At 18, I thought I knew all there was to know about life and being a grown up. Boy, did I discover I had A LOT to learn!
This is my story of meeting a predator; marrying the predator; living with the predator turned abuser; and my escape from the abuser. I call him Mr Potato Head. I needed a derogatory name to call him when my children were around. I did not want them to hear me disparage their father (and believe me, I did! His name is Shit Head in my Contacts List for a reason!). It was important to me they grew up to form their own opinions of him. I did not want to force my personal feelings where he is concerned onto them. He is their father. Children love their parents regardless of how good or bad they are. I did not want to take that from them. So, the name Mr Potato Head has stuck ever since.
I met Mr Potato Head when I was 18 and he was 28. I was a Private First Class. He was a Staff Sergeant. Both of us were Active Duty U.S. Marines. It was January 1985. I had just arrived at my first duty station. After I got all checked in at the Company Office, he was sent to retrieve me and bring me to where I was going to work.
Upon meeting him, I did not think too much of him. To me, he was just another Staff Sergeant. (Even though it was frowned upon, I still hung out with the Staff Non-commissioned Officers (Staff NCOs).) He made small talk during the shuttle bus ride to the building we worked in. He would point out various monuments and give the history on them. After arriving at the building, he took me to the civilian who I would be reporting to. I thought that would be the last I would see of him except maybe in passing. Let me just say, the words 18-year-old and thinking really do not go well together.
Mr Potato Head began subtly. At first, he would pop over to my desk with the odd excuse here and there. Or he would ‘visit’ with my civilian co-workers. I did not think anything of it. All the people I worked with, Marines and Civilians, were super friendly. Coming from a large family, having everyone all up in your business was a common occurrence for me.
After I had been there for about three weeks, he would walk by my desk, saying my roommate’s name in this almost sing-song kind of voice. I thought it was very odd, but I figured he was interested in her. He did this for about a week. I told my roommate about him and what he was doing. She thought it was just as odd as I did. One day, I had enough. I asked him, “Staff Sergeant Potato Head, why are you walking by calling out my roommate’s name? Are you interested in her or something?” He laughed, said no and walked off. It was not until later I learned what he was trying to do.
One day at the beginning of February, out of the blue, he asks me if I would like to go on a tour of the area. I said yes. I figured it would be better than trying to pay for a cab, guided tours with all the touristy traps and the like. We went out nightly, exploring the City. The entire area is steeped in history. He was (and is) a superb tour guide. He made it seem fun. He was fun and funny in a different-from-what-I-am-used-to sort of way.
Around the middle of February or so, he invited me to his Basic Enlisted Quarters (BEQ) Room to hang out and watch TV. I agreed. I thought nothing of it. We had been hanging out almost every night, so in my mind, it was just another night. It turned out to be anything but.
His room was on the back side of the building facing the Arlington National Cemetery and across the square from where my BEQ Room was located. All the doors are on the outside of the buildings. My BEQ Room faced the square. Through the gap where the ladderwell (staircase for civilians), I could see Arlington National Cemetery when out on the catwalk.
It happened to be a Friday night. Again, I did not think anything of it. I was prepared to hang out, watch TV or maybe venture out into the City to go exploring some more. When I arrived at his room, he asked if I wanted a drink. I accepted the offer. This was back when the legal drinking age was transitioning from 18 to 21 across the U.S.
After he handed it to me, I remember taking a sip and how the alcohol burned going down my throat. I remember the numbness settling over me the more I drank. I remember relaxing and letting my guard down. Staff Sergeant Potato Head had not given any outward indications (at least that I could see) he was interested in me. I felt comfortable around him. I did not think for a minute he would take advantage of me while I was very much inebriated. Well, I was mistaken. In my drunken state, I was very susceptible to his ‘charms’.
I will not pretend he was completely at fault here. He was not. After graduating from Boot Camp, I lived my life the same way my Marine Corps brothers did, by the three Fs: Find ‘Em, Fuck ‘Em, Forget ‘Em. My mindset was if the male Marines could do it, then so could I. It was my body and I would do what I wanted (even though, technically, I was U.S. Government property) with it. It was how I lived my life . . . until February 1985.
I figured I would go ahead and have sex with Staff Sergeant Potato Head. It meant nothing to me. It was only sex. One and done was my thought. On Saturday morning, I wanted to go back to my own room. I was fully prepared to do the ‘Walk of Shame’. He, on the other hand, was not ready to let me go. He said all the right words. He knew all the pretty words to really lure me in. He talked me into staying.
We talked a lot about our lives. He spoke of his soon to be ex-wife and their two children. I shared my childhood and all I had endured. In the few short weeks we had been hanging out together, he had come to know almost everything there was to know about me. He was very good at asking questions, getting my answers but deflecting my questions to him. By the end of that weekend, he had his arsenal stocked with all the ammunition he would need to sink his predatory claws deep into me.
He revealed he and Wife Number 1 had been legally separated for eight years. Yes, YEARS. He claimed it was her dragging her feet. She was the one making his life hard. She would only let him have the children at certain times and made sure to make following the separation agreement very difficult. He was playing on my ‘daddy’ issues. He knew it would strike a cord within me hearing he, as their father, wanted and needed to spend time with his children. He knew it was something I desperately wanted from my very own father.
Why I decided to hang out with Staff Sergeant Potato Head on that fateful night, I cannot honestly say. I could play the ‘Maybe’ Game but it will do no good. It does not change the fact I chose to be with him. And by doing so, it set in motion a chain of events which would forever my world and alter my perception of life.
The thing with predators/abusers is they have exceptional skills at hiding their true natures. They are very adept at making their intended victim feel special, loved, desired, cared for, like he/she is the only person in the world for them (the predator/abuser) and so many other good things. It is how these types of relationships start. And this is only the very beginning of the mind games that inevitably come about.
I would like to end on a POSITIVE: