[Editor’s Note: With all of the attention that Netflix’s take on the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling has generated, we approached independent wrestler/manager April Hunter to give us some perspective on what the series looks like to someone who’s spent time between the ropes. Her reaction is–as one might expect–intensely personal, and well worth reading.]
I didn’t watch the originalGLOWgrowing up because I was more of a Kung Fu Theatre kind of girl–and my parents wouldn’t allow me to stay up that late – but I was certainly aware of its existence, thus disproving the theory that everyone was kung fu fighting. GLOW became a household name with their sexy women in skimpy costumes and campy, controversial storylines despite running only four short years.
If you only watch WWE, you may not be familiar with me unless you’ve caught a glimpse on the WWE Network. I’mabring you up to speed on 16 years of history in a single super lengthy, run-on paragraph. Ready? Here we go.
I started in WCW as eye candy in 1999 after a Playboypictorial hit newsstands, andwas offered a spot in the fascinating world of wrestling, where I did important things like hang on Scott Steiner’s arm and made Kevin Nash look even taller. As I was on a pay-per-show basis with WCW, Jim Ross (a true gentleman) requested a meeting. I was sent to Boston to become a Bruins fan and attend the famous Killer Kowalski Instituteof Pro Wrestling. I was the only girl, and Walter, whom I adored, treated me exceptionally well. About a year later, WWF bought WCW and ECW, and I became lost in the shuffle while they dealt with the mass influx of contracts. Have spandex, will travel! I set off for Japan and England, wrestling badasseslike MimaShimoda and Sweet Saraya Knightall over their respective islands. (Reality: I was having my rear-end handed to me nightly while being polished.ThankYouMa’amMayIHaveAnother?) I enjoyed working overseas, so Mexico, Puerto Rico, Canada, Germany, France, Romania, Ireland and anywhere else willing to pay for ample cleavage and a stiff forearm became my way of life. I bounced back to the USA and continued to train at Kowalski’s while working for JAPW, WEW, Ring of Honor, TNA Wrestling/Impact Live, 3PW and various other promotions in between tours. (All my friends were having babies and I was like, “Hey, I’m just trying to keep my abs, build my personal brand and see the world.”)At the same time (and still) I also model, take the occasional acting role, compete on a national level in fitness and figure, appear on comic cons, cosplay, work for comic book artists like George Perez and Boris Vallejo, run my own websites (Yo! Cheap plug: April Hunter Blog) and write. Last year, I sort of became an adult and started Full Sail University for my degree in creative writing for entertainment (TV, film, and games). Boom.Ridiculously long paragraph done.
Now that my street cred is established: when pro wrestling goes into the mainstream, I cringe. The sport has long been considered the redheaded stepchild of entertainment–and I know all about the treatment of redheaded stepchildren. Hollywood caricatures this; fun gets ridiculous and the tragic becomes brutal.
The 2008 filmThe Wrestlerhit me so hard, I felt like I’d just watched a documentary.Convinced she needed to see all the nominated movies, shielding my mother from the film wasn’t easy. At that time, she was dying from cancer and I was taking care of her, so my standard reply after running errands was,“Redbox was sold out.” One day on the way home from chemotherapy, she made me stop at the store. Lo and behold, The Wrestlerwas in stock. Unenthusiastically, I purchased the rental, removing the disc from the slot as if it were rat poison. That evening, we realized we’d gotten a version that was scratched so bad, it simply wouldn’t play. Shame.
Mom feared the wrestling business was too dangerous for her only daughter. For me, it was exhilarating. For her, it was stressful. She’d panic every time I’d jet off alone to some city in Mexico (after watching the country’s awful news coverage), or I’d visit her wrapped tightly in an ice pack and an Ace bandage. (To be fair, I was a burlesque act and gymnast before wrestling, so I’ve spent a solid portion of my life married to Ace bandages.)I wasn’t about to allow an Oscar-winning film to confirm her fears. She and I watched a plethora of movies before she passed and not one of them was The Wrestler.
Once Netflix announced GLOW, I found myself both excited about the showcasingof women’s wrestling and concerned how it would be portrayed.I date someone who knows very little about the wrestling business whom I shall refer to as The Love Machine (TLM) solely because it entertains me.
TLM is in law enforcement and a solidly trained fighter in his own right. He arrived on the scene with no experience in the entertainment industry and some alarming preconceived notions about my flashy career. I felt the need to break him in gently, soWrestleCon in Orlando was his first exposure. Throwing him into the middle of avibrant convention celebrating everything wrestling wasfar easier than attempting to explain the crazy world I’m part of to someone who hadn’t yet peeked at the man behind Oz’s curtain.
“That was nothing like I thought. It was really fun and professional,” he said with a grin. He’d just asked a guy wearing nothing but hot pink spandex and a championship belt for a photo.
“How did you think it was going to be?”
“Well, I thought it would be more … sleazy.”
Porn is easily accessed and widely accepted in many other countries.If someone pays good money to see women’s wrestling, they actually want to see women wrestle. On the other hand, America is a prudish nation. Our acceptable porn is thinly veiled as fitness modeling, women’s wrestling, Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, yoga pants on Instagram and Hooters girls. Our society says these things don’t make us a “dirty pervert,”even if we are.
A prude, I am not. Bikini, fitness, art and nude modeling have thankfully put food on my table longer than … well, let’s just say I’m extremely fortunate and grateful to my Grandma for her fantastic genetics. However, I stand by two things when it comes to a career path on the less dressed side of the entertainment industry:
What you do isn’t who you are.
What we do is a business. It’s not personal.There’s valid reason we qualify for OurName, LLC.
Would GLOW have all the hard work, bumps and falls, training, broken bones, blood, bulging discs, torn ligaments, and dedication thrown out the window and turned into some titillating fluff for public perception? Would they have women’s wrestling seen as nothing more than big hair and tight little asses in scant bikinis? Thinly veiled “acceptable porn?”
With school, I don’t have time for much, let alone TV. But nine words moved the show to the top of my priority list. “I’m going to watch it with or without you.”
GLOW started out slowly and at first, the characters weren’t likable. Set in the mid-1980s, Alison Brie (Community, Mad Men) is nearly unrecognizable as Ruth “Zoya the Destroya” Wilder, a plain-Jane desperate actress willing to do (almost) anything for work.
If you’re expecting a wrestling show, you’ll be sorely disappointed. GLOW is as much about wrestling moves as The Walking Dead is a show about zombies, rather than survivalists. Inspired by the documentaryGorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling: The True Story, wrestling fans Liz Flahive (Homeland, Nurse Jackie) and CarlyMensch (Orange is the New Black, Nurse Jackie)created the comedy for Netflix, which is more character driven and bears a slight resemblance to its sister series, Orange Is the New Black. While many of the wrestling characters are based on those from the original series, the fictionalized version of the story differs dramatically.
GLOW depicts 14 actresses-turned-wrestlers, relying heavily upon dialog, and pushes thought-provoking stereotypesin hot-button storylines which worked for that era. The series culminates with a nearly–missed television time slot after a succession of anything-that-can-go-wrong-will ups and downs along the way.
“Are you hiring actors to play wrestlers, or are we the wrestlers?” Ruth asks Sam (Marc Maron). ‘Yes,” he replies. Admittedly, I didn’t care for the casting of Ruth but grew to appreciate her as the storyline progressed. No matter how many times she stumbled (or was shoved), she kept getting back up, showing the dedication and drive it takes to succeed.
I was amiably surprised to see some of my coworkers on the show. John Hennigan played Hollywood, and stuntmanMando Guerrero (Eddie Guerrero’s brother), who was the official trainer forthe originalGLOW.
Carlito and Brodus Clay were cast as Carmen’s brothers. Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, and Marty Elias are featured at a wrestling event in the background. An uncreditedBrooke Hogan (and her incredibly backcombed hair) was the woman who showed Ruth and Sam the wrestling venue. Steel Horse, played by Alex Riley(who had been wrestling Joey Ryan with Laura James earlier in his match),gave Debbie a memorable and accurate speech about what the business is.
But the largest spot went to Kia Stevens, known as Awesome Kong (or Kharma), who played Tamme’ the “Welfare Queen,” a term President Ronald Reagan used to describe women who bilked the system. Kia was the only legitimate female professional wrestler and helped train the actresses through some of their basic moves.
Having known and worked with her for many years, it thrilled me to see her on TV, yet not having to take (many? any?) bumps.
I thought it peculiar they didn’t choose more trained females to fill the roles, especially since they went with a cast of women who seemed to be less recognized.
