they do get some “thing” out of it

Brown paper packages tied up with string, Balenciaga bags, Christian Louboutin heels, oh, these are a few of my favorite things!

Such luxuries can be nice.  A comfort in hard times.  Why can’t we have nice things?  Well, we can’t afford them.

Whenever I see some woman (usually a female person, but sometimes a male) that appears to put up with shitty treatment, I wonder.  Why would they be okay with that?  They’re grown (wo)men.  Why don’t they just leave?  …but then I see a flash of jewelry.  And I understand.

Sometimes they cannot leave.  Sometimes, there is something else keeping them.

My little one is nice to her mother and stepfather, because she knows the consequences if she does not.  It’s always fast and cuts quick.  “If I say XYZ, she won’t feed us for a few days.”   It’s not just living off cereal for a few days.  Many children have far worse.  It’s that food for her is love.  What she’s really saying is, “Mom will love us less for a few days.”

Yet I know Little One has less noble reasons to act as she does.  She wants more than her mother’s love and her basic needs met.  You see, her mother buys her things when she behaves properly. She’s a good kid, but she likes the designer clothes, special shoes, $200 haircuts.  She adores the pretty words from her mother and stepfather (it’s an exchange for her, the cruel words are the cot of the flattering ones).  She’s learned that she can’t buy my love or her father’s, fortunately.  Her stepfather’s?  Her mother’s?  Absolutely up for sale.

Fake faces, fake smiles.

They do it for a reason.  Sometimes that reason is gifts, wrapped with manipulation.  I used to think it was sexual harassment if a man touched a woman in ways that clearly made her uncomfortable.  I called it abuse, if he treated her poorly.  But it is not my call to make.  It is hers.  I can tell her she deserves better.  Fine.  But if she decides otherwise, so be it.

Maybe they want the flowery words or the gifts or the sexual satisfaction more than their self esteem.  They’ll tell themselves the guy is everything they want, and plenty of guys are willing to spend money on a woman, if she acts like his little doll.  Just the other day I saw some popular video of a woman bragging about what her very, very wealthy boyfriend did for her.  Her apartment.  Clothes.  Jewelry.  She also alluded to the cost.  How she has to go to the movies he wants, even if they scare her.  Because being a good little sex doll means not arguing with him, ever.  I wonder what else she pays.  I mean, really, a man like that is going to respect her boundaries, her sexual needs and wants?  Please.

Still, that’s the life she wants.  Who am I to tell her otherwise?

I remind myself of this simple reality,

I cannot save everyone.  I don’t have the spoons, nor is it my place.  But I will be the safe space to any woman that comes to me.  I’ll do it for my little one, too.  I know her painful truth.  How she cries because of what they said to her, how they treated her.  She says things that shock the adults around her, and I have to pretend she’s just “saying things, you know kids just say things.”   When I tell my friends what happens to her at the other house, and they are horrified.

I know the truth.  I know these things aren’t worth it, not for anyone.

Of course I cannot tell them that!

I can only be the one that they can come to when they need judgement free arms to hold them.  A kind voice to tell them things will be better.

Will I make them be the ones to stand up for themselves, though?  Make that first move with me.  Yes.  Tough love, I suppose you could say.  But it is my sanity.  I will make her be the one to stand up for herself.  To say the “things” are not worth the emotional, verbal, and physical abuse.  I will not take her shiny gifts away from her, until she decides they aren’t worth it.  When she dates some abusive asshole, she’ll have to be the one that protects herself, after all.  It’s not my place to do it for her.  I am her parent, not her judge.

If the “things” are worth it to her, it is neither harassment nor abuse.  Rather, it is the cost of doing business in her world.  All I can do is hope she comes to me some day.

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