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Not such a light topic

I watched the movie Waitress last night. It’s really good, great script, good cast. The story is about a young woman living in rural somewhere America with an abusive husband. She’s a waitress and has a major talent for cooking, she directs all her pent up emotions into creating amazing pie recipes. It’s quirky and funny, but also pretty intense as in spite of the fluffy trappings, the characters are more realistic that one would expect.

The reason I’m writing about it is because it brought up a lot of memories for me. I was in an abusive relationship in my late teens-early twenties. We were together for 4 1/2 years, living together for most of that time. My close friends and family remember that period with horror, they were terrified I would marry my boyfriend and end up more trapped than I already was. A user review I read of Waitress an iTunes panned it for having “stereotypical” characters. But the thing about stereotypes is they have some grounding in reality. And the abusive husband in this film was not portrayed just as a hulking, threatening, knuckle-dragger. He was also incredibly insecure, incapable of hearing any version of reality that made him uncomfortable – he would literally tell his wife exactly what words to say in order to make him feel better. He would beg for reassurance and induce guilt and fear to get it. When he couldn’t control the world around him, he became verbally and physically abusive. This is actually much closer to the reality of abusive relationships that the way they are often portrayed in cinema and on TV.

The relationship I was in probably looked creepy from the outside, but many of my friends and family didn’t recognize the warning signs, or even believe me when I first started talking about it – several years in. Abusive people can be charming, kind, generous, and friendly. They do not have “poor anger management” tattooed to their foreheads. My boyfriend was very smart and witty, kind of childlike in demeanor, and often generous to a fault with his friends. The side that very few people saw was the toddler-like screaming tantrums, the dangerous road rage, the stuff he broke in anger, the way he used fear, guilt, and shame to control and manipulate me, the fights he picked that would go on all night (often right before I had an important test or performance), the extreme jealousy, and the hitting.

People who have been in abusive relationships live with the stigma of having “allowed” these things to happen to them. As a result we often feel that others see us as weak-minded or innately damaged in some way. I still struggle with shame over having let this man, and other people treat me in a way I would never want anyone I love to be treated.

What people don’t understand is that abusers are master manipulators, and they don’t just use fear and anger to control others. They may also use flattery, gifts, affection, and charisma to get what they want. But underneath the adult body and vocabulary is usually a spoiled, terrified toddler who will do anything to feel safe and secure. Adult reasoning and ethics don’t apply, in fact my ex was a genius when it came to using big words to rationalize very irrational and often destructive feelings and desires.

The important thing to remember if you feel trapped in a destructive relationship of any kind (it could be with a spouse or lover, friend, teacher, employer, or relative) is the abuser needs you more than you need them. Most of their energy is spent trying to convince you that it’s the other way around, but it’s not. They may think that they can’t live without you, but you can live without them. It’s important also to remember that that intense need is also somewhat addictive, especially if you have your own insecurities about being lovable or desirable. Abusers are very good at magnifying and manipulating your fears.

If you have had an abusive relationship, another important thing to be aware of is your own need to control based on insecurity and fear. It’s well documented that abused children can become abusive parents. When I stopped having relationships where I was being controlled, I had to examine my own tendencies towards jealous and controlling behavior. I had to choose to deal with my fears direcly, rather than projecting them on my partner and blaming him. Having been abused does not make us incapable of being an abuser, but it does give us a greater responsibility to stop the cycle.

How do you know if a relationship is abusive? If the other person is very critical, makes you feel worthless or repulsive, if you have arguments that seem to stretch out forever, or if your partner gets angry if you spend time with other people or talk about your relationship with others, these are some major indicators. If you think you are in an abusive relationship, ask for help. Ask people you truly trust to listen to you without judgement, and talk to a counselor or therapist. You are not alone. You are not trapped. You are entitled to be treated with respect. Anyone who tells you otherwise is not someone you want in your life.


I’ve become a bit of a photography nut over the last couple of months. David started it all by insisting we borrow his dad’s Canon Rebel for our trip to Hawaii. Having never taken photos with anything but a point and shoot, I was intimidated. But once I got my first taste of a zoom lens, I was hooked.

I’m finding that photography is a really cool expressive art form. Photographs show others what I see when I look at the world, but they actually show me as well. I start to understand what data I take in with my eyes, and what I disregard, and this leads me to start to question others about the same thing. We all process information really differently, it turns out. Really good photos, like any other art form, illicit emotions from viewers, but those emotions and impressions can vary infinitely. Mostly, I’m just really enjoying the hell out of taking pictures and seeing how they come out.

When we got back, David got us a Nikon D300 for a wedding present. Overkill, to be sure, but this puppy takes some damn fine pictures. Below are a few of my favorites of the ones I’ve taken so far.



Manhole cover on our street

Backyard color


Winter sky and trees

Cabbage flower

A complete, ongoing set of my favorite shots is here.

Pork Fat Rules!

I heart bacon. I really do. And yet, I also attempt to eat healthy on a semi-regular basis. Until recently, I never thought it would be possible to indulge my love of pork products with conscientious eating habits. But then I discovered the beauty that is Cooking Light’s online recipe search. They have tons of recipes that include judicious amounts of your favorite naughty foods, but do not contain obnoxious amounts of fat, calories, etc. Here are a few of my absolute favorites:

Pasta Carbonara Florentine – this recipe is the ultimate comfort pasta dish. Carbonara is an egg and cream based sauce (minus the cream in this case). Lots of nummy bacon, drained, with just a touch of the bacon grease reserved to sautee the onions and spinach. I use pecorino romano instead of parmesan, it has more of a bite, and I up the black pepper a bit. Heavenly.

Herbed Fish and Red Potato Chowder
– I make this when David brings me back a mess of trout and redfish from his fishing trips with his brothers and dad. It’s rich and tasty.

Pork Saltimbocca with Polenta
– My Italian food expert friend Ryan informs me that this is a traditional Roman dish, but it usually calls for veal which I don’t eat. So this is a double win for me, it’s relatively easy to prep and the flavor of the prosciutto (I recommend jamon serrano – the Spanish version of prosciutto) with the sage is just wonderful.

Wasabi and Panko-crusted Pork with Gingered Soy Sauce – Panko is a Japanese breadcrumb. Used correctly, it adds a crunch more reminiscent of battered fried food than Italian breadcrumbs. This recipe is super easy, really delish, and the same techniques can be applied to the alternate meat or fish or your choice with equally good results.

Finding these and other recipes seriously makes me feel like I’ve won the food lottery. If you’re interested in more naughty-healthy recommendations, leave me a comment or email me, I have a whole list of them, including some decadent desserts.