Betty Gilpin, mostly known for playing Dr. Carrie Roman on Nurse Jackie, was an excellent choice of main character opposite Alison Brie. As Debbie, she was a broken Barbie Doll in a failing marriage; a former soap star who gave it up to be a wife and mother with something to prove and an ax to grind. The writers won me with this line: “I actually like wrestling—it’s like I’m back in my body. It doesn’t belong to Randy or Mark,” Debbie says, referring to her infant son and husband. “I’m like … using it for me, and I feel like a goddamn superhero.”
In truth, what little wrestling is sprinkled through the show is basic and redundant, especially if you compare it to the real GLOW.I’m not knocking the trainers. Professional wrestling is very foreign and unnatural to learn, with its own pace, language and way of doing things such as allowing yourself to fall and working a certain side of the body. Additionally, it’s a whole ‘nother ball game when dealing with Hollywood and what’s physically permitted. There’s SAG (Screen Actors Guild), liability insurance and more to consider. If an actor is injured and unable to complete the series, it puts millions of dollars at risk for loss. There’s no “card subject to change” in film and television.
For those who may not be aware, Lisa Moretti started in the originalGLOW as Tina Ferrari and went on to have a successful career in WWE as Ivory.
Take a look at what the real-life GLOW was like HERE and HERE.
Most of the show’s credit is given to the women, but Sam Sylvia (stand-up comic and writer Maron) carries a significant portion the momentum. He’s a lovable chauvinistic rogue, the whore with a heart of gold. A former B-horror film director, he hopes to capitalize on the success of GLOWin order to finance his Next Big Film. The producer, an avid wrestling fan, assured him financing upon completion of the show. Bash, (or, as we’d call him, “the money guy,” played by Chris Lowell) states: “I am a patron of the arts, and wrestling is an art, despite my mother’s opinion …which is wrong.”
We got an inside glimpse of the development of gimmicks and characters, how wrestlers work together–even how prevalent nepotism is when it came down to one girl hired over another simply because her family was famous in wrestling.I found myself popping huge over the accuracy of some scenes to TLM, such as Cherry Bang telling her referee husband good news while selling a beat down in the corner during a taping.
I leaned back after finishing an episode and said, “This show HAD to be done by someone who is in the business. Or very close to it.” I was correct; Chavo Guerrero Jr. had been hired as the show’s consultant.Well done, Netflix!
In the end, my initial concerns proved groundless. GLOW had a feel-good,strong woman, we-can-do-it vibe.Watching smartened TLM to how the business worked, both then and now.
It was interesting to go back to 1985, which is when the original pilot was taped for its 1986-1990 run. GLOW was ahead of its time in figuring out what to do with women in the ring. Sadly, 30 years later, they still are.Other than hair styles and ring gear, things haven’t evolved much. Netflix didn’t shy away from harshtruthsabout our business, which includes dingy motels, parents who think wrestling is stupid, drug use and abuse, people who confuse female wrestlers for prostitutes, and the never-ending objectification of women. Honesty is refreshing.
In an ironic twist of fate, GLOW is an all-female show with just three men on the series. With only one male match on the entire card, I’m betting the guys were battling it out backstage to maintain their spots. #castingcouch? #kidding #mostly
Touching on real-life subjects like adultery and abortion, this series may be more suited for the big kids rather than the little ones. GLOWrespectfully showcasedfake fights with real risks, hard work, the tough lifestyle,andour blood-is-thicker-than-water aspect of ‘wrestling family’which still encompasses the businesstoday.
Viewers may finish the series with a better opinion of professional wrestling than when they first went in.
April K. Hunter is a television writer, short story author, and blogger. She primarily writes thrillers and memoirs. April attends Full Sail University for her bachelor’s degree in creative writing for entertainment. Her work appears in a variety of publications, including RxMuscle, Page & Spine, Medium and European Journal FONT. She is a model and former pro wrestler.
I’ve spent most of my adult life in a relationship. I’ve always put someone first, even at the cost of myself, my career or both. This is the very first time I don’t have to answer to anyone. I’ll admit, I kinda enjoy it.
There was an adjustment period after a tragic breakup with someone who had undiagnosed Borderline Personality Disorder. He was also bipolar. Well, shit. If anyone could help him, it would be me, right? As a card-carrying member of Club Van Gogh, I understand crazy. I know what to expect.
What in themuther-of-fuck was I thinking?
The difficult part for me to swallow is that before I saw all the mental issues, I actually *thought* I was in my first healthy relationship. Yeah. Then I stuck around out of hope and loyalty. That really fucked my head up.
It didn’t help that of the two of us, I was the calm, nonviolent one (yeah…me!) and with his disorder, he had the ability to twist things around, convince me I was the problem and everything was my fault.
I spent a lot of time on therapist’s couches and having coffee with friends working on rewiring myself since. Luckily, these are also the same couches he sat on and friends who knew him, so these people had insight as to what was really going on.
My own bipolar medication doses have been spot-on the past few years. I get regular blood tests and the aforementioned therapy. I’d been better than ever. And yet, that happened. The lack of judgment and constant second-guessing made me unable to figure out what was up from down. Now that I’m dating again, I’m very cautious and wish I could rely on my instinct and judgment. You know, like normal people don’t. I over-think and get confused at times. Living alone has been challenging, too. There’s no one to reign me in when I go a little too far outside the lines. I think that’s one of the things you need to find in both your closest friend(s) and a partner when you’re bipolar, or it won’t work.
My Fucktarded Brain:
“Is this what’s going on in reality, or is it just my mind seeing things in the worst possible light?
What if I’m simply being paranoid that it’s my bipolar mind, but it IS really going on and I’m talking myself into staying calm and letting things go while I’m actually getting completely fucked over?”
That’s what it’s like to be crazy. Even on stabilizing medication, it never completely goes away. I’m just able to keep it hidden better.
It’s like a little MMA/Lucha Libre match going on in my head:
“In this corner, Irrational Thoughts! Coming in from Parts Unknown at 6’5” and 385 pounds! His opponent, the high-flying Lucha Libre sensation known simply as SANITY! Sanity hails from Doctor’s Orders and weighs in at a sleek but deceptively quick 135 pounds! Ring the bell!
Oh, wow. WOW! Sanity is just taking a BEATING from Irrational Thoughts! It’s going exactly as we’d thought. Irrationality is all over, just cleaning freakin’ house. It got real ugly, real RAPIDO, folks. He’s got Sanity locked in the WTF-Are-You-Thinking submission and is not letting go…oh, ouch!…but Sanity refuses to tap! He goes for the pin! 1…2…no! Shoulder raised!
Irrational has just put Sanity on top of the cage…he’s backing up…he charges at him… OH MY GOD…Sanity has KICKED Irrational Thoughts IN THE FACE! IN.THE.FACE! And here comes Sanity OFF THE CAGE with a flying triple Functionally Balanced! HO-LY SHIT! Sure didn’t see that coming! Ay, Dios mio! 1… 2…3! Sanity! Sanity! Sanity WINS!”
But Sanity doesn’t always prevail, does he? Sometimes Irrational Thoughts hits the ring and it’s a travesty of a squash match. There have been several times where I have connected the dots to something and let someone have it. Friends, lovers. Over something that wasn’t there. This, while stabilized. Meanwhile, those dots connected clear as anything to me. For me, it was a calm, rational connecting of dots. THE FUCKING DOTS CONNECTED. Not only did they connect, but they fit together like Legos.
But, the other person couldn’t have been more shocked at how in the blue hell I came with my dots OR connections. Oh, and my Legos? They can just piss the fuck off, mate. After that, my dot connecting ability was severely questioned. I lost a lot of my dot connecting credit. I was put on dot connection suspension.
Now, what kind of defense does one have in this case? “Well…you knew I was bipolar!”
Sure. OK. They can say, “I know. You were straight up about it.” (Or in my case, “I read your blogs.” Nothing like having it all out there.)
But does that actually work with someone who really has no clue what it’s like to be something they cannot possibly imagine? Maybe they can look past it, but are fissures not created, tiny hairline cracks?
Meanwhile, they’ve put you in dot connection Time Out.
(Note: There have been a few times where I thought I was crazy because I was told I was wrong – but I found out later I wasn’t. This has happened when I’ve been seeing someone and they simply weren’t comfortable with me calling something so accurately or being brutally truthful. I’m not one for games or bullshit.)
It makes me crawl inside myself. I apologize, back away. Far away. It makes me not want to interact with anyone. Because, clearly, I can’t. I can’t sustain a normal fucking…whatever you call it. Just when I think maybe I’m OK – surprise, mutherfucker! -Nope.
And this, onmedication.
