When Johnny Met Maggie…And Threw Trash at Her Face

“Roll down your window.”

I was sitting in the passenger seat of Johnny’s car and he was in the driver’s seat, speeding down the highway at 80 miles an hour.  It was our first date.

I mean, I guess you could technically call it a “date”.  We had gone and hung out at his friend’s band’s warehouse and then Johnny had taken me to the Burger King drive-thru afterwards.  By musician standards, the fact that he had bought me Burger King meant this guy was serious about me.  The crumpled ten-dollar bill Johnny handed out the window to the Burger King cashier at the drive-thru might as well have been an engagement announcement.

That would have been silly.  Johnny wouldn’t propose for another two days.

I rolled down the car window.  He put one knee under the steering wheel to steady the car, picked up all the empty Burger King wrappers and dirty napkins and then smashed them all together with both hands as we tore down the highway.

He said, “Lean back some.”

I leaned back.

Then Johnny threw the Burger King trash-wad an inch past my face and out the passenger side window.

I gasped, mouth dropped open in disbelief.  Little lines of ketchup were streaked across my face and the front of my dress.

Johnny looked at me, laughed, and said, “What?”

This was our first date, where everyone should have typically been on their best behavior.  I figured maybe he was trying to impress me with some kind of “Rebel Without a Cause” attitude, or that he had some growing up to do.  It seemed like such a totally bizarre and aggressive thing to do.  I was so freaked out that I didn’t even know what to say, so I didn’t say anything.  (I can tell you, 43-year old Maggie would have handled that differently, i.e. put a foot in his ass.)

An hour later, Johnny held my face, with tears forming in his eyes, and professed his love to me.  He had never felt this way before.  He had never fallen so hard, so fast.

Johnny would turn out to not be such a great boyfriend.

You’re stunned.

Unfortunately, it just took 19-year old me another year to figure that out.

What I failed to see that night, as a pile of ketchup-swirled garbage was chucked an inch past my face out the car window, was that this was Johnny on his best behavior.

Fast forward a few months, and we’re pulling away from that same Burger King, and Johnny’s motioning towards me with his hands and sarcastically apologizing to the cashier for how “slutty” I was dressed.  “Sorry, I don’t know why she’s dressed like this.  It’s really embarrassing for me.  I’m SORRY.”

Apparently, my skirt was too short for his liking.

I tried to hide my face from the cashier, my eyes red and puffy from crying because a half hour before this Johnny had thrown a lit cigarette at me, shoved me up against my front door, and red-faced screamed at me, “Where the hell were you?  Tell me where the hell you were and who you were really with!!!” because I had gotten home at 9:45 from a coworker’s birthday party.  (I’d told him that I’d probably be home around 9:30.)  He needed a full accounting of where exactly I was for that fifteen minute discrepancy, and threatened to call my coworkers to “verify” what time I’d left the party.

At this point Johnny had been fired from three jobs in a row and I was making his car payment every month, despite the fact that he was living with his grandparents and had no bills.  He called me selfish and would storm out of the mall anytime I wanted to buy so much as a ten dollar t-shirt for myself with money from my own paycheck.  Then I would cry and apologize for being so selfish.  Then he would hold me and tell me how much he loved me, and that I just needed to work on myself so that I wouldn’t make him so mad.

I tell you what, being 19 years old was not at all the fun and carefree experience I’d thought it would be.

I had absolutely no role model for what a healthy relationship looked like, and I thought I had to put up with Johnny’s behavior, that this just what guys were like, and that it was my burden to become okay with it.  After all, he said he loved me, right?  He said he loved me more than any man had ever loved any woman in the history of the world.  I was so, so desperate for a man to love me.  So desperate that I took whatever they dished out as love.

Here’s the thing, though.  When Johnny wasn’t acting like a goddamned monster, he was so affectionate with me.  He would hold my hand and cry and tell me how he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me.  He wanted to marry me.  He said I was the perfect girl, if only I could stop “pushing his buttons” when I wore too short a skirt, cut even one inch off my hair, or spent time with literally anybody else – my own family included.  So long as I did whatever he wanted, he was the sweetest guy in the room.  But if I made what he called a “mistake”?  There went the evening.  He would slam doors and scream and break things while I cowered, and then sulk and give me the silent treatment until I cried and begged for his forgiveness.

He twisted and turned my emotions so expertly, he made me feel like it was my sole purpose in life to not set him off.

This is how you end up in a cycle of abuse.

