As I mentioned in the prior post, my mother feared, irrationally, that I would meet a tragic fate whilst commuting to university, along the banks of the Louisiana bayous. In effort to assuage her misgivings, she reacted with magical thinking. Rather than mitigate the risk of doom by allowing me to reside on campus, my mother decided, instead, to invite my boyfriend to live in our home, in order to accompany me on the commute. She believed his presence in the passenger seat would somehow ward off her perception of imminent danger.
On top of that, my parents demanded that we abstain from sexual activity, in spite of the fact that we were left unchaperoned at my house for a lengthy duration every single school day. As I’ve mentioned, I wanted to meet this demand, as I was not emotionally prepared for sexual intimacy. After all, I’d graduated after my junior year of high school, and with a summer birthday, I was a very young college freshman at only seventeen years of age .
My parents justified their prohibition of campus residency on the basis of financial constraints, as well as moral grounds. Thus, when gripped by terror and anxious ruminations regarding the risk of my automotive travels, mom settled on what she deemed the only solution. Were my mom’s intent to actually protect her child, as opposed to simply mollify her own disquiet, perhaps, she’d have considered other options.
With that said, I would like to explain why inviting my boyfriend to live with us was not a viable solution to the problem of ensuring my health and well-being.
For starters, the presence of Grub in the passenger seat actually increased my risk of collision. He’d often impulsively assault me by groping my breast, randomly, as I navigated the vehicle. I’d flinch, taking my focus off of the road. Then, my body would tense, inducing hyper-vigilance and reactivity to extraneous stimuli.
Next, Grub’s presence in the vehicle likely contributed to the severity of my first wreck. On a narrow two way street, bordered on one side by a shallow ditch, on the other by a deep and murky swamp, my wheel skirted over the line. It startled me, as there was a steep ledge, and I over-corrected finding myself facing oncoming traffic across the center line. Grub grabbed the wheel and we spun, landing in the ditch on the right hand side. Maybe he saved us from a head on collision. Maybe I would have corrected myself and veered back into the appropriate lane.
My father, having been a former traffic officer, intimated that Grub’s decision to grab the wheel exacerbated the effects of the tale-spin. Regardless, I was driving in the aforementioned hyper-vigilant state because the bastard had already groped my breast, and though I rebuffed his advance, he scowled and abased me. Flustered and shaken by the affront, my body was on high alert–unnecessarily reactive–by the time my wheel teetered on the ledge.
While my car was out of commission in the months to follow, Grub drove us to school. He had poor motor control over the steering wheel, and he often swerved in his lane, as a result. One afternoon, a trooper pulled us over, assuming he was intoxicated. He wasn’t; his driving was just that bad.
If Grub were a talisman installed in my car for protection, he was one helluv-an impotent relic, that’s for sure! So often, he’d tantrum like a spoiled toddler, in response to my stiffened body language as Howard Stern debased porn stars on full blast through the speakers of his rugged Jeep Wrangler. I’d resisted vaginal intercourse with him and he was peeved. Face purpled, eyes welling and red, he’d accuse me of prudery, while swearing that no one else would put up with my unwillingness to put out. Then, he’d extricate his right foot from the accelerator, kick the center console, and to follow, he’d clench my jaw with hooked grip, shaking violently–all the while, the car remained in motion, parallel to the bayou beside us.
Mom’s magical thinking propelled a decision which offered her relief, but it consigned me to a living Hell with no means of escape. I tried to break up with Grub so many times, but I remained fettered by my parent’s unwillingness to permit campus living, as well as my own lack of reliable transportation. The fact that I’d shared sexual intimacy (albeit unwanted) with the man did not help.
Mine is a cautionary tale. My parents were driven by fear. I believe their insistence that I live at home was a byproduct of anxiety. They believed I was safer at home, shielded from the youthful temptations of university life. Furthermore, mom’s trepidation regarding my competence as a driver, induced a decision which exposed me to cumulative and intense psychological trauma.
Fear drives magical thinking. Magical thinking drives poor decision making. Poor decisions induce trauma.
It may feel comforting to deceive ourselves–to manipulate circumstances under the illusion that we’ve power–but it cannot and will not circumvent all danger.
The fantasy of control is nothing more than chimera.