Free Bristol, too.

I know, you thought I was dead. I just checked out, intellectually. No promises, but I’ll try to get back into it. Assuming you are still out there.


Someone just linked me to this. Don’t get me wrong, I am totally gripped by the potential trainwreck that is Sarah Palin, abuse of power, enquiries into book burning, horrible policy choices and all. It’s times like these that make me thank the goddess I am not a USian. No offense.

But the Bristol thing hits home in a personal way.

Some years ago (not saying how many, and pbbbt to you, too) a 17 year old girl I know personally was pregnant and got pressured into getting married to the father of her baby, even though what she wanted was to keep the baby and raise it herself as a single mother. The father of the baby was her highschool boyfriend; he was kind of good looking in a geeky way, and had a sensitive artistic streak that somehow appealed to her, even though she was an ambitious, grade-grubbing over-achiever who was doing an accelerated High School program in order to get into University a year early.

Her father was pushing her to be an academic success, while her mother was just happy she had a nice boyfriend. The pregnancy couldn’t have been a more spectacular accident, happening, as it did, just before she went to Germany as an exchange student.

She got home from Germany, decision made, to face predictable pressure from his parents, who were Evangelicals with strong family values (read “fucked-up weird-ass wife beater” for the father in that scenario), and surprising pressure from her own family. It was too much, even for a strong-willed smart-ass. She married the boyfriend a month before the baby was born. The day after, the girl’s mother and father confessed to her that they wanted her to get married because her younger sister was pregnant, and there was no question of her marrying the father. Woah. Nice betrayal.

She made the best of it, writing to her best friend cheerfully about what might have been seen as grinding poverty. With the help of a sympathetic (childless) aunt, who did a lot of child care, she went to University, kept up with her courses and graduated with grades good enough to get her into a graduate program at a top-flight University.

The baby – a daughter – was happy and healthy, and the aunt and grandparents pitched in to help raise her in the early years.

Meanwhile, her husband was on kind of a downward spiral. He didn’t do so well in his classes, and eventually became resentful of his wife’s academic success. She had an affair. He started hitting her. Don’t judge him too harshly; it was behaviour modelled in his home during the time he grew up – his dad used to smash his older brother’s head into the pavement and call him stupid and a failure. Maybe, in other circumstances, the boy might have been able to see the pattern of abuse for what it was, and transcend it, but pushed too early into an adult role, he was emotionally handicapped from day one.

Eventually, the girl – well, let’s call her a woman – told her husband that she had had enough and she was going to leave him. They were walking down the street with their daughter, who was by that time around four years old. The boy – man – lost it. He punched his wife in the face, breaking her glasses, then picked up the broken shard of glass and dragged it down the woman’s nose. Blood dripped down her face, as she stood, stunned.

That’s my first memory.

5 thoughts on “Free Bristol, too.

  1. Zoe

    Thanks for this post. It’s beautiful.

    (the “possibly related posts (automatically generated)” says “Jessica Simpson wants to be married with babies in ten years time”)

  2. Lorelei

    “Incandescent rage” (on your behalf, and your poor mom’s) does not come close to expressing precisely how I feel.

    I’m also very sad for your mom.

    Congrats on turning out to be well-adjusted, independent, feminist and strong.


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