You don’t even want to know how many varieties of Johnnys I dated over the years, ranging from physical to emotional to mental to financial abuse.  It would never fail that in hindsight, when the ashes of the relationship were stinging my eyes like sulfur, there was a red flag on the first date that I had politely let go because I was too young to know any better and too afraid to say anything.

I have to believe that when weird, rude, and even straight up antisocial things happen on a first date, they’re more than a red flag.  They’re a test.  A big one.  If someone pulls some totally weird or aggressive stuff right from the start and you pitch a fit and then walk out, they won’t be calling you again.  You’ve got an excellent sense of self-worth and are definitely not going to silently put up with their shit, so they’re not going to waste their time pursuing you.  They’ve weeded you out.

These types of abusers are predators and they know what to look for in potential prey.  If you’re thinking, “Well, I would never put up with that!” then guess what?  Congratulations!  These guys know that!  That’s why they’re not asking you out.  They know who to go after.  They’re looking for the young girl with no self-esteem who looks like she’s afraid of her own shadow.

If you go along with whatever weird shit they pull because you have no self-worth, or are too beaten down or too weirded out to speak up?  Then they know they’ve got you.  You’ve passed their prey test.  Expect for the behavior to get worse.  It’s not going to get a little worse, either.  Once they’ve got you isolated, it’s going to get much, much worse.  That’s why Johnny proposed after 2 days.  He wanted to pin me down so that I couldn’t get away.

When I think of what my life would have become if I had married him when I was 19, I can’t even imagine.  As it was, when I finally found the strength to break up with him, he threatened to kill me, himself, my family, his family, and called my house sometimes forty times an hour – for weeks on-end.  He banged on my windows at night.  He left terrifying letters on my door at home, at work, at my regular hangouts.

There’s nothing I can do to change the past or alter the things that made me believe I was worth so little that I had to put up with this shit, so the best I can do is offer the following advice to you, and hope it saves someone from the nightmare hellscape that dating was for more than half of my adult life.

  • If someone can’t make it through your first date without throwing a pile of trash at your face, find someone else to date.

********************************

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, click here to go to breakthecycle.org to learn more about how you can get help.  Stay safe, my friends.  Nobody should have to live in fear of a person who claims to love them.

43 thoughts on “When Johnny Met Maggie…And Threw Trash at Her Face

  1. Oh man, what can I say but I’m glad you made it through that and far away from that douche bag Johnny. Not a lot of us had great role models for what a good, healthy relationship is/should be like. At 19 I was already married with two kids to an abusive asshole who thought I was HIS property. Yep, HIS can you believe that? I managed to stay married to his narcist asshole for 14 1/2 years then I got out. But after that I met Lestat, a completely different narcist asshole and spent 20 years with him.

    But you got out, you got away from Johnny Narcist Insecure Guild Bashing Prick and you survived your fair share of Johnny Rotten’s and that’s what’s important. You made it Maggie and you found someone who sounds like he’s supportive of you and everything you do! Fuck all the Johnny Rotten’s, stomp them under your Doc Martins and keep moving forward! 😉

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I’m so glad you made it to the other side, too! Can you imagine if we could go back in time, knowing what we know now? Oh man, the mountains of ass I’d be kicking. I probably would go out and buy the steel-toe boots for that job!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This one hit me in the guts. My high school boyfriend isolated me from friends and took over my life. When I broke up with him 2 years later he threatened to kill himself. He also quit high school and moved to his dads condo in Vermont. I also worked in a battered women’s shelter in college. Terrifying and sobering and quite possibly the saddest people I have ever met. Even after all that experience, I married someone who controlled and bullied me and our kids in a slowly increasing reign of terror. It can be hard to spot red flags in the beginning with people who have a “charm offensive”.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You definitely said it there. The charm offensive – and abusive narcissists play it better than anyone I’ve ever encountered. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. The pattern is so complex and happens so gradually, I don’t think anyone is immune from it – even if you’ve been through it before. Those types of abusers are so highly skilled at manipulation, they know exactly what gears to turn to get into your life.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. So scary. Glad you figured out that you are worthy of being treated better than that! My sister was married with 4 kids to a narsocistic abuser. Divorced after way too long of putting up with it. Total mess. I have always wished I could get away with beating the snot out of him. I could TOTALLY take him.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I wonder sometimes if that’s all it would take – a good, solid ass-kicking. These types are such bullies, always picking on someone smaller than them who they think they can push around.

