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Friendship and The Blue Suit

 

Peter Graves Greg Morris Lynda Day George Mission Impossible 1972.JPGIN DECEMBER OF 1972, my daughter had just turned five, and her twin brothers were four.  The long and embittered divorce proceedings were finally ending for Bill and me. My now ex-husband contested my half-interest in all our assets, stating that I had not worked outside the home and therefore deserved nothing. The role of mother or housewife didn’t represent anything of value in his mind. He was enraged  by the eventual fifty/fifty financial split. A few days after the divorce was granted, he came to my apartment brandishing a gun. He pointed the gun right at my head and said, “I’ll be keeping my eye on you, and you best understand that I have absolutely no qualms about using this.” I was too fearful to tell the police or anyone else—not the first time I buckled to the pressure of a threat or harm.

The day after his threat he promptly departed for sunny California for an eight-month period to live with his friends Christopher and Lynda Day George.

Lynda and I met when we were nineteen.  Our husbands went to college together, and had worked together on several “want-to-be” films. Whether it was our innate shyness, our lack of self-esteem, or our then-narcissistic partners, we bonded immediately. Perhaps it was our yet-undisclosed backgrounds of poverty and abuse that created a kind of familiarity that fostered our attachment. We had both had multiple fathers, alcoholism, abuse, knock-down drag-out family fights, little money or food, and pressure  from our mothers for financial support while we were still in high school. Some would call our growing-up lifestyle hard times; others would call it trailer-trash.

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Marie, My Friend

Marie $ Dawn

 

When I see old reviews of the humorous and touching 1988 movie Cocoon: The Return, I can’t help but think of my friend Marie. She was a professional makeup artist for television and motion pictures.  In the late sixties I even got to watch her work when she invited me to lunch on the set of the then-popular television series Gentle Ben.

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NINETEEN AND TWICE-MARRIED

 

rag doll legs crossedNINETEEN AND TWICE-MARRIED, I had become a woman lost. There was no me to be found anywhere inside. Like an obedient puppy, I did what I was told to do. Whipped by life, I had become unable to make even the simplest decision on my own. For example, if I was driving and came to a stop sign, and wasn’t sure which way to turn, I would cover my face and sob while my car sat in the middle of the intersection. All of my previous coping mechanisms had failed me. Hope had failed me. I had failed me.

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Stealing Booze and Crash-Landing (part two)

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Within hours of Joey’s departure, I was drunk. All I cared about was escaping the pain. Running away always seemed to be a solution, like when I was a little girl and ran to the arms of the eucalyptus trees. I threw clothes into a suitcase and got a cab to the bus station, where I boarded a Greyhound for New York City. Why New York? Who knows?

Two days later, disheveled, hungry, and with little money, I checked into a sleazy hotel in New York City. In sheer panic, I called my supervisor and quit my beloved job, pretending a lengthy family emergency.

Just prior to my entering the six-week stewardess training program, I had begun dating a handsome man sixteen years my senior. We were introduced by a mutual friend. Bill held a Bachelor of Science degree and was a showroom  manager  at the Miami Playboy Club. Suave and debonair, he began pressuring me to marry him within weeks of our initial meeting. Although he was thirty-six, he had never married. I took his interest in me to be true love. I did not return his attention with a feeling of “love,” but  I was interested in his seeming maturity, self- assurance, and sincerity. I had half-heartedly  considered his offer, pondering if after my first marital experience I would ever feel comfortable with a man of worldly experience.

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Stealing Booze and Crash-Landing

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AFTER THREE MONTHS of adjusting to the climate as best as I could, mostly by staying in the air-conditioning, fall arrived, bringing welcome relief. I lived within a few miles of Miami International Airport, so cab fares were quite inexpensive. I loved the pastel colors of Coral Gables and the lushness of Coconut Grove. It seemed as if everywhere I went there  was a body of water; the ocean, lakes, canals, and blue swimming pools were everywhere the eye could see. Sometimes I even sighted a flock of beautifully multicolored wild parrots flying overhead. South Florida was truly a beautiful place to live.