Previously, I hurt everyone around me and walked away unfazed. Now, I just hurt myself trying to make sure others are okay. I suppose it’s an improvement.
Let’s skip the n-word (normal), in lieu of aiming for “functionally balanced”. One day. Not just out of debt, paying my bills, healthy and responsible. I’m already there. But I’d like to be completely balanced. I’d like my mind to quit fucking with me – and I’d like to retain the quick wit and creativity bonuses that come with being crazy, por favor.
I want it all.
Functionally balanced. So much prettier of a phrase than the n-word.
April Hunter is a writer, professional wrestler, full-time student at Full Sail University, professional cosplayer and pin-up, Playboy and fetish model.
She’s also a fitness competitor, former Met-RX & Extreme Nutrition spokes-model, the subject of several comic book characters, an admitted coffee snob, road rage enthusiast, Mother of Chickens and world renowned potty mouth. She uses the C-word as liberally as you use butter on your biscuits. Which you shouldn’t be eating, since you know…carbs and gluten. She struggles with bipolar disorder and Lupus and chooses to view challenges as opportunities.
See more of April on Instagram @realAprilHunter, www.AprilHunter.com and Twitter @AprilHunter. She’s also on Facebook.com/AprilHunterOfficial and owns AprilsScentSations Soy Candles.
I’m ‘bout as low as I can get, I’d leave but I can’t forget.
Still wonder why it ain’t right. It ain’t right.
Now we’re as low as we can get. Can’t leave and can’t forget.
We ain’t right. Not right.
Well, it’s hard to believe that somebody tricked you.
When you can see you were only high.
It’s all up to you, so you gamble.
Flat on your face and into the fire.”
Written July-September 2016
The moonlight shimmered off the ocean as the waves broke and lapped at the sand. Walking along the beach, puddles of sea water felt warm and cold at the same time. Bob pranced alongside us, a glowing ball in his mouth. Scooter said this was the only time Bob could play in the water since The Powers That Be decided dogs weren’t allowed on the beach. Makes sense. Dogs digging holes or pooping is far more devastating to the beautiful beaches than the endless broken beer bottles, cigarette butts, cans and plastic wrappers we humans leave.
Scooter and I were in a parallel situation with our significant others, but mine came with a deputy eviction and lawyers. He was mostly angry; I was mostly beaten down.
We commiserated. Words of frustration and hurt tumbled from our mouths, often crossing over each other at the same time. Taken advantage of, damaged, misunderstood, unappreciated. Incensed.
“Oh, your neighbors are definitely talking about you,” he said.
“I know.” The endless parade of police cars and drama in our driveway was mortifying.
“The minute you guys leave, they are SO turning that place into an age 65+ community.”
“Probably,” I said.
“What I want to know is how this happens,” he said, gesturing around with his hand. “This. How two people, who mean the world to one another, get to the point not being able to stand each other?”
“How it goes from that person consuming your every waking thought to just get the fuck away from me?”
“Yeah. Exactly.” He threw the ball out to the waves and Bob scampered off into the darkness to find it.
“If we could figure that out, we could write a book called “Break the Pattern”. Which would obviously hit the bestseller list and we’d rich,” I said.
I felt fortunate to have landed softly at the beach after falling hard. There was something about the water and waves that calmed, and I spent my days holed up in that secluded location walking along the sand until I couldn’t remember which inlet led me back.
The fact that Scooter allowed me to stay at his rental getaway by myself was the proverbial last straw between him and his girlfriend, who, despite being incredibly friendly towards me, hadn’t been happy. Unfortunately, I’ve lost a lot of male friends due to their significant others not being comfortable around me. I never understood this. I’d known them for years before these women came into their lives. If anything were to have happened, it already would have.
To be fair, unlike most of my male friends, I briefly met Scooter on an online dating site, before my profile was yanked down for being “fake”. He looked (stalked) me up on Facebook and said he was surprised I wasn’t some bored guy with stolen photos. We chatted for a while and then got caught up in traveling for work. However, we made a date for the following month. Meanwhile, things with C got more serious. Upon finding that C left his dating profile up, I decided to keep my plans with Scooter. I was up-front and told him that I was seeing someone and thought it was going somewhere, so he probably wouldn’t want to keep the meeting. He said he’d take his chances, thankyouverymuch. I reluctantly met the man and his dog that would go on to be part of my life in the future.
After a glass of wine and witty conversation, I liked him. It was nearing my birthday and he arrived with gourmet dog cookies for Bella and a bullet for me (we share a similar fucked up sense of humor), which I still have. His dog, Bob, sat at my feet, tail gently wagging every time I looked at him.
“Your partner in crime?” I asked.
“Well, we get along well. We’re very similar.”
“We both love food. For another, we both get super excited when we poop.”
He was tall and lanky with sandy-colored facial stubble. He could have used a few pounds and didn’t always seem comfortable in his own skin, but he had a bold, blue-eyed gaze that dared you to look away first. As my friend Heather would say, “Guuuuurl, he is hot!” Though he’d been in Tampa for a while, he hadn’t quite lost that California surfer laissez faire personality. He was confident, humble, independent, and I would eventually learn, self-aware. This is a rare superpower most people don’t possess. Too many choose to place emphasis on their looks or acquiring material possessions rather than take the time to learn about themselves. While it’s great to keep yourself up, looks eventually fade. Who you are will not, and an education of any kind is always a solid investment.
The evening ended with a bro-hug in the parking lot and him saying that if anything changed to let him know. Had Christopher not solidly been in the picture, I’d have seen him again. He had a vintage German car habit, was more broken down from various sports than I am (which is no easy feat) and his dog was quite literally his best friend, but that’s who he was.
We routinely text sarcastic jabs back and forth.
Him: “Many unanswered questions in life. What if Rosa Parks had a car?”
Me: “Well, December first and February fourth would be way different for many of us, that’s for sure. I think cars ruined the Civil Rights movement. Had more people sat their asses in the front of the bus, shit would be further along now. I blame cars for these bullshit shootings and retaliation riots. One hundred percent. Are you putting baby in a corner tonight or do you want to grab something for dinner?”
Him: “So, what do you think the handicapped parking situation is at the Special Olympics?”
Me: “I just want you to know you ruined my night. I’ll be thinking about this for the next several hours. Thanks, Fucker. ”
“Anytime. Do you know what fastest car in the world is?
Me: “Uh…something Italian?”
“A rental car.” He usually wins.
A couple weeks ago he asked, “Level up. Are you ok?”
A pause. “Why are you asking?”
“Because you seem off.” I stared at his text and exhaled as tears welled up. It had been a long time since anyone had noticed how I was doing or cared. Fuck. I thought I was hiding the cycling mania/depression hitting from all angles. I cover it well and don’t talk about it. A key thing with bipolar disorder is awareness. I was aware that I was currently fucked in the head from all the crap going on around me in the aftermath of C. Most people close to me can’t tell. This person, whom I see once I week, could tell how I was doing through text?
“Nope. Not really ok.” And I told him the brutal truth, like I always do, figuring it’ll freak him out and scare him off – for his own good.
“So, where do you want to go for your birthday?” Guess it’s gonna take a little more time.
Photo: Getty Images/Doug Benc
We had a lot in common, so it hadn’t been tough to move into a friendship after we first met. He traveled a lot and once lived in that elusive limelight, signing autographs and trying to catch sleep on planes while winning trophies in professional sports car racing. (We probably share more than a few of the same fans.) I didn’t have to explain my life to him. After that first meeting, every once in a while he’d email to say hello and ask if C had suddenly died in a fiery automobile crash. He found a girlfriend not long after our date, one whose muscular thighs and gym dedication put mine to shame. I followed their escapades on Facebook, often wishing C was the adventurous just-get-in-the-car-and-go type. Or even a workout-without-complaining type. The couple of times we vacationed, it because I arranged and paid for everything. Scooter had once told me, “I have no doubt that we would be an amazing duo. Partners in crime and traveling companions.” I occasionally wondered if I had chosen wrong.
Photo: Dustin McClease
Bob bounded back with the ball, wiggling his entire behind.
“Here’s something entertaining,” I said. “One of the deputies who evicted me asked me to hang out.”
“Guess he didn’t think you were guilty.”
“Yeah, well, dates aren’t going to be a problem for you.”
“Ha. Dating. I can’t even fathom that right now. I think I just need to do my own thing for a while. School, work, get back to making candles. Be alone for a while. This one is probably going to mess me up pretty good. My douche bag radar is clearly wrecked. I don’t know if I can trust myself to make a good decision anytime soon.”
Looking back now, my stomach was in knots from the first day C and I stepped into the house as owners. Once we got inside, we saw it needed far more work than we’d first realized. Our previous walk-through had been while the former owners were living there, clutter piled high against walls and windows; walls that had water damage and windows that didn’t open. He flipped out. I love a challenge and told him not to worry, I’d done this before and it would be fine. He stalked off to the garage and I continued to take inventory of the house. When I found him, he said he went out to the garage to find rope and was seriously contemplating killing himself. That day. The first day.
Oh… my… fuck.
What had I just gotten myself in to? We signed a thirty-year mortgage together. I never saw any of this until that day. He’d always come off as calm, stable and logical. I spent the next year that we lived together trying not to let boiling water spill over. My own life, career and hobbies suffered. I gave up candle making, barely had time to read a book, blew off bookings and didn’t have energy for anything other than putting out fires.
To recap: Between the house renovations and the first contractor ripping us off, then the neighbor’s incessant complaining about everything we did (along with surprise inspections by city and county) which brought the HOA coming down on us about the shed and chickens. (It’s a big yard surrounded by woods, no rooster. No one else had an issue except the guy who shared a property line.) Meanwhile, two of our three chickens mysteriously died, and then I was diagnosed with Lupus. All the while, the aforementioned neighbor went house-to-house around our (elderly) neighborhood with topless photos of me, telling people I was a “porn star, who will bring the property values down”. We had to go to court to get a harassment & stalking restraining order against him to make him stop. Court again to get the HOA to leave us alone. Once we were on their radar, the letters and threats kept coming. We won that mediation as well, but it was stressful as fuck. As soon as it calmed down, C got injured. I’d just started Full Sail University and had been unsuccessfully trying to balance work, travel, school and learning to be a full-time student in an accelerated degree program. His niece moved in. While it was a great help at first, it became a game of pitting us against each other while trying to take care of him. I often felt unwelcome in my own house.
(Note: Despite my big ass titties, I’m not a porn star. I am a centerfold/fetish/pin-up model, pro wrestler, comic book model and professional cosplayer. I’m also an entrepreneur, freelance ad writer & blogger, student, own a small soy candle business called AprilsScentSations and run two websites. Sometimes things are busy, sometimes they’re not. It depends on the market, exposure, and time of year. As far as I can tell, my big ass titties haven’t ruined the property values. However, it’s always entertaining to come home from a convention dressed as Poison Ivy or Jessica Rabbit to get the mail and wave hello to someone walking by. Never gets old.)
Photo: Steven Griffey
In the end, shortly before he evicted me, I’d started to emotionally pull away. At one point, after he broke or punched something in rage, I told him a friend said I should file a restraining order – but I was doing my best to handle everything. I told him I needed more from him. Shortly after that, he filed for a restraining order, claiming he “feared for his life”.
While I was out on my thirty-day eviction, C reported me several times for violating the protection order. First, over some magnetic letters on the fridge I’d had up since the day he left, which he perceived to be a threatening message. (The letters: break-up song titles. Pantera’s This Love and I Will Survive aren’t usually frightening to read.) Another was when I sent him a brief email* after not being able to get in touch with my lawyer all day, asking him to please contact USAA because our mortgage company was about to put us into collections because he hadn’t paid the due payment and they didn’t have his new phone number. Instead of handling the situation, he opted to call the police and file a violation against me. He never did pay it until after our final day in court, where I was forced to split it with him because he had to pay attorney fees. I hadn’t even lived there in June. He also filed a complaint against one of the deputies he knew I used to be neighbors with for “being partial and unprofessional.”
(*Note: I paid the entire down payment for the house and the renovations. C was to handle the mortgage/electric/water/insurance so I could cut back on work and go back to school for my degree. That’s why it was his responsibility to take care of it.)
We went to court after fourteen days, and he and his lawyer pushed for a one-year permanent injunction. Had it been granted, I wouldn’t have been allowed back into my home. C played his head injury to the hilt, claiming total disablement and that he needed “exclusive use of the home.” (Incidentally, Bipolar Disorder has been listed on the Americans with Disabilities Act since 2008.) The judge waived their motion but allowed the original order to stay in place for two more weeks until we could figure out a living arrangement regarding the house. After court, he got into his car and drove away, but not before posting on Facebook, “Time to celebrate! Who’s up for drinks?”
I’d been granted a one-time visit to the house to collect more things. C changed the door locks, which under a temporary restraining order, he wasn’t supposed to do. I couldn’t get in. He let my houseplants and garden die, too. He made me wait four hours, presumably to enjoy his celebratory drinks first.
It’s never just one cop car, there are always two. A deputy escorted me into my own house, checking my ID and paperwork with his left hand, right hand resting lightly near his gun. There’s just something about that that made me feel guilty, no matter what. For this latest episode of That Nice Looking Man vs. The Weird Chicken Lady Who Looks like a Porn Star, the neighbors hid behind their shades.
When I finally got in, I went straight into the bedroom and started packing underwear and dresses.
“Can I talk to her?” C asked the deputy.
“No,” I said.
“Sure, as long as you two don’t fight.”
He followed me around like a puppy, talking about normal household stuff as if he hadn’t just tried to take everything away from me that morning.
I then asked what the hell he was thinking. He told me he filed the order because he ‘just needed a break.’ The deputy looked at him incredulously.
“Sir, that is not why you file an injunction. They’re used because you need someone to stay away long enough so you can move out. Not for a relationship break.”
“Pull the order, C. You said you would.”
“I can do that?”
“Yes,” the deputy said. “You can.”
“Ok, I’ll see about it.”
“Ma’am,” the deputy said to me, while looking directly at C. “No matter what he says right now, there is a chance he is not telling you the truth.”
Driving back from a frenetic weekend of taping customs for SlamminLadies after that, the thought of facing the secluded bungalow became overwhelming. I just felt as if there was no point. If the one person whom I would put first and trust would turn on me for no reason; if everything I’d worked for could be taken away by the county without a single shred of proof – even my ability to earn a living and my pets, it all seemed futile. I started to calculate exactly how much sleep medication I had, and if it was enough to do the trick.
Then…FUCK. His asshat lawyer (“Your Honor, I have the privilege of representing Mr. C…and we request a one-year restraining order, as my client is disabled and needs sole occupancy of the home”) stated we were “tenants in common”. Should one of us kick the bucket, the house would automatically go to the other. Suicide would be a fucking Christmas gift to this guy. Hell, he was probably hoping to drive me to that point in order make things easier for him. No. I’ll die one day, but it wasn’t going to be that day. Plus, it would’ve been extremely impolite to leave a body in a place that someone had so kindly lent me, especially in brutal Florida summer heat. Can you imagine the smell? Scooter would have to burn my soy candles twenty-four-seven. There’s also the fact that my fat cat would’ve eaten my face off within a scant few hours if his kibble wasn’t replenished.
Two days later, C’s sister in law was dead. She’d killed herself, leaving behind two great sons whom she loved very much. There had been a huge betrayal by C’s brother, and C moved him into our home the day I was taken out. She had a very public meltdown in our driveway, where she hysterically dumped his brother’s stuff all over the yard while screaming and crying, and then overdosed the day after.
While we were married, Jordan had given me crap for wearing old tee shirts around the house. “Your fans see you looking hot, so I should, too.” Not an unreasonable request. I bought a bunch of cute little chemise slips that were comfy and perfect for the hot Florida climate.
Pre restraining order: Chris said I was showing too much and he was getting impervious to my “constant nudity”. He stood in the living room, vein bulging in his neck and yelled at me. “Did you know my niece [whom we took in because her father/his brother wouldn’t take care of her, which turned into an excellent six months full of C pitting one against another] saw your VAGINA??”
“Uh, she’s 19, female, it’s just us and she’s living in our house. Vag happens. It was an accident. It’s not like I’m running around naked or anything. I’m not sure the issue here?” He was so irritated, like he was looking for anything to berate me about.
“You need to cover up more. I’m becoming immune to everything.”
“Oh, Jesus. It’s always something with you and your reason to not have sex. Now it’s too much sudden vagina. Fantastic.” I finally caved and went back to shorts and tee shirts to keep the peace.
With a lot of time alone to think while couch-surfing, I eventually realized that a large part of C’s appeal was his complete “normalcy” compared to my life. In society, he was average, safe. Normal. That dreaded N-word. I wanted to avoid the crazy, a circus, and the insane. When my Gram and Mom died back-to-back in 2012 from battling dementia and cancer respectively, then I got divorced, it was gutting. I was neck deep in the entertainment and fitness businesses and walked away from nearly everything for almost two years while coping with depression and nonstop respiratory issues. As awful as that time was, it wasn’t half as traumatic as this past year has been with C.
I think that I believed if I was with normal, then I would be normal. Clearly, it didn’t exactly work out that way.
“Sometimes, when things are falling apart, they may actually be falling into place.” – Unknown
What I didn’t know then is that ultimately, I’d be grateful to C for filing that order, even though he put me through hell and so much embarrassment I still avoid walking my dog during daylight hours so I don’t run into neighbors. As brutal as it was to go through at the time, it worked out for the best. He severed everything clean. Had he not, we’d still be limping along. I would never have left him, not with his head injury. I still don’t know what happened. One moment, we were cuddling in bed in the morning. In the next, he drove himself to the courthouse and filed a domestic violence report. Those around me said he probably set it up ages ago. I’ll never understand it. The only thing I’m certain of, if I go by actions and not words, is that C only cared about his own interests.
You shouldn’t always put someone first, because that teaches them you come second. As I mentioned in Part 1 of this story, he said, “All my exes are crazy.” I have no doubt I’ll be labeled as yet another crazy ex, despite the common thread in the constant insane equation being him. If someone calls you a horse, tell them to go fuck themselves. When four or five people call you a horse, you might want to think about buying a saddle.
I think Scooter and I needed each other during this bleak time. No one understood the frustration, grieving and dashed dreams better than we did. And besides, our friends were sick of listening to our shit. We also talked about some fairly deep life-politics-religion-thoughts stuff. It had felt like forever since I’d really talked with anyone. My dad used to quote: “Great minds talk ideas. Good minds talk events. Small minds talk people.” After nothing but tears and frustration I’d been starving for real conversation and laughter.
“So, wait. He filed a bullshit restraining order and had you taken out of your house,” mused Scooter. “Then you had to pay him to get him to leave, and he’s tried to contact your exes. You do realize you were the man in that relationship, right?”
“Seems to be a role I play too often.”
“That’s not a role anyone should play.” He shook his head. “OK, let’s get this out of the way right now. Exactly how big is your dick?”
“Not big enough.”
I talk to him about some no-holds-barred shit. Through all of this, he’s pretty much seen worst of me and is still there. He’s going through his own realizations/mid life crisis/epiphanies as well. Our conversations run the gamut from the works of Hunter S. Thompson to Hunger Games, obscure documentaries to obscure dog breeds, Trump to tranny porn.
Him: “You really need a fuck buddy.” I *may* have mentioned missing human contact.
Me: “Think so? I imagine being solo for a while might be smarter. I’m a mess. Plus I don’t wanna confuse sex for something it’s not.”
Him: “That’s why it’s necessary to have more than one fuck buddy. Keeps it from getting serious.”
Me: “Player teaching me how to be a playa? Hmmmm, no. I don’t think that’s a great idea. Don’t need any more complications. You bitches be crazy. Or haven’t you noticed?”
He’s right, of course. Both therapists have encouraged me to ‘get back on the horse again’ to some degree. I refuse to let Chris break me, even if I feel broken.
Not sure what you’d call what we have. Companionship. Going places and doing things. It’s more than friendship, but less than dating. Why isn’t there a word for this? Frating? Diendship? It’s kind of dating without actually dating. I’ve had this before, mostly while traveling. I tend to connect with people more easily on the road than home. With frating, there aren’t any expectations, no physical entanglements, nothing owed or promised, but we’re there for each other. Middle finger to the world, he is opinionated, quickly helps those in need, honest, unapologetic, open minded, introverted, moody, loyal, kind, and considers himself a bit of an asshole.
He’s a whole lot like me and I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing yet. However, the sheer irony of turning away this guy for C only to have C inadvertently reintroduce us was not lost. While I felt exceptionally connected to him mentally, we stayed far away from each other physically. There was a constant polite awkwardness present, likely from the overall situation and how we originally met.
Learning to be alone – and not angry. “You always keep what you give away.” For many men, anger is the first response that comes hard and fast. Being “kind of a dude” (as Scooter had called me in Part 1), it always had been for me, too. It gnawed at me. I carried it over into everything else in life. With years of reprogramming, I try not to let it rule me any longer, and I forgive easier. I’ve been allowing myself to mourn. Feel it. Be alone. Not bury my sadness under another person or in a shot glass. American culture tells us that “grief is bad”. We try to distract ourselves from sad feelings rather than embrace them. “The best way to get over someone is to get under someone new.” Maybe, if we are the type who doesn’t mind repeating mistakes over and over again and hoping for a different result. But then, that’s the textbook definition of insanity, isn’t it?
There was no unfaithfulness from me during our relationship, or even after the incident. It never even crossed my mind. I didn’t feel that need to go looking for what was missing elsewhere, even though a lot was missing from our relationship. I think I just wanted it to be fixed. Or, the meds worked in keeping me sane enough to realize that infidelity wasn’t an answer to that problem.
But I’ll tell you this; being angry is a great deal easier than being sad and gutted.
However, at that moment in Scooter’s tiny luggage-laden bungalow, all I needed was a place to stay and an ear to bend. And, that was all he offered. After dinner, the beach walk, a Wi-Fi password and an awkward hug goodbye, he and Bob Barker stepped toward the car.
He opened the door to let the gentle blond dog climb in, then he turned and said, “Don’t waste your days. You don’t get them back.”
When the vintage Porsche drove away, I washed Bob’s slimy, rubber ball and placed it on the windowsill to recharge for his next illicit beach adventure.
Coming soon, Part 3: Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn – An Ex-Wives Club of Sorts & Predatory Habits of a NarcissisticSociopath
As I’ve written before, I’ve almost no family left, and none of whom are here in Florida, so my friends are my support network. They mean a lot to me. My sanity is a direct result of being able to lean on them some days. Scooter has been a good friend (not a boyfriend…he seems perfectly satisfied with his free-range single status, and I am happy with remaining that way myself for now) who stepped in to help with wise insight and ridiculous humor during a critical time. History has proven I’m lousy at picking people to date, but frating… got that down to a fucking art.
Thank you to Danielle Dadamo, Hubert O’Hearn, Jeff Ritter, Brian Hairbottle, Nick Wilkinson, Carroll Grant, Matt McDermott and Mick Foley for their valuable time editing.
I am deeply grateful to my psychotherapist, Amy. She goes above and beyond, keeping me grounded in times of upheaval despite having her own battles to fight.
Thank you to those who have reached out to help. So many of you were good to me during this time and I feel incredibly fortunate. You know who you are, and so do I.
Note: I wrote about this because I withdrew from nearly everything from this time until the present with little explanation other than “lots going on right now.” Work, customers, friends. I blew a lot off and let people down. It was too much to talk about and explain. I’ve always been better at writing than speaking.
Disclaimer: This is my recollection of events and I’ve related them to the best of my knowledge. Some names have been changed or omitted.
No part of this blog may be copied or used without permission.
*This blog is dedicated to Dr. Wendy Potts, who committed suicide after she was suspended from her practice because a patient of hers complained about a blog in which she openly chronicled her struggle with bipolar disorder. For those who battle this challenging illness and try to make sense of it by publicly exposing ourselves and our issues, while hopefully helping others in the process, her death won’t be in vain because some self-serving asshole used her disorder against her. It’s difficult enough to deal with this. Having it used against you in life, court, work; to destroy everything you’ve built and worked for is criminal, inhuman and immoral.
The highway asphalt gave way to bridges flanked by sun-soaked palms and colorful beach motels. The Florida heat, oppressive for June, beat through my windshield while my air conditioning struggled to keep up. I turned onto a street where everything looked the same; block after block of Spanish tiled houses, pink, yellow and blue pubs boasting live music, Cuban restaurants. I slowed to “Florida driver status” looking for the turn that would deliver me to my new home.
Thoughts pinged around my head like mad on the drive from Valrico to Redington Shores. One resounded above all others. Fuck me. How did I get here?How could a man who claimed he loved me file a restraining order against me when I hadn’t done anything to harm him? Why did I have to hire a criminal attorney?
Someone I barely knew from a dating site offered me a place to stay. I swallowed my pride and accepted, since the (fantastic) friend I’d been staying with was expecting company and needed her spare room.
Oh, this is where I casually mention that this was the same man I’d basically declined for the one who’d just had me removed from our home.
I opened my car door and the humid, sea air enveloped me. Bob Barker ambled over to my car with his tail wagging. I hugged his big, blond Labrador head and kissed his pink nose, waving at Scooter (not a dog) who was stretched out barefoot, sitting in a lime Adirondack chair on the deck. He came over for a hug and proceeded to help me haul my belongings into his tiny beach bungalow.
“Women,” he muttered. “None of ya can pack light.”
I put my fat, gray cat down, and opened the pre-filled disposable kitty litter box I’d picked up from the store. Whoever created the portable cat poop tray is brilliant – and hopefully a millionaire. Bob shoved his face into the pet carrier, hoping for a playmate or a treat. Finding neither, he decided his water bowl was more interesting.
After loading the little tiki-style bungalow to capacity, Scooter and I sat opposite each other on patterned blue futons serving as couches. The hard surface bit into my tired body and I shifted around; trying unsuccessfully to get comfortable. My health had been an issue lately. I hadn’t slept right in weeks, hadn’t had a period in months and was doing all I could to keep the painful Lupus joint flare-ups and rash to minimum. I felt nauseous and weak. Trouble jumped up and laid next to me, purring, satisfied with this new living arrangement.
Scooter spoke directly, skipping the small talk as usual.
“So,” he said. “What happened?”
I handed him the injunction, which removed me from my own home on a false domestic violence charge for thirty days. My boyfriend – pardon, ex-boyfriend – listed bogus claims alleging I was a drug user, had a violent criminal record, was non-compliant with my bipolar medications, and previously had a restraining order issued against me. Of course, he knew all of this was untrue. That did not stop him from stating lies under oath in order to (successfully) achieve his goal of having me removed from our house. This, after a weekend of arguing.
To prove to the judge what a threat I was, he’d even listed my “intimidating” wrestling height and weight that I use for gigs, instead of my real size and actual measurements. How could this man lay next to me every night and not know how tall I am, or what I weighed? I wondered if he knew my eye color when he filled out the “description” for the police. Or did he have to Google that too? He also marked down that I was armed… with toys. Costume props to be precise.
He blatantly used my career and illness against me to achieve his goal. Of course, anything can be considered a weapon, even a pen. This meant that an Airsoft bb gun and plastic sword can potentially kill someone, as could my coffee cup and hair dryer. Jackie Chan could prove this theory, but with five magic words he got his wish. “I fear for my life.”
Done. Signed, sealed and delivered. I was evicted.
Scooter shook his head. “What’s his deal?”
“Wish I knew. Never saw this coming. He said all his exes were crazy. Giant red flag, right?”
“Well, all my exes are crazy,” Scooter said.
“Here’s a thought: maybe you guys are the ones that drive us crazy?”
Unlike most ex-girlfriends who were (allegedly) crazy, I am legitimately crazy. Bipolar 1, with a side order of anxiety, ADD and OCD, which I’ve gotten under control with stabilization medications, diet, exercise and regular therapy. I get mandated blood tests every couple months to verify all my medication levels are on target and I’ve never once (ever!) not taken my meds. I love them. Being a control freak, I like that I finally have power over of my emotions and temper. I’m happy to have the choice to decide whether or not to get upset or just let something go and walk away. I have an extreme dislike for the saying “I’m in good place” but that’s exactly where I’d been before all the bad stuff with C (that’s what I’ll call my ex – C. It’s an initial, not a grade) started happening. (Note: I am the one with bipolar disorder, although C has a couple of his serious mental diagnosis’ I can’t disclose. Because of what I went through when living with my father, who had bipolar disorder, then getting myself on the right stabilizing medications, I honestly thought I could help him. Who better to understand it all than me? Ha.)
However, for the sake of safety to others, I should mention that his name is Christopher Leonard Harris, born May 23, 1971, he is also known as BlueEyedPrince71. Hopefully, this never happens to anyone else…but it will, over and over again.
With luck, the next woman Googles him and reads this. By the way, dear future ex-girlfriend, keep reading. It gets better. While you may think I *could* be making things up out of spite or bitterness, there are quite a few of us, and you’ll hear tragic and heartbreaking stories from all. It’s a damn Ex Wives Club. Actually, the “Nearly The Ex Wife” Club is more like it. The devil doesn’t come to you with a red face and sharpened horns. He comes as everything you’ve ever wanted. The reason Chris seems so into you and asks so many questions is because he’s trying to find an “in” to work.
He will be so damn perfect – the most perfect man you’ll have ever met. And, we, his exes, will be “crazy”. Or, he’ll read this and change his tune a bit, but it’ll be the same ending for you. It never lasts more than about two-ish years and you’ll be broke and broken, because he’ll have taken everything from you. He’s a sociopath who can’t feel, and he preys upon women he finds online who are independent and doing well in life. Therein lies the challenge. Sooner than later, he’ll be pushing to move in with you. After passing six weeks of church pre-marital counseling with flying colors, he left one of us at the alter two days before the wedding. He packed up and walked away from another while she was at work without any reason or goodbye – and she’d paid for him to go back to school, supporting him while he got his degree. He threatened to have a pet dog put down by animal control for “attacking him” if one woman didn’t shut her mouth when she started to come forth with the use and abuse she’d dealt with. And me? Well, this is my story. Read on to see a little of the details from when he demanded a five-figure payout on a house he didn’t buy after leaving me in debt while in school. The best part? He filed a completely bullshit restraining order against me for ‘domestic violence’ (I never laid a hand on him) which had me kicked out of my home for thirty days until court, where I had to hire a defense attorney. Charming, huh? And the threats? Lies? Back stabbing? Head games? It’s still going on to this very day.
Another lesser thing to be aware of: his flag only flies at half-mast and the guy was never interested in sex. None of us could figure out what was up with that. (Or, wasn’t up with that.) Not much of a conversationalist after a while, either. Anyway, no matter how “perfect” he is right now, you are simply a means to an end. Not the wonderful, beautiful soul his empty heart has yearned for like he’s likely telling you. Even if you are all that. And chances are, you are. Because he tends to go after women who are amazing, smart, talented and beautiful. Which is why I am warning you!
Once this blog was published, other’s surfaced with similar stories. These women let me know that what he did had nothing to do with a head injury. It’s just how he is, and that it’s part of his Borderline Personality Disorder. He is what’s called a Narcissistic Sociopath, which I didn’t realize…until I did.
There are two sides to every story…and then there are screen shots. Please scroll to the bottom for more information.
A few days after Memorial Day, two deputies knocked on my door and served me papers. I was sitting on the back porch in my nightshirt, with a coffee. I was told I had twenty minutes to pack and leave the house. I was also instructed that I could not come within five hundred feet of my property, and when I looked down at the phone in my hand, I was warned not to contact C and ask him what in the blue hell he was thinking, or they’d arrest me on the spot. He already had the courts issue a no contact order.
We’d have to go before a judge to find out when – and if – I could return.
To my house.
Which I paid for.
Where I lived, worked, and went to school. With my pets. Where I planted fruit trees and veggies. (The majority of which didn’t survive my absence. I waited two years for those damn pineapples and almost managed to save them. But “almost” only counts in hand grenades and horseshoes.)
I put in for an emergency withdraw from the university I was attending. Since most of my “day job” work was done on my desktop computer, size and circumstance forced me to leave it behind. I also left my shoot clothing, school books, wrestling gear, chickens, dog and the life that C and I made for ourselves.
In a roundabout way this sudden “forced vacation” was probably for the best. But that was not my mindset at the time.
After being served the order, my head was spinning. I grabbed as much as I could make sense of in those few precious minutes I had: clothes to sleep in, gym stuff, makeup, an overnight bag, medications, important papers, cash, laptop, protein powder, the cat, and very little everyday wear. Oddly enough, I packed my travel coffee pot first. Priorities? Foreseeing how long I’d be gone? I put the chickens in their coop, refilled their water and food, fed Bella, grabbed my stuff, locked the door, and not-so-silently cried every step of the way. I figured it was all some kind of huge mistake and I’d be back later that night. I was advised to go straight to the courthouse and file an appeal.
My ex-husband, Jordan, whom I remain on good terms with, went over later with a police escort to get Bella. At that point, the neighbors were sitting at the end of their driveways, unabashedly eating popcorn and refilling their Cokes. To his credit, he kept his “told-ya-so’s” to a minimum that day.
This also happened:
Cute Deputy: “So, I guess that relationship’s over.”
Me (standing in front of my car, wiping tears): “Ya think? I can’t believe he would do this.”
Deputy: “Well, when it all calms down, do you want to go to the beach or something?”
Me: “Um…too soon?”
But, let’s be honest… it’s only sexual harassment when they’re ugly. Or someone is trying to make a quick buck. Everything else is flirting.
On the way to the courthouse, I called an ex-boyfriend, who was an attorney.
“Holy shit. Are you serious? OK, wait. Don’t fill anything out yet. Let me make some calls. We know the right words and most of the judges,” he said. (See a pattern here? I generally get along with people after we split up. This one had been particularly sweet to me with the many legal issues I’d encountered this year.) He referred me to his close friend, who quickly filed the appeal paperwork.
