Featured Writer: Rebecca Rush
Writer Rebecca Rush tells her story of discovering self-care after leaving her husband, trying to escape childhood troubles, and explains why she doesn’t believe in getting married when you’re young.
The first article I published was titled “Getting Married Young Is Just Plain Stupid.” I was 19 at the time and writing for the University of Connecticut’s Daily Campus. I loved writing nonfiction essays, so I became a reporter. I loved comedy, so I took poetry. I loved writing memoirs, so I took fiction. The lesson I took from childhood was clear: whoever I was, and whatever I wanted, was definitely not okay.
At 21, I met a man twice my age who wanted a woman to care for his dog, prepare his meals, manage his talent, bear his children, and spend her life as an extension of his ego. I wanted to move to New York City and write.
Reader, I married him.
Many of you look at a trainwreck of a life (always female, somehow) and think, “Oh, how stupid she is.” Wrong. We are geniuses. Geniuses at sabotaging our lives, showing the world that we just can’t hack it, hoping someone else will step in and take care of it all. But it isn’t anybody’s job to give us what we didn't receive in childhood. For me, it took until the age of 35 to learn that.
I wrote that article, “Getting Married Young Is Just Plain Stupid,” before I knew any of this. I wrote it because my gorgeous, brilliant older cousin brought a guy home at Christmas, and she said she was going to marry him. She was 24. One of my aunts gave him a red polo shirt as a gift, and he announced to everyone that he appreciated it, but couldn’t wear it because red “is gay.”
I visited her a few years later, right before I met my husband. We sat on the couch in her new beautiful home, the kids tucked away, wine coolers in hand, and as I finally went to bed, she said, “I’m sure he’ll be home soon.” He wasn’t. He came home the next afternoon. She told me she feared that he was cheating.
Gossip is so rampant in my family that we are constantly selling ourselves out in order to beat someone else to the punch.I have internalized what I am about to tell you. I am late on my deadline because I just spent the last hour debating defriending every relative of mine on Facebook. Tell the truth? That just isn’t done where I come from, not if it might make someone uncomfortable!
Flashback to my last “cocaine” Christmas. I told my husband I was going home to visit my family. I left with two suitcases and my dog and never looked back. My mother helped me with rehab, while she continued to secretly binge bottles of warm chardonnay hidden in a sideboard in the dining room. To her credit, she did find me an excellent therapist. And then created an issue over which she had to fire the therapist once I started getting well.
One night, my cousin’s husband offered to take me out. My mother wanted to control my drinking because she couldn’t control her own, and that resulted in me wanting to drink more. We got to a bar, and he started buying me shots. I hadn’t been able to drink in like ten days, and I thought I had hit the jackpot.
When I came to in a seedy motel about a mile from both of our houses, his penis was inside of me. I did the same thing I did when I was raped at 13 in my own home while my mother was lost in a haze of Skyy vodka and Xanax, unable to accept that my father wasn’t coming back. I decided that it was my fault. That way, at least, I could attempt to wrest some control out of the situation. I, too, admit that I have a hard time accepting responsibility. But, as you can see, I blame my parents for that.
I even had sex with him again, drunk not on booze but on fear, in what was once my grandmother’s bedroom, a woman who had a bumper sticker on her car that said, “save the baby humans.” In that bedroom, he explained to me that men can’t eat the same thing every day even if they love it, like pizza, which I’ll never understand. I would agree to eat pizza every day. I am sure about my relationship with pizza. But I don’t think I ever want to be married again.
After what I have only thought of as “the worst thing I have ever done, which is saying a lot because I’m a shitty person,” he promised to have me murdered if I told anyone. He told me I needed to believe him because he was from Costa Rica, and he knew people.
However, now I have been to Costa Rica, and I’m not really sure how he’s going to accomplish that. What’s he going to kill me with, eco-tourism? I’m not an indigenous monkey.
All I have to do is write this article and not get murdered to empower others to see that they have the choice to speak their truth no matter what some other person says. I am officially calling his bluff.
My cousin told me she married her husband because he made her feel safe. Getting married young is not plain stupid. It’s unbelievably desperate. We are desperate to flee our circumstances and are compelled to recreate them with others in the hopes that it’s going to all work out this time. Spoiler alert: it never really does.
The day I met my husband, I fell in love with something he had painted, a piece called “the yin and yang of every woman.” I saw it in a salon and projected every unrealistic fantasy I could onto him before I ever saw his face. I had the salon owner call him so I could commission the painting for a very “important” poem I was writing. I decided to marry him when I saw his Mercedes pull up. I grew up having a Mercedes. Who doesn’t love nice things, especially when you’re used to them? But I forgot to consider the most important part: all of the Mercedes I had known were driven by my mother.
He took me to see some of his art—all copies of Salvador Dali’s work which somehow set off zero red flags—and I went home with him and never left. Years later, I was moping around listening to the Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack while looking for hidden cocaine as was custom, when I found the painting upon which I had built my entire marriage. I built my marriage around the idea that the man whose mind created this painting understood women.
Then, I found the image that he originally took in order to copy the painting. There are always clues should you be willing to perceive them. Hello, Dali!
From the day we met, he threatened to send me back to her. When he snapped my ring finger because we got in a fight over the last bag of cocaine at 7 am on a Tuesday, I knew the next time I could be down for the count.
In the end, it was my dog that saved me. I knew I deserved all of it. I knew I deserved to be called a “Jew bitch cunt with a shitty personality” on a daily basis. I knew that I deserved to be praised in public and shamed in private. I knew that I was the burden, and he was the martyr.
But when I looked into this tiny puppy’s eyes, I couldn’t agree that he deserved this life too. He could barely even hold his own ears up. All he wanted was to lick my face, and I couldn’t let him because it was covered in cocaine. I looked at that puppy and made possibly my first pure connection, and I was, like, “I’ve got to get you out of here.”
So, I went to live with my mother, where a rape and plenty of emotional abuse was waiting for me, but so was the chance to live, to live long enough to learn how to love. I credit the dog with that, too. He showed me that I am worth loving. In caring for him, I learned to care for myself. I know today most everyone does mean well.
Getting married young is stupid and desperate. There’s no way you aren’t going to marry your parents, and by that, I mean the exact psychological conditions you are running from. It took me until 31 to put a roof over my head. I’m 35 now. I’m writing this article from my apartment in midtown Manhattan. I maxed out my Roth IRA for this year and last. It took some other broken person I found on the internet to point out to me that I could do this life thing on my own.
So, consider yourself pointed. And don’t get married. Get a dog—that’s plain genius.