When I went off to college I thought I was pretty sophisticated, after all I went into Washington DC on numerous occasions with friends, I knew how to navigate New York City, and I had spent the previous summer in Europe. My parents thought they were sending off a confident, secure young woman. The truth was that I was just a child playing grownup.
My parents allowed my boyfriend to take me to school in the mountains of southwest Virginia. His school was fifty miles west so it made sense. The only means of connection back in the day was a pay phone on the dorm wall. I felt lost pretty quickly, I didn’t have anything in common with my roommate ad my boyfriend didn’t call. There was a “Ladies Tea” for all the freshmen women on the first Sunday afternoon we were there and that is where we were give the women’s handbook with the “rules”. The “rules” were new to all of us and if I had known about them ahead of time, I would have run the other way. There were to be no dates with off campus men unless there was approval by a parent, all dates for the first six weeks had to be double dates. Curfew was early, strict and enforced. Punishment was meted out according to the severity of the “crime.” Punishment was called a “campus” and the least of the punishment was that a girl was not allowed to speak to a boy. Absolutely unbelievable. I had wanted so desperately to get away from home and now all I wanted was to go back.
What happened next was not my parents fault, although I blamed them for along time. I really hadn’t wanted to go to college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I just wanted to be loved and accepted for who I really was and that didn’t translate to college. I did agree to try it for one year.
It was a Saturday about three weeks into the semester and I had just hung up the phone from trying to call my boyfriend one more time. I hadn’t spoken to him since he dropped me off and I was hurt and angry. One of the girls in the dorm came around the corner and asked me if I would be willing to go on a double date so that she could see her boyfriend that night. At that point I didn’t think I had anything to lose so I agreed.
We went out to a movie and it turned out that Paul, the boy I was with, was in my biology lab. He had an eye for me and he began to court me like I had never been courted. We began to spend all our free time together and he took me to meet his parents who also lived in southwest Virginia. Before too long he wanted me to marry him. It seemed like a good idea at the time, we got along well or so I thought. I couldn’t see the red flags through my rose colored glasses. In hindsight I realize how naïve I really was.
Paul went home with me at Thanksgiving. I could see right away that my parents were not impressed but they wisely did not say anything. They thought they would have time over Christmas break to talk me out of it.
Paul was going to spend Christmas with his family and then drive up to Springfield to take me back to school. One evening my father made his move by telling me that my parents had decided that if my grades were not good at the end of the semester they would bring me home. I knew my grades would not be good but they could never have expected what happened next, we eloped on the way back to school. This crushed my parents but they forgave me.
That was the beginning of the most misery and the quickest growing up ever. Paul was not the person he had been able to fool me into thinking he was. About six weeks into this marriage he told me that he had to “pet me along to get me to marry him but now he was going to show me who’s boss.” I was stunned. I had made such a huge mistake but my pride wouldn’t allow me to say how wrong I had bee. I was determined to make it work somehow.
Fifteen years and three sons later I finally saw my way out. My dad had supported me through this whole mess and he had also taken over paying for Paul’s college education when his parent’s were no longer able to do it. I think the only reason we stayed together as long as we did was because Paul was never home. He went to school at night to study for the C.P.A. exam and after that he started teaching at night so we hardly ever saw him. The boys and I suffered abuse from him when he was around and he drank heavily. Luckily for him his job at the time was never in jeopardy because he was well respected. He even began to move in political circles.
Paul didn’t want a divorce and I was so certain that that is where I was headed I would have left with the clothes on my back if I had to. Finally he agreed to leave and I thought maybe the boys and I could get our lives turned around but Paul was given an ultimatum where his job was concerned. He had taken on some outside real estate activities and his company told him either real estate or his job and he chose the real estate. That is when our world crashed.
I ended up in a huge financial mess because of Paul’s questionable dealings that I had known nothing about. I had to take bankruptcy and we lost our home because the title could not be cleared. My sons have all become successful adults but have some emotional difficulties to this day.
All of this unhappiness because I couldn’t figure it out.