I had the distinct privilege of meeting Randy Susan Meyers several years ago in New York. I loved her Bostonian vibe, quick wit and literary prowess and then, when her first book THE MURDERERS DAUGHTERS was released, I fell in love with her brain.
I reached out to Randy to ask if she’d share something based on her experience working with batterers, what would you want women or girls to know? She recently sent this gem and I hope that it resonates with the those who need this kind of insight.
Please welcome the lovely Randy Susan Meyers –
Perhaps the lure of the bad boy is similar to the lure of climbing Mt. Everest. It feels so good to conquer it and get to the top—despite all the pain you felt on the ascent. Unfortunately, you have to climb down and start all over again to get back up to that thrilling peak.
And that trip down is filled with pain and ugliness.
Working with batterers for ten years afforded me plenty of material and plenty of insight. The clearest and most useful lesson I learned was this: a ‘bad boy’ isn’t edgy, exciting, and a bag of fun, he’s mean and selfish and looking out for number one—himself—all the time.
Many of the batterers were classic bad boys; they could charm like no one else. They gave me smoldering glances so I’d know that I was the only one in the entire world who they’d let inside their soul. When they didn’t have money to pay for classes, or had been picked up on a new charge, or failed a drug test, they’d look at me with their carefully tortured eyes and tell me how sorry they were.
They really were sorry. Sorry they’d been caught and sorry they had to spend another night pretending to pay attention to this crap we were teaching.
At their core, these guys weren’t very different from the bad boys I’d once been drawn to. But never again, not after working that job. I wish I could share with every woman the experience of sitting in a circle with 15 court-ordered-to-be-there bad boys, because at some point during the 42 weeks they occupied that chair in the church basement, they let loose with some truth that revealed the dime a dozen ordinariness of bad boy behavior.
So, while I can’t put you in that room, I can try to share with you what I learned there:
1) When you and your bad boy get in that insane fight, and you don’t know how it began, why it happened, or why he stormed out the door . . . when you’re ready to follow him so you can beg his forgiveness—but you don’t have any idea what to apologize for—here’s what’s really going on:
He wanted to get out of the house. So he caused the fight. The men I worked with (ages seventeen to seventy-something) admitted it. This sleazy little tactic is dime-a-dozen common.
2) Which leads to this: What did most men admit they wanted to get out of the truly awful battles that you cried through? You know, the ones where he yelled so loud you finally backed down? The ones where you felt as though you’d die of hurt?
If Jeopardy could have more realistic categories, the response to “most common thing men want women to do during a fight?” would be “Alex, what is “shut the f*** up.
Yes, another thing these men admitted to me when I worked with them. They knew that with enough fighting and yelling they could wear you down and get you to shut up and back down.
3) Remember this when he tells you “you’re the only one I’ve ever been able to talk to.” Yeah, right. Think those words with a real sarcastic tone because first of all he’s probably said the same thing to 100 other women before you. Because he knows those words work like catnip and honey. The men I worked with were very clear that they used this line only to manipulate. Every man I worked with admitted to saying the same.
4) When he says, “I can’t live without you,” here’s a news flash. He can. And he will. Quite well. The question is, can you live with him? Do you want to? Do you like being kept off balance? Do you treasure being used like medicine for someone’s lack of self-confidence or need to control?
5) You want to believe it will change and that things will get better. That if you explain it once more, write one more email, one more letter, one more pleading text, and cry one more time, then finally he will understand! And once he understands, those moments of incredible tenderness and bliss —when he gives you that crooked smile and takes you in his arms and then gently helps you onto his exciting motorcycle—will last forever.
I promise you, things will not change. He will not get better. There’s nothing you can do unless he wants to change. Nothing. The cycle will continue as long as you let it.
So here’s my advice, as a mother, a sister, a friend and most of all, from a woman who worked with those bad boys:
Choose kind over thrilling. It wears much better.
Choose responsible over devil-may-care. It will keep you and your children warm and safe at night.
Choose a man who wants to be your friend, not one who will be your life-long home improvement project.
Randy Susan Meyers’ novels are informed by her work with criminal offenders and families impacted by emotional and family violence. Her most recent novel, Accidents of Marriage, was chosen by the Massachusetts Center for the Book as “2015 Must Read Fiction” and by Kirkus Reviews as on of their “Top Ten Popular Fiction” choices. Both the hardcover and paperback placed on the Independent Bookstores IndieNext List in 2014 and 2015.
Choosing Accidents of Marriage as a People “Pick of The Week,” the magazine wrote, “This novel’s unsparing look at emotional abuse and its devastating consequences gives it gravity and bite, while a glimpse into a physically damaged mind both surprises and fascinates. ”
The Boston Globe called her second novel, The Comfort of Lies, “Sharp and biting, and sometimes wickedly funny when the author skewers Boston’s class and neighborhood dividing lines, but it has a lot of heart, too.”
Meyers debut novel, also picked by the Massachusetts Center for The Book as a “Must Read” book, The Murderer’s Daughters was called a “Knock-out Debut” by the LA Times and was a nationwide Target Book Club pick.
Meyers teaches writing at Grub Street Writers Center. She is the mother of two grown daughters and lives in Boston with her husband. Her books have been translated into twenty-two languages.
You can find Randy at www.randysusanmeyers.com.