Several hours later, the phone rang and the thick New York accent told me what I didn’t want to hear.
“It’s Friday. No one at the courthouse does jack on a Friday. C. fucked you. He fucked you good. Judges don’t consider injunctions a high priority, so prepare to sit this one out. I’ll do the best I can.” My phone rang again and it was his office collecting their (discounted) fee. I’d been sitting in the courthouse cafeteria all day, waiting, with a soggy sandwich in front of me, too nauseous to eat. Surrendering, I walked out to my car. I opened the GPS app to enter an address and realized that I didn’t have one. That’s when the weight of the situation I was in hit me and I fell apart in the parking lot, in tears.
My lovely friend, Matt, used points to get me a hotel room for the night, which was highly appreciated. After unceremoniously appearing on my best friend’s doorstep in the form of a snotty mess while she was making dinner for her kids, I headed over to my new current residence. Despite copious amounts of Xanax, there was no sleep. I still couldn’t believe what happened that day. The next morning, I gathered what little I had with me and drove the hour out to Valrico to stay with my friend Lexie and her family for a while.
I experienced a lot of feelings at that time, but the most prevalent was utter disbelief and betrayal. I would have preferred him to cheat on me. He’d never so much as broached the subject of splitting up. It was insane.
Let me give you some back-story for context. Seven months’ prior, C had fallen at an ice rink and hit his head so hard that he’d suffered some brain damage. This was only four short months after we bought a fixer-upper house and renovated it together.
Living together was awful from the start. We powered through a series of not-so-comedic tragedies which included contractor rip-offs, a nasty stalker for a neighbor, pet deaths and learning that our HOA was intent on taking us all the way to court over a shed, our pet chickens or both. As you know, I’m a fighter, so we kept moving forward.
Unable to drive or work, he wound up on disability. The rational, patient, fun man I knew and adored was replaced with someone who was unpredictable, hostile, violent, emotional, and depressed to the point of being suicidal. He reminded me of me before I was on meds, and I wondered if this was some karma coming back to me for all the bullshit I’d put my exes through. (Dear Jordan, Paul and Rick… the words “I’m sorry” don’t nearly convey what I feel now that I’ve been on the other side. I’ve since learned to deeply appreciate and understand all you did and gave for me. I’m grateful to still have you in my life, as you three are amazing – and forgiving – human beings.) There were countless days I skipped the gym, or blew off work, because I was afraid to leave C home alone.
At one point, he spelled out to his niece and me exactly how he was going to hang himself from a tree out back, so I called his doctor on a Sunday in a panic asking what to do. She told me to Baker Act (institutionalize) him.
“I can’t. I can’t do that to him. I wouldn’t want that done to me.”
“Then reduce his Depakote by half and let me know how he does in a week.”
My friends and therapist said I should have Baker Acted him. They were right. He continued to put us both through hell.
That Memorial Day weekend, we argued.
I was on edge from end of semester school overload, and he was dismal from having officially been let go from his job. We found out we were about to lose our health insurance and had spent the week cramming in doctor’s appointments and med refills. For once, I didn’t back down when we bickered, and I should have. After arguing all evening, it culminated in him trying to leave the house intoxicated on sleeping pills and xanax. I asked for his keys and he refused. I then tried holding him back by the waist, to stop him from leaving and driving while under the influence, insisting he sleep it off in the spare room. He said he wanted to sleep in our bed instead. I said OK, and the issue was put to rest for the evening.
The next morning, we decided to take a break. He agreed that he would go stay with a friend. He stood in the doorway with his duffle bag in hand and told me he loved me. Little did I know that when he left, he contacted his friends, family and police. C claimed that he thought I wanted to ‘murder him’ and single-handedly blew our entire life up. He was advised to get a restraining order.
He even contacted my own brother. I wasn’t raised with my brother past the age of 13, and my brother was barely 10 years old then. After our parents split, I was sent to live with our father because my mother felt he could ‘handle’ me better. My brother has never known me since I’ve gotten medicated, which has turned me into an entirely different person. (C has never known me as anything but medicated.) Brother has mostly only ever known me through stories and my mother’s rants about what I’d done this time, often inserting himself into situations that had he little to do with, which made them much worse. Gas on fire. To this day, he has no idea what bipolar disorder is or how someone acts with it. He doesn’t know that things he had done were exactly what someone should never do when dealing with someone with bp. Lack of education destroys. Lack of understanding keeps wounds open. Lack of forgiveness makes it hard to move onward. Despite these things, we had managed to put issues behind us and move ahead to the point of being acquaintances. For Mom. Honestly, I was happy about it. I have almost no family left and lots of fun, shared memories with him from when we were kids.
C was quite aware my brother and I had a tremulous relationship at best, which was based upon our mother’s dying wish for us to get along, yet he managed to drive a wedge into it. Why he would contact someone whom he’s never met, who has never been to our house, never invited us to visit, never even sent a Christmas card, was beyond me, but he seemed to think the advice held validity and later blamed the entire thing on my brother. My brother blamed me, even though he used the opportunity to twist the knife to scare someone whom he knew to have brain damage by plying him full of stories about irrational behavior during manic episodes and urged him to get the restraining order.
C, who doesn’t have strongest of spines on his stellar days, decided this was the best possible advice, despite there being no threat, no violence and having never seen any of that behavior. Ever.
C never experienced anything more violent than me raising my voice and the rare smashed plate on the floor. I handled him with kid gloves. Apparently, worst thing I ever called him was when I told him he was acting like his brother by ignoring issues when he needed to be there.”FUCK YOU, YOU CUNT,” was his response. I think my reply was, “Well, thanks for finally getting back to me.” I was told saying that was “unforgivable”. (He wasn’t a huge fan of his brother’s. He viewed him as an eternal fuckup who did nothing but complain, was ungrateful, entitled, didn’t raise his kids, hurt everyone around him and completely self-centered. Then, C moved the guy into our house a few months later, while I was gone.)
Anyway, just like that, my brother and C had me removed from home. I was unaware any of this was going on until C later told me, pointing the finger at my brother for all of it. He even named him on the court document. But, at the end of the day, it was C’s writing on the paper.
Brothers, huh? I knew I should have let the end of the see-saw drop a little harder when we were at the playground.
I’ll never know what happened, so if I use Occam’s razor, with the simplest answer usually being the correct one, here’s my gut feeling (which has a very high success rate when I bother to listen to it): I think C didn’t like or respect me as a person any longer (that, he told me), especially when I asserted myself a little and explained that I needed care and help, too. I’d recently been diagnosed with Lupus and the stress was wreaking havoc. Before that, it had been all about him. I think he got overwhelmed with everything we’d been through since buying the house and was looking for validation to do what he wanted to do, which was leave in any way possible. My brother simply gave him enough information to make him feel OK about doing something shitty. This is the only explanation that adds up.
(When confronted with this theory, he shut down. The court dismissed all charges in a matter of minutes on “no sufficient evidence” and the judge reminded us that injunctions shouldn’t be used as revenge. Only 30% of restraining orders are actually legitimate. 70% that are complete bullshit. That is a serious system failure.)
I never understood any of this insanity with C. This man, who had been in the military, was freakishly strong. At almost four inches taller, and at least fifty pounds heavier than I, was suddenly “afraid of me” (on paper at least), even though I never threatened, let alone harmed him. I’d never done anything but look out for him, even when he pissed me off. It just didn’t make any sense.
Remembering back, his ex-girlfriend emailed me through my blog with a warning back in 2014. She said that he was a “sociopath”, the most vindictive person she’s ever known, would ruin my life, and I “wouldn’t even see it coming.” (She also said some other stuff I won’t print here that was a little, ah…revealing.) I did not presume that she was clinically trained to make any kind of medical diagnosis and figured she was simply being spiteful. After rereading her words post-eviction, I wondered if his irrational behavior was not part of his head injury at all. I recently remembered that C told me he had contacted her ex-husband on Facebook (who had nothing nice to say about her, thus giving C the words he needed to hear), which seemed to be a pattern for him. He contacted my first ex-husband as well. Rick chose to ignore him and alerted me.
Normally, I have caused the majority of the problems in my relationships. As most bipolar people who aren’t on (any/the right) meds will (delusionally) tell you, “it’s always them, it’s never me!” But guess what? That’s a load of fucking horseshit. If the constant in the equation is you; if you have done this to everyone, then it’s you.
It was always me. I’m fortunate to have forgiving people in my life and the opportunity to be stabilized.
