There's nothing like a good Hollywood meltdown, especially when the subject is as detestable as Mel Gibson.
" days far behind him, Mel's become a bit of a frootbat in recent years, in case you haven't noticed. And I know you have. I really can't think of a more humiliating, scathing example of naked, caught-on-tape aggression than his recent Oksana-bashing rants.
As a pop-culture voyeur, I do get a certain schadenfreude from listening. But as a woman, I also get a chill. Because brutal as those rants are, it took me a couple rounds before I finally said, "OK, I haven't heard that before." Because I have an abusive ex exactly like Mel, and I had tapes like Oksana's. And hearing it all again makes me just a teeny bit sick to my stomach.
I should interject here to say: my ex went to AA, got sober and made amends, and not just to me. These days we're arm's-length friendly: He might ask me for relationship advice, I might send a link about Mario Brothers for him to share with his kids (whom I still adore).
In fact, when the Mel Gibson brouhaha hit, he called and asked, "Didja hear the tapes?"
"Are you kidding? I got déjà vu," I told him.
"Ah, you're a b***h," he laughed. Then, after a pause, "I'm sorry."
There's a lot to be said for amends. But the years I spent being called hideous names, shrinking under the sonic boom of his screaming temper tantrums, and walking on eggshells hoping to avoid a new rant didn't just disappear. I no longer hear him in my sleep (correction: after writing the rough draft of this post, I did have some night-sweats), but it's sometimes hard to hear him when I'm awake.
As I read the Tweets and various comments on articles about Mel, I'm depressed (though unsurprised) by the number of people who express empathy for him
; apparently, there are a lot of angry mates out there who might not like what he said, but feel we all lose our cool sometimes. That assumes that screaming, "If you get raped by a pack of n*ggers, it'll be your fault" qualifies as losing your cool, but all right.
However, I'm downright annoyed by the "gold-digger" accusations flying around. The idea is that Oksana only released the tapes so she could shake Mel down for more money. But I mean, here's the thing: the tapes still exist. He still said that stuff. She couldn't shake him down for a single cent if he hadn't given her enough rope to hang him with.
So, why stay with him? That's the next question on everyone's lips. Why, if he was the kind of guy to say this brutal stuff, did she have a kid with him, stay with him, continue to see him even after he broke her teeth?
I get it.
It doesn't start out like that. It starts out great, like any relationship with a narcissist. They turn their limelight on you, and you bask in the warm glow of their attention till you're hooked. You experience love and connection as never before. But you're not in a relationship with a normal person; you're in a relationship with a cipher. And as the facade slowly vanishes, you start frantically chasing after him emotionally, figuring it must be something you did.
As the abuse ramps up, from verbal to emotional to physical, you begin to doubt your own perceptions, even your own sanity. This can't be happening, because it's so illogical. There's nothing else in your life you can point to where this cause (say, rolling up some Ethernet cable in a particular way) had this particular effect (being screamed at for a half-hour).
But the other person completely denies any wrongdoing, so your brain -- your normal brain -- decides the only logical conclusion is that you're simply mistaken. Anything that upsets that status quo gets sent somewhere else; the memories are stored in a different way, so you can't access them easily. It's a way to survive in crazy situations, and it serves you well if you're living under an oppressive regime you can't escape. If you're living under an oppressive regime that you could
escape, if you weren't in such slippery denial, well, then it's less helpful.
If this is starting to ring a bell for you, I recommend the book "Dragonslippers: This Is What an Abusive Relationship Looks Like
," by Rosalind Penfold. The illustrations border on cheesy, but the information is solid.
I used to make tapes like Oksana's, store them in a secret corner of my laptop, and listen to them when he wasn't around in an effort to shock myself out of the relationship. I also took snapshots of things he destroyed, wrote myself peppy and encouraging notes, and sought out therapy whenever I could get away. So, I get why Oksana was making these recordings.
And even though she says she's not the one who released them, I'd be totally on board if she were. Because when you're in the shadows, emotionally alone with crap like this, it's hard to convince yourself it's as bad as you think. It's only when it comes into the light that you can see what's really up and do something about it.
I think even my ex agrees with that.
Amy L. Keyishian lives in San Francisco, but left her heart in Brooklyn. She's written for every magazine you can think of, having spent four years as a Cosmopolitan staff writer and then freelancing for Self, Glamour, Maxim, Men's Health, Seventeen, Inc., Mac Life, and who the hell knows what else. She has a couple kids, a couple step-kids, a husband, and a severe Twitter hashtag addiction.