      Johnny only left me alone after my HUGE 6’6″ 280 pound brother-in-law picked up the phone and told him that if he called the house again, he’d have to “have a talk with him.” That was all it took. He never bothered me again.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I had a boyfriend like that in high school. He was sweet, romantic, and sensitive, and he didn’t want me to spend time with anyone but him. If I made plans with friends, even if I invited him, he suddenly got sick EVERY TIME and insisted we both stay in. If I did manage to go out without him or even spend an evening by myself, he punished me with sulking, silent treatment and accusations I didn’t love him. When I finally broke up with him after two years and reclaimed my friends, who were sweet enough to take me back after years of neglect, he didn’t get it AT ALL. But I was free. Why does it take us so long to get to that point?

    Liked by 4 people

      1. I did figure out my high school boyfriend’s issues after the fact. He was so determined for us to be a world unto ourselves, and he also adopted my family, which was much more stable than his. He was never violent, just needy, and slyly manipulative, and convinced me for a long time that he was all I needed. (He learned it all from his parents who were divorced and yet still slept together and still had huge violent fights.) It was hell to break up because NO ONE understood why I was doing it, even my own family. A lot of people in our high school turned on me when he quit school. They voted us cutest couple even though we were broken up. The editor of the annual took a particular dislike to me because he also had total control of a girl at the same time. He devoted a full page spread of the yearbook to my ex. It was bizarre. Looking back, I realize that one of my friends also had a boyfriend who beat her. She always had such weird excuses for the handprints and bruises. I was so naive.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. It’s weird, isn’t it, how women are typically portrayed as the “clingy” ones in relationships, with so much evidence to the contrary! I dated so many guys who would lose their minds if I even left the room, following me from room to room, “What are you doing now? What are you doing now? What do you mean you want to hang out with your friends later??” Total isolation was the name of the game!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow! So sorry you had to go through all that. When I was young I knew a couple of these guys and they were awful. Unpleasant for men to be around and dangerous for women. As an adult I avoid them like the plague. They are losers who often end up doing time or dying early and dragging others down with them. Glad you survived.
    And just so you know, it is impossible for a 19 year old woman to wear a skirt that is too short.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Yep – any of the ones I secretly check up on every now and then are still up to their old tricks. Still hanging out at the bowling alley with teenagers, still not married, currently on fiancee number 8 who they proposed to the night they met.

      (Hehehe. That last part about the skirt actually did make me laugh. 😁)

      Liked by 4 people

  6. I’m sorry so much of your youth was filled with horrible men like that. I hope someone in a similar situation can read your post and learn you CAN come out the other side, strong, independent and bloody marvelous!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I would chalk it up to dating musicians (who are often narcissists) for so many years, but my friends who dated non-musicians had the same thing happen when they were young and naive. It’s amazing how as I got older and more confident, these kinds of guys stopped chasing after me!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. It really does start with little things here and there and then the next thing you know, you’re being made to cry and walk on eggshells on a daily basis. It’s such a gradual process, I really do think it can happen to anyone. I hope my story helps someone out there before they get in too deep!

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  7. Thank you for speaking out. I had my first Johnny when I was 14. I was completely lacking in any self respect, self esteem, self anything. I stayed a year in that ‘relationship’. Several Johnnies followed of course, for the next 4 years. SMH

    I had a wonderful relationship with my father. He was a gentle man and a gentleman. That being said, I knew how a man (boy child) should treat a woman.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Johnnie’s do tend to lead to more Johnnies, which is just crazy, right? I think they leave a stink on you that other Johnnies can detect. I went through another half dozen before I was able to break the cycle.

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    1. I had sent this to a handful of friends before I posted it, and every single one of them had their own Johnny stories. It’s infuriating how common a story it is. I wish I could go back twenty years and tell me and every friend I had that we deserved so much better.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Fun statistic: 1 in 3 women will be in an abusive relationship in her lifetime.

    My Johnny came in the form of my high school crush turned first love, and the first date went fine but the red flag was when he called me a couple weeks into dating to tell me he had asked out a different girl and “just wanted to let me know” he was dating her too. She was smarter than me and they didn’t last. We got married at 18 which was incredibly stupid and things quickly fell apart. The first time he was arrested for hitting me, the charges were ultimately dropped because he apologized and convinced me I was remembering what happened wrong and that of course nothing like that would ever happen again, so I wouldn’t testify against him. Within a month of that, he destroyed almost everything we owned (which was not a lot as we were VERY poor married teenagers), and locked me outside of our apartment without my car keys or purse or even shoes. In wintertime. Even then I didn’t walk away. I finally got out the following summer, when I ended up in the hospital and couldn’t keep lying about what was happening anymore.

