-esteem, our self-worth. Hopefully, my story will help those who can’t understand find a way to build empathy for victims.
For now, I will leave you with the cheesiest, yet best part of the movie, because HOPE is what we all have:
Vivian! Princess Vivian! Come down! Had to be the top floor, right? Edward
It’s the best. Vivian
All right. I’m coming up. So, what happened after he climbed the tower and rescued her? Edward
She rescues him right back. Vivian
(Spoiler Alert: My prince did come, and he loves me in ways I never thought I deserved… but… when he arrived… I had already begun to rescue myself.)