Who is Brandon? — In my first exclusive on Herstun FM Readio, I told you a little about me and who I am. It ended with my 18th birthday meeting my first husband. Brandon.
About 3 months into our marriage in Savannah, Georgia, we stood in the grocery store checkout lane behind a young African-American woman with a toddler in her shopping cart.
She was paying for two steaks and some lobster tails among countless other pantry staples.
She paid for these items using food stamps.
Something I usually wouldn’t have noticed if Brandon hadn’t pointed it out.
On our way back to the car Brandon vents —
If you’re poor enough need food stamps what the hell are you doing buying steak and lobster?Brandon, my first love, in all his glory.
A million thoughts ran through my mind.
Maybe she just landed that job she had been tirelessly interviewing for and she wants to celebrate.
Maybe she invited her date over for dinner because she couldn’t afford a babysitter.
Maybe she loves cooking and this pick me up is just what she needed after yet another day of living the single mother struggle.
MAYBE it’s none of our damn business as to why she was buying some healthy meat and seafood with the government assistance that is meant for her to feed and nourish her family.
It was this moment that I realized Brandon was incapable of seeing the good in people.
He was so quick to assume she was screwing the system.
I was disgusted.
… and stuck.
… Keep going …
Rewind that VHS tape to the beginning —
I always wanted a big family.
As a kid, I dreamed about having family dinners around a big table at the end of every day.
My mom worked nights.
My brother and I had an 8 year age gap.
Needless to say, the only thing we had in common was our mailing address.
I was lonely.
I babysat my brother along with countless other kids in the neighborhood.
I loved spending time with cute kids in charming homes that made me feel like I had a healthy, happy, all-American family.
Pair this dream with daddy issues and you’ve got my made-from-scratch recipe for disaster.
I was 18 when I met Brandon.
He was about to leave for Army Basic Training and he was fairly easy on the eyes.
We officially started dating in August when he finished basic training.
He was in Advanced Individual Training and at most, we spent 3 days in a row together.
By January, we were engaged.
In March — 6 days after my 19thbirthday — We were married.
My family hated him, they never said it, but I knew. He was condescending and narcissistic — no one enjoyed their time around Brandon.
“Why don’t you go put more make up on?”
“Wear something more low cut.”
When I attended my very first military ball with Brandon, I was so excited. I got all dolled up and felt so confident.
When I show Brandon my look, he snapped —
“I can kind of tell what look you were trying to go for, but I don’t think you really nailed it.”
You see, the reason I couldn’t tell Brandon my opinions as to why the woman shopping for steak and lobster may be justified. —
He would literally spend hours telling me I’m wrong and grilling me on my own opinions. Soon enough, I lost myself, I only said what I thought he would want to hear.
When I became pregnant with our first son, he quickly began telling me I was getting fat.
I nearly had a miscarriage one evening and spent time in the ER. The morning after, Brandon comes rushing into our room yelling —
“Where is my uniform?! Why didn’t you wash my uniform? I’m going to be late!”Brandon yelling at me after my ER visit.
My mother was downstairs “sleeping” on the couch hearing every word.
Later that day, I promptly defended him, telling my mom he was stressed and this behavior was highly unusual.
This behavior was his norm.
Being his favorite punching bag was my norm.
Yet he never laid a hand on me.
He would spend hours in my face spitting as he screamed at me for spending too much money on groceries or not doing his laundry correctly.
He’d back me into corners and not let me move from his sight but he never once hit me.
I wished he would.
Remember, I can handle being hit.
But it’s quick.
Hit me once, twice, six times just get it over with.
Hours of mind games and impossible questions with no right answer.
It was brutal.
Yet every day, I smacked a smile on and pretended I had the best, Army soldier husband who just came off a little rough around the edges.
So, I’m not going to say this just once. I’m going to repeat it for the rest of my God-given days —
Ladies and gentlemen, EMOTIONAL ABUSE IS ABUSE.
Did you hear me?
Did you really, truly hear my words?
Our soul is what makes us human and any coward that beats down what makes you perfectly YOU —
The coward is abusing you.
In 2012, we relocated to Fort Drum, NY.
We had been married three years, he had at least 8 different emotional affairs with women he’d meet on the internet and quickly start sexting with.
He even got inappropriate with one of his officer’s wives while I was 8 months pregnant.
She ended up dropping off a charming casserole after our first son was born.
As they say in Savannah — ‘bless their hearts’.
And of course, the emotional abuse only continued.
I realized I couldn’t do this anymore.
I was raising a sweet baby boy that would one day be a man and I was horrified by the idea of my son growing to be a “man” like his father.
Except I was 22-years-old with a child, no money, and no college education.
My nearest relative was 1,200 miles away.
What the hell was I going to do?
For three years now, I was convinced I couldn’t live without Brandon.
I was nothing.
— I couldn’t even do laundry right.
My exit plan was staring me in the face while I lived on General Patton Street on Fort Drum.
I was in the Army recruiters office the very next day.
I convinced Brandon this would be great for our family, I would be able to support us when he got out of the Army and sat on his ass all day (his dream job).
I shipped off to basic training a few months later, he deployed to Afghanistan shortly after.
My heart hurt to leave my son for so long but I had a plan.
So I thought.
And it took over.
Brandon wrote me sweet letters. Maybe he was starting to mature?
It began to make me think maybe we really could make this work.
Why would I ever rip our family apart?
Pause the VHS
Thank you for listening to me today you guys.
It has been quite a journey to Sunshine and right now I’m taking you guys through my snow.
It’s hardly over. So please check back next week for more about me, Brandon, and the madness of it all, exclusively on Herstun FM Readio.