Stealing had never been one of my early-life transgressions—except for twice when I was under the age of ten. While I dreaded the thought of being caught and losing my dream job, I began to sneak one or two miniature bottles of booze off the plane to soothe myself during our layovers. This violation was sure to get me fired if I were caught.

Since the rape, I just couldn’t seem to get myself into any type of feeling of normalcy, (as if my behaviors prior to that time were “normal”). If a door closed loudly, or something dropped on the floor, I would jump as if a bomb had exploded or stand frozen on the spot.

On several occasions while flying, other stewardesses commented on my jumpy behavior. I tried to laugh it off, but felt even more nervous realizing they noticed. This left me constantly believing I was going to be found out. I didn’t have a clue as to what it was that someone might find out about me, but that did not stop the internal alarm. Magnifying my discomfort were my recurring  nightmares.  In these dreams, people were laughing at me while I ran in tiny circles, trying to escape, but I could never find the door. Every day I told myself to just hang on, just hang on, just hang on. I had no idea, how long, or in what way—I just knew I should “Just hang on.”

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Rape is an Outrageous Violation

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The dictionary says that rape is an outrageous violation.

My body was bruised from the rapist’s fists, and my vagina was raw and torn from his prolonged inability to complete his act. Yet it was not the black and blue marks covering my body that left my spirit broken by his outrageous violation—it was his words. While the bodily harm from a physical battering imparts certain degrees of pain, they are temporary. Without question, the mental battering from an event so brutal brought alive a lifetime of psychological stabs and jabs that had worn me down. Skinless!

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Like a Bundle of Dirty Laundry

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ONE AFTERNOON, WHEN I was buying a pair of shoes, I flirted with a cute shoe salesman. Slight of build, with blond hair and deep dimples, he seemed funny and engaging.  After he insisted that I try on nearly every pair of shoes in the store, I finally left with a pair of shoes I could afford and a date that very evening. We both loved to jitterbug and there was a great band that night at a local nightclub.  He was to pick me up, and dancing we would go.

My date rang the doorbell promptly at eight. He was a perfect gentleman in opening the car door for me and being attentive throughout the evening. We had such fun as we danced the night away. Both a little drunk, we left one club and decided that we would drop into a similar dance club nearby. First, he wanted to stop by his apartment to pick up his sport jacket. Fortified with alcohol, and without a care in the world, I followed him up to his apartment when he insisted I see the new and unusual fish he had just purchased. I wasn’t into fish, but what the hell? I giggled a little sloppily as I stepped into his apartment.

Once inside, the fear I felt was instant and surprising—almost sobering—when I heard the locks click shut on his door. I heard three loud clicks, which immediately registered in my brain as odd since we were supposed to leave after fish-gazing and jacket-fetching.

Before I knew what was happening, I was body slammed against the wall. My head snapped back against the wall, then bounced forward into his face, which made him angry.

“You filthy slut!”

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Finding Out What “Real” Women Know

OK, JOEY,  YOU  want whoring, I’ll learn whoring. Determined to become a “real” woman like he wanted, I moved into a new phase, one in which  angry, indiscriminate sex abounded.  My daily protocol included alcohol. Blackouts were scary, but permitted the depersonalization of every Tom, Dick, and Harry.  I would definitely  show my prince that I knew about whoring.

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Earning My Wings

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LOOKING OUT OF the small airplane window, I felt a shiver run through my whole body as the plane climbed out over the San Diego Bay. I would miss my beloved beaches, but not the bad recollections that I assumed were forever associated with California. At age nineteen, I believed that  distance  erased,  or  at the  very least diminished,  bad memories.

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“With a Name Like DiMaggio”

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During this time, I tried to confide in Dorothy, my mother-in-law, about our troubles. In my naiveté, I thought that she and I had developed a close relationship

“Dorothy, I’ve heard about something called counseling where people can go when they’re having troubles with their relationship or their families. I thought that would be a really good thing to help Joey and me.”

To my disappointment and surprise, she replied, “With a name like DiMaggio, you cannot even think about such a thing. If any of this got out, it would be the end of all of us. Plus, his father would be furious.” I kept asking myself why. I didn’t know a thing about psychology, but I did wonder, after the bath incident, if she was afraid something would surface about her relationship with her son.