Thursday, May 24, 2012
The Harsh Reality of Glee! or Better Personal Processing Through Television
There has been a very important storyline on Glee for the past several episodes. Coach Shannon Bieste, a very large and physically imposing woman who's also a complete softie at heart, is married to Cooter Menkins, an OSU football recruiter.
On the May 1st episode it became known that Cooter has a temper, and that he hit Coach Bieste. It started as a joke that several of the girls made when they saw the coach with a black eye - because who would ever hit her?! But that's exactly what DID happen, and after spending the episode denying the truth, she finally admitted it to the girls, at which point they serenaded her with the most moving rendition of Florence and the Machine's Shake It Out that I've yet heard.
Here is where I really need to applaud the writers. True to life, and true to my own experience, Coach Bieste did not immediately leave her husband. Wouldn't that be tidy? We could wrap it all up in one nice little message: If someone hits you, you leave them immediately, and wow, isn't that easy?
No, it's NOT easy, and it wouldn't have been realistic either. While I'm sure that there are people out there who have left after the first verbal or physical attack, I highly suspect that those of us who try, try again are in the significant majority.
Those of "us," you ask? Yes, Us. Just like Coach Bieste, I don't look like a woman who would allow myself to experience partner abuse, particularly more than once. Most people who meet me see me as strong, capable, self-aware, and confident. How could such a person stay in an abusive situation?
For Coach Bieste, it was her fear that she'd never find another person who'd love her. It was only when she heard her own fears in the voice of one of her students that she realized she wasn't alone, they weren't true, and that she finally took action. Watch the May 15th episode to see her transformation. She and Puck do a cover of Taylor Swift's Mean, and I have to say, I think their voices are lovely together.
For me, it was the fear of ending up alone; and not knowing how to set and honor my own boundaries, and not believing that I deserved to have entirely inflexible boundaries at all; and a false belief that leaving him would have been Quitting, and that I was not allowed to quit until I had given every single thing and every ounce of energy that I could possibly give, because "I am not a quitter."
Accordingly, when I finally left - and it was one of those dramatic 'shoving clothes into a bag and running out the door to a friend's waiting car crying and sobbing and scared for my life' events that I thought would never happen to Me - it was the end of giving everything I have just because I have it to give. Some people don't deserve everything I can give. Or, if they do in the beginning, they lose it the moment they hit me or call me nasty names during a disagreement. Them thar's my boundaries, son, and that shit just don't fly with me anymore.
When I left, it was the death knell for "I'm afraid to end up alone." I'd rather live the rest of my life alone than scared for it, or bruised and in pain, or suffering the beginnings of PTSD, or walking on eggshells because I never know when he's gonna start yelling at me next.
Now, you've got to be aware... if they were like that ALL the time, we'd never have gotten involved with them in the first place! They are often very sweet, loving, passionate people, if damaged, and it occurs to Us that it's for that loving side of them that we stay. But it's also for our own damage that we stay, because no fully self-respecting, self-loving, and self-honoring person would allow that kind of abuse (unless it has been explicitly negotiated and serves some other purpose, as in a BDSM context).
So it is that I am extremely proud to be a fan of Glee, and that I applaud their writers for portraying the challenging truths about partner abuse. By taking the honest road, they have allowed me to see myself in Coach Bieste's struggle, and I have cried for who I was and what I went through. Instead of portraying Shannon's husband as a villain, they showed him as a man under stress, repentant for his actions, with a quick trigger toward violence. I think that was the right choice. Making him a "bad man" would have been too easy.
Besides, it's never really about the other person anyway. It's about your own ability and willingness to stand up and say, "I deserve better, and I will have it NOW."
To all of you who have experienced partner abuse and left, I applaud your courage. For those of you still in abusive situations:
You are not alone, and you deserve better.
Copyright 2012, M. Makael Newby, All Rights Reserved