Back To The Kitchen, At Last by Georgia Lynn Pine


IMG_0018 I used to be a great cook. People invited me to their parties saying, “You don’t have to sign up for anything in particular. Whatever you bring will be awesome.”
I loved reading cookbooks, and altering the recipes to suit the ingredients I happened to have on hand. I learned to cook some of my favorite Thai dishes, in Thailand. I pestered people for their family recipes, and made them my own. I had a blast.
As a newlywed with a husband who avoided sex like it was going to get him pregnant, I dragged a lot of that bedroom energy to the kitchen. I cooked groaning boards of food, followed my husband’s dietary whims (low fat…Atkins…more salads, but only Caesar…spicy foods, but no Indian…), and made something new and different almost every night—to the point that he complained that I didn’t make the same things over again, like a normal, predictable person.
Reading with my sons, I’d make dishes from our favorite stories—paprika hendl and mamaliga to go with Dracula, maple snow cream in winters over the pages of The Little House on the Prairie, or hardtack for books about early Navy history or the Civil War.
When the domestic violence counselor told me to stop cooking, I didn’t know if I could.
“You’ve got to stay out of the kitchen, Georgia. That’s where the boiling water and all the knives are,” she said. And since my husband had, by then, threatened to kill me, well…she had a point.
For years, he’d suggested we swap partners with one couple or another. Then, he started talking about men. He found their penises fascinating. He insisted I watch the porn he masturbated to—while also insisting I stay on my side of the bed. He talked a lot about the men in those videos, and their big penises. Eventually, he demanded I sleep with some of the guys he found attractive, so he could watch. He would not stop talking about how “hot” it would be if he got to watch me have sex with his friends or with the men he found online, or with men who answered explicit ads he insisted we post.
Of course, over and over again, he’d demand these things, and then…when the men started responding to those ads, or flirting with me in public, he’d insist that he’d only been joking, and he had never meant it, and I should have known he was just talking.
Eventually, I realized two things: My husband did not care about me at all, and other men found me attractive. Both of these were mind-blowing revelations, for me.
As he continued his game of “come, sit, go, stay” with me and the men of his choosing, I gave up on my marriage. I started looking for a full-time job that would enable me to support my four sons without him. And I started flirting with men I found attractive. It was painful and difficult, but it was also a relief to realize that I was not lonely because I was worthless as a woman. I was just married to a gay man in denial, who wanted to use my body as a proxy. Comedian Margaret Cho called it, “gay training wheels.”
Never cheat on a cheater, as they say. My husband watched me carefully, saw me getting closer and closer to an affair, and busted me. He demanded a full, written confession. He said if I did not give him that full, detailed, written confession, by the end of his work day, he’d leave and I’d never see my kids again.
So, I gave it. My children were all I had. And I’d already gotten so used to doing whatever he wanted, that this was just one more thing.
Once he had his confession, of course, the blackmail just continued. The harassment. He’d get drunk and tell people I would fuck them. He’d call me a whore, in front of our kids. He’d invite me out to lunch and then whip out a highlighted copy of the confession, and demand detailed explanations. Quietly, in the restaurant, right then, and don’t you dare cry, you brought this on yourself.
I was terrified he’d leave the country and take the boys with him.
“I don’t want to be the kind of man who can’t control his wife, so he has to kill her,” he said.
I doubled down on my job search, begged for a divorce, moved into the basement, reported him to the police when he went into my office in the middle of the night. But since we were still married, he was not breaking any law. Since I could not afford an apartment on my own, he owned me, and he could do absolutely anything other than physically assault me, and he knew it.
“You want me to hit you, don’t you? Well, I won’t. That’d give you grounds for divorce. I’ll never hit you.” And he didn’t. He shoved me, once, he threw things in my general direction, but he knew where the legal line was and he never crossed it.
He didn’t have to. Between his threats to take the boys and never let me see them again, and his assertion that he might eventually “have to” kill me, I could barely breathe. I couldn’t sleep. I burst into tears at work, where a coworker recommended I speak with the on-base domestic violence counselor.
That’s when she told me to get out of the kitchen. After a few days, I did. I stopped cooking. I’d run up from the basement in the middle of the night and grab a piece of fruit or a hunk of cheese. I’d eat my cold dinners at my desk, while my sons ate in the dining room with their father. I had breakfast in the car, on the way to work. For 19 months, I lived like a rat on a sinking ship.
I got my own apartment, thanks to a job that paid a lot better but kept me working almost every day. I ate on the road, or at my desk, or occasionally at a fast food restaurant if my kids would join me. I couldn’t afford much, in the way of food. Beans and rice. Noodles and beans. Popcorn. More beans. Ramen.
One day, I sat at my desk with a pot of tuna noodle and a spoon, and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I was feral. Hunched over, shoving my food in as fast as I could, not really tasting it, not really caring. I looked crazy.
It’s been more than two years since I moved out, and one since my divorce was finalized. I have a new job, one that gives me weekends and evenings off. So, here it is, Sunday, and I’m slicing vegetables. I’m cooking, again, for myself, and for the son who left with me, and for the sheer joy of being in a kitchen without worrying about the boiling water and the sharp knives.
I’m seasoning my food with tears, but fewer every day. Things are getting better. And I can cook again.

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7 thoughts on “Back To The Kitchen, At Last by Georgia Lynn Pine

  1. Georgia Lynn, please keep writing. The strength you’ve developed through your pain, suffering, and healing is invaluable to others, me included.
    Your friend in Texas,
    DW

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I understand what you have gone through, after all, you are my sister and I love you with all my heart. Keep up the good work in writing your feelings and helpings others through this blog. I see that it is helping you therapeutically which is helpings others as well.

    Like

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