What good is a safety net full of holes?

I used to be that girl. The one who appears incredibly confident. She falls while rollerblading and just laughs at herself, she sees someone new on campus and barges up to them to demand an introduction. When everyone is in jeans, she's in peasant blouses and long gauzy skirts looking super feminine. I've often wondered what happened to that girl.

When I got married, I regained a bit of her while planning. I immersed myself in the details selecting what I liked and what made sense to me rather than what everyone else was doing - the girl with the oddball vendors. It seems when I am operating as part of a we the confidence quietly slips into place.

My mom says she made me afraid of everything because I was her first so she was worried about everything with me and I do think that makes sense. Except that somehow I became that girl and then lost her.

Tonight, we read a script about a relationship. The two are both being unfaithful - he to his wife, she to her sister (who happens to also be his wife). At first the two are strikingly human, but as the story grew I began to see him not as an imperfect soul who made an error in judgement, but a completely flawed person. He was demanding, full of excuses, felt he was blameless for the swath of damage in their lives... every choice he had to make he chose poorly. And while pondering this play, suddenly I knew where she went.

I wouldn't call Lily and Carter's relationship abusive, dysfunctional would be far more appropriate and yet his character called to mind an ex from college I haven't spoken to in several years. In the beginning, I knew dating him was the wrong choice, yet I allowed myself - almost dared myself to make it anyway. I can tell you the exact moment I knew it wasn't a normal, healthy relationship. We'd been out with friends and on our way back into the dorm I gave a friend a quick peck. It was a friendship kiss - as I would tell my now-ex many times over the next several hours ("I mean come on! he's gay!") In the end nothing I could say would win him over.

This was just a few months into our time as a couple and I kept my doubts to myself. Most of the time he was sweet. Sure his side of any debates during meals were simple, egocentric, and often so odd or idiotic they downright baffled me, but to me he said all the right things. There was something there though, unidentifiable that had crept in during that argument. He didn't trust me.

"I'll just break it off'" I thought towards the end of my freshman year, but I made the mistake of telling a friend. "Noooo, you guys are great together! You're my favorite couple." Fine. I gritted my teeth and decided it was in my head... Only it wasn't. I learned to live with him telling me that my make-up wasn't slutty enough (yes, he told me which colors to wear and which perfume), buying me trashy clothes & undergarments, that I didn't apply my make-up quickly enough, constantly comparing me to other girls, coercing me into countless acts I wasn't comfortable with, all while telling me I was "crazy" and a "nerd" (this last one is funny as I was in theatre and he was computer science). I permed my hair thinking he'd like it. I wore low-cut tops and the brand of denim he preferred, but I was never good enough.

One day, over summer break after two whole years of this a coworker who told me everyday to ditch him said something else. I 'd been talking about another friend from school and she pointed out she thought I liked him. Turns out I did - I married him four years later.

In all the times I've thought to myself the reason for my loss of personality, of recklessness was due to my ex I had never realized what exactly had happened... until tonight. It turns out remembering my abusive relationship (no, he never hit me but his words did damage enough) and wondering about how to abandon my "safety" onstage were all it took. That man robbed me of myself, and replaced it with fear. He taught me I would never be good enough for anyone, never pretty enough, never hot enough, never smart enough, or talented enough and replaced it with a deep-seated need, compulsion even, to get people to like me. It's a scary cycle; believing no one likes you or thinks well of you, but constantly trying as hard as possible to get them to like you.

Yet again, theatre has taught me something. Hopefully, this knowledge will be the key I needed to break the glass of this dainty, futile room I've been living in for 12 years.

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