However, this time it was notme. And I am no longer delusional. Even our therapist took me aside and said he didn’t understand what was going on with C.
Before the accident, if things were going smoothly, C would find a way to create conflict. He could never just be. He always had to be doing something; playing a game, on Facebook, checking email, cleaning, or rattling around. Sitting still, reading a book, or enjoying the patio just wasn’t possible. He had untreated anxiety issues and started spats over cleaning, how I folded towels, or how much room my varied coffee creamers took up in the fridge. For a guy who’d nearly died from a heart problem a couple years earlier, he didn’t seem to treat his second chance in life the way most people would. C was the world champion of causing death by paper cuts.
Our values and morals weren’t aligned and I didn’t realize this until we lived together. I came from a household that managed on one military paycheck and a stay-at-home mom. We had a garden, used a wood stove, and if we ever went out to dinner, it was an event. We got what we needed, not what we wanted. He came from privilege. I conserve (read: am cheap as fuck), don’t believe in debt, am environmentally conscious and think taking care of yourself is important. He viewed me as “narcissistic” (and later posted about it publicly), abhorred exercise, spent time looking up articles that stated recycling is a waste of time, put everything on credit cards while making minimum payments and had no issues running water full force for two minutes while brushing his teeth.
Dr. John Gottman wrote that when people argue, it’s not really over money or chores. It’s rooted deeper. Their values are different and that is the problem. So, despite trying to resolve things, arguments keep happening. One of the main factors in relationship success is finding someone whose values match yours, or getting on the same page as far as understanding and respecting each other in this department. I felt C misrepresented who he was to me, but we were in a thirty-year mortgage together and I loved him, so I wanted to try and make the best of it.
To be fair, he tried. We both tried. I posted a rant or three on Facebook myself, before hastily deleting them. I am most certainly not saying I’m wonderful and he’s evil. That’s not the case. C had a lot of really amazing qualities about him (which I’ve also written about), and that’s why I wanted to share a home with him in the first place. But this is the story of how it all ended… abruptly and without any rhyme, reason or remorse on his part.
Perhaps with the injury, C wasn’t able to hide who he was any longer. Or, with a head injury that scary, it consumed him (us) and thinking about others just didn’t matter to him anymore. All I knew for sure was that I didn’t know this person who had me put out of our home with absolutely no regret. I’d never touched him in any harmful or physically violent way. My best friend, who used to adore the ground he walked on and often defended him when I complained, said: “He’s just a fucking asshole and liar! No real man does that. He’s a pussy!”
Over winter, he became violent. He first snapped when I reminded him the doctor told him to stay off device screens for brain rest, which he found impossible, and threw his iPad across the room. He ran over and stomped it repeatedly, breaking it and the heel of his foot in the process. In a rage, he went out to the garage to throw the iPad away and when he came back through the laundry room, he looked at me like he might kill me. I don’t rattle easily, but he scared the shit out of me right then. It was the first time I was afraid of him, and it wouldn’t be the last. He smashed picture frames, threw his eyeglasses at me and broke them, threatened to put me through a wall, called me every name in the book and punched a hole through our pantry closet. He screamed, “I hope you rot in hell, just like your father.” (My father was a firefighter pilot and died in a plane crash putting out wildfires in California when he hit a mountain.) I was told I should put my sixteen-year-old cat to sleep (several times) simply because Trouble didn’t care for his young Siamese kittens and would go to the bathroom outside the litter box as his way of acting out. (He later apologized for both comments. C, not Trouble. Trouble doesn’t do apologies. Trouble also starting using the litter box again as soon as all the strife disappeared from home.) C didn’t understand that what I did for work was actually work because I did it from home. “Just get a real job.” My dog, Bella, was afraid of him. I often sent her to stay with my ex-husband, Jordan, who shook his head. “You can’t date a civilian. Let alone a mentally unstable one.”
In calmer and less hurtful moments, C asked if he could get me anything on the way home, offered to proofread my writing, helped cook dinner, slaved over keeping the up the pool or fixing things around the house, and was as sweet and affectionate as one can be. I thought I could help him. If anyone could understand his erratic behavior, it was me. In other words, despite his regular psychiatrist, neurologist and neuro-psych visits, I was living with an unstable psychotic who often told me I was the unstable one who “needed to have my meds fixed.” It was always “my fault”. I “pushed buttons”. It was never him.
It was extremely rare that I lost my proverbial shit and yelled back because my stabilizing medications kept me calm. He once screamed at me, “I can’t push your buttons. You’re like a fucking stone wall.”
However, C managed to drive me close to the edge a few times, and after smashing a jar of my favorite jam in the kitchen out of frustration (which I instantly regretted, because it was Bonne Maman’s Four Fruits and not that easy to find, dammit), I realized living with him was not healthy for me.
I spent Christmas Eve in Starbucks. He’d started in on me because I left the laundry in the dryer and it escalated. I turned away from him, shattered my lunch plate on the kitchen floor (a month after the jelly incident), grabbed my purse and left. We had gone to the beach the day before with my friend Joe, who drove down from Louisville to visit (which is why I didn’t finish the laundry) and my debit card was in another purse, so all I had in my wallet was my Starbucks gift card. I camped out with a breakfast sandwich and a cappuccino. He texted, repeatedly: “Please come home.”
When things were good with C, they were really good. I honestly thought he’d get better. But, they didn’t, and I felt trapped in a mortgage and a school commitment with a half-lunatic, hanging by a thread of hope that was stretched to its limit.
“I’ve heard of this happening from some of my buddies, but never a female,” said Scooter.
“Yeah, well… I guess I’m just lucky,” I said.
“Yeah, well… you’re also kind of like a dude. How many women do you actually hang out with? Women are fucking crazy,” he said. He was wearing glasses and looked good in them. I like glasses on men. I think it’s the whole sapiosexuality (Google it) fetish I have. I prefer the men I date to be intelligent, curious and witty. Most people aren’t.
“I know. I’m in a locker room full of men and hear about it all the time. I just never thought it could happen to me.”
I had to leave for an appointment back in Clearwater. Despite his hospitality, it gave me an uneasy feeling leaving my cat, makeup, clothes, cash, passport, medication, mortgage papers, and laptop with Scooter. Trust was now an issue. It took everything I had not to completely lose my mind after what had just happened. All he had to do was lock his door and what little I had in my possession would be gone. I’d be fucked. My stomach churned with uneasiness until I pulled back into beach bungalow a half day later, where he was still barefoot on the same green chair as before.
I felt foolish for being so paranoid and angry at C for making me think that way.
The night, the moonlight shimmered off the ocean as the waves broke and lapped at the sand. Walking along the beach, puddles of sea water felt warm and cold at the same time. Bob pranced alongside us, a glowing ball in his mouth. Scooter said this was the only time Bob could play in the water since The Powers That Be decided dogs weren’t allowed on the beach. Makes sense. Dogs digging holes or pooping is far more devastating to the beaches than the endless broken beer bottles, cigarette butts, cans and plastic wrappers humans leave.
We were in a parallel situation with our significant others, but his was without a deputy eviction or lawyers. He was mostly angry; I was mostly beaten down.
“Oh, your neighbors are definitely talking about you,” Scooter said.
“The minute you guys leave, they are SO turning that place into an age 65+ community.”
“Probably,” I said.
“What I want to know is how this happens,” he said, gesturing around with his hand. “This. How two people, who mean the world to one another, get to the point not being able to stand each other?”
“How it goes from that person consuming your every waking thought to just-get-the-fuck-away-from-me?”
“Yeah. Exactly.” He threw the ball out to the waves and Bob scampered off into the darkness to find it…
Note:I’m writing about this because I withdrew from nearly everything from this time until the present with little explanation other than “lots going on right now.” Work, customers, friends. I blew a lot off and let people down. It was too much to talk about and explain. I’ve always been better at writing than speaking.
Thank you to Danielle Dadamo, Hubert O’Hearn, Jeff Ritter, Carroll Grant, Matt McDermott, Brian Hairbottle and Mick Foley for their suggestions and valuable time editing. I am deeply grateful to my psychotherapist, Amy. She goes above and beyond, keeping me grounded in times of upheaval despite having her own battles to fight.
Thank you to those who have reached out to help. So many of you were good to me during this time and I feel incredibly fortunate.
You know who you are, and so do I.
Disclaimer: This is my recollection of events and I’ve related them to the best of my knowledge. Some names have been changed or omitted.
Thank you to Pam Ella Lee for the photos around my home. Thank you for Steven Griffey Photography for the cosplay photo of Thundra (not Flash!)
No part of this blog may be copied or used without permission.