The joke was told to me for the first time by Russel John, the improbably redneck I worked with at a summer camp in '96, and I brought it to College Station, after which we worked it into a prank call situation...way past the point of being funny.
So the joke is something like this: This boy goes to the circus, and there is this clown that keeps taunting him. This darn clown just will not leave him alone, calls him names, embarrasses him, teases him mercilessly. It really affected this boy, but he had no idea what to do about it. Every year when the circus comes, this same clown goes after this boy, and he tries all these various things to get the clown to stop, but he can't. He ends up spending years in therapy working on this, and finally perfects his comeback. He goes back to the circus as a man now, and sees that clown, and this time he is ready to show him how all those years of therapy helped him learned the perfect way to deal with him. So when the clown starts messing with him again, he pulls out all the stops, and says....
"Fuck you, clown!"
I was laughing about this in the morning, laughing about an incident involving the punchline and Holly the Ho', laughing about all those college years. I was laughing all day, over other things. Hilarious moments involving me in the parking lot, observed trying not to pee myself with laughter, laughing over lunch, good times in the workplace, smile on my face. At the end of the day, though, there was this conversation, so to speak, that kind of changed my tune. It was a good conversation, but it got my mind rolling as I left work, heading into the traffic and the rain coming down. At first I was fine, playing my favorite tunes and getting deep into Keely Karoake hour like most days drive, but then something broke. And maybe it was just the rain, or maybe it was the deeper damage, but the dam broke and the tears came down.
During this time, there was a missed phone call from Jen, and even though I was on a stretch of road that I don't usually talk, I called her back, because I really needed a girlfriend. I told her what was on my mind, barely able to talk with the emotion of it all. She totally understood where I was coming from, the distorted sense of self that is the remnant of my broken marriage.
"Most people during this time are feeling sad because of what they lost. You're not sad for the loss of your marriage, you're sad for the loss of self you experienced in your marriage. You're sad because you are finally getting away. Thank God you are finally getting you and your children away from that."
We talked about this concept of beauty, the damage to my psyche that was caused by the mental cruelty of this man I lived with for ten years. "All this time, your girlfriends have been trying to tell you how beautiful you are, strange guys in bars were telling you that...I'm sorry it wasn't enough for you. It wasn't enough to overcome the way he treated you."
She told me to go ahead and cry about it, it was part of the healing. As I drove, all I could think about was how I wanted so badly to smash all the mirrors in my house. Hands clenched in fists of rage, wanting to strike out at the memory of him pushing me into those mirrors. "Look at yourself in there. Just look at yourself in the mirror. You're so ugly, how could anyone want you? Just look in there, see it?" And I am mad, not just at him, but at myself for falling into that, for looking in there and seeing what he saw and believing that, for letting that be the image I held in my head as the truth.
And it's all of it that I was crying about, the healing from all of it. During the fall, I was processing this stuff, seeing the sand castles he built in my mind starting to crumble and go back to the sea, the constructs he made to keep me under his control slowly disintegrating under the high tide. I was thinking about San Diego, and an experience that showed me what a liar he was. I was thinking about my parents, and their relationship with me that set me up for later damage. "It's the reason he chose you, honey," the counselor said. "He recognized something in you that was weak and he could prey on."
And prey he did. In some part of my mind, I see that his intention was to make me feel so bad about myself that I would never leave, but that doesn't make sense, in some ways, either, because he placed no value on me. Why would he care if I left, when he didn't care about me when I was there?
That makes me feel like all that time, he wasn't really seeing my true worth, and it makes me angry. It reminds me of the Vanilla Ice Cream guys, and how they saw me the same way - all about what they could get, and nothing about what I could give. In some ways, those Vanilla guys from college had boosted my ego, but they failed to see that there was more to me than this perceived superficial beauty and bedroom skills. None of them ever saw anything I wrote, or engaged me in intelligent conversation, or went riding with me. We never talked about books and ideas and the things that interested me. They never even knew I loved animals. How little they knew me, after all that time of working next to me.
Well, none of them but Ryan. Today I also remembered how I felt when I moved back to Texas, how for some reason coming home made me think about Ryan. In my mind, that was a sad feeling, that coming home emotion, because I thought that no one would ever see me again the way Ryan saw me. Those days were over and done, and I mourned the loss of my beauty, along with all the other pieces of me I left in my past. Over the past months, though, I've started to see that my beauty was simply part of my light that I had been hiding under a bushel all this time. And like Alicia said, it's time to start letting the light back in, and open up the parts of myself that had been closed off from this pain.
When my mom and I were in counseling, we talked about some of these things. She brought up that my sisters had been envious of the way she touted my beauty to them, that they felt insecure because she had been telling them all this time about my "classical features", about my intelligence, and they felt that their worth was unrecognized because of what she was seeing in me. "But don't you think I should have been the one you were telling that, too?" I wanted to ask her, because I never heard a single positive thing from her regarding myself. And it's those broken pieces that upset me today, the fact that those closest around me and who are supposed to love me the best are the ones who destroyed me the most.
This weekend, I was at Jen's house, and there was this man there who knew me during the time I was with him. We talked about beauty, that day, too. I told him how my insecurities, how these sand castles did keep me from leaving, how all I could see about myself was this cracked rear view. I told him how I was scared that man was right about me. Julian looked me up and down, and said, "That's not something you need to be worried about." He told me how hot he thought my pictures on Facebook were, and that made me laugh, the last laugh in fact, because this man I was married to said roughly the same thing. "Funny," he had written, "how that now that we are not together anymore, you look a whole lot better to me."
That makes me want to take some rocks for target practice against the mirrors. It's like we were at the circus, and he took me to the fun house and convinced me those distortion mirrors were my true reflection. It makes me want to come up with a great comeback against it.
Fuck you, clown.