    35-year-old Veronica doesn’t take crap from anyone but 19-year-old Veronica just wanted so badly to be loved and wanted. I look back on that and my heart hurts for my younger self who could not see that she deserved so much more than that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so sorry that happened to you. I wish we could have all formed a club back then to help each other recognize and get out of abusive relationships. Abusers make you feel so alone. By design, of course. They love isolating you from anybody who might step in to help. I’m so, so glad you got out.

      I wonder sometimes if part of the attraction men have towards much younger women has a lot to do with those women being naive and inexperienced when it comes to how they should be treated. Like you, I would never, ever tolerate that behavior at 43, but it seemed like par for the course when I was 19.

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  9. This is so well written. Thank you for sharing the story. I had a pattern of narcissists in my life, but more of the emotional manipulation kind. The kind of really crazy making antics as in everything was my fault all the time, silent treatment, projection, gas-lighting. Super fun stuff. It’s taken a LONG time to break the pattern (I’m 54), but grateful I Finally did. I realized during therapy, my ex-husband treated me the same way my mother always did. Super sad what human beings can do to one another. glad you are on the other side!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the kind words! I’m glad you’re on the other side, too. You’re so right about the emotional abuse. When I think of even just the gaslighting we’ve been subjected to as women, it’s just heartbreaking. It’s so ingrained, too, I even had other women tell me that abusive behavior was no big deal, or “at least” he doesn’t cheat on you, “at least” he isn’t a druggie, etc. It’s so sad what we’re taught we have to put up with.

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  10. Not only is this such a valuable thing for you to share, I love your writing style as always. I feel like we’re having a conversation, and although I’ve never had anything close to your experiences, I can relate in my own way.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. It’s funny because in hindsight, we can see the signs, the red flags. I’ve given my narcissistic ex way too much of my life and have moved on. Part of the problem for many young women is this need to prove themselves to themselves by having a love interest. It doesn’t matter how smart or talented they are, they have a need that they are looking to fill. Guess who’s willing to do just that? These guys have low self-esteem and so do the young women. This is years and years in the making, coming from troubled formative years. Unfortunately, there’s so much that’s required to make true changes to stop the cycle of abuse. The best thing you can do for your child is to exhibit and be a role model of healthy behaviors and attitudes toward yourself and others. Compassion, empathy and forgiveness. Boundaries. Drive, patience, delayed gratification, consistency, stability, joy, respect, interest, being put first, being protected and cared for. Learning and celebrating autonomy, strength, purpose, hard work and giving and receiving. How to say no. How to be assertive. How to be emotionally available without being needy. This is damned near impossible when you’re not given the right blueprint/upbringing and are having to wing it, fake it until you make it, when you don’thave a clue what any of it is. Is it any wonder why so many are a mess? Glad you’re on the flipside of this., Maggie. Me too. It is a very human thing to want and need love and acceptance, wherever we can get it. We need this as children until we’ve internalized it and no longer need the external validation. Until that happens, though, many are driven by this need and they aren’t even aware or don’t know how to fix it, even if they are aware. It’s a fucking cruel world out there and we’re all trying to figure it out and survive the best we can! How many can even tell you what self-esteem is? So if they can’t define it, how can they hope to have it? Sorry, I get passionate about this subject. Anyway, again, there’s much to be done. No one’s fault, really. Everyone’s problem, though. Mona

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hear, hear to all of the above! I wish they taught a class in school about this stuff. Things like having boundaries, saying no to something (besides drugs), assertiveness, and autonomy. That it’s not okay for someone who claims to love you to make you cry every day. That nobody gets to own you just because you’re dating. It’s crazy how some parents don’t even talk to their kids about “the birds and the bees”, I can only imagine how many ever get taught about how relationships should work. My mother had terrible relationships with men when I was a kid, so she didn’t know how relationships should work, either. I wish they taught this stuff in school!

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  12. They teach it in psych and counseling classes in college. From what I understand from teachers, they’re the ones having to parent their students to what little extent they can because so many parents are unavailable. Social workers are too overwhelmed. Parents are unavailable for so many reasons that, again, it’s hard to break that cycle of abuse that begins with a child not getting what they need during their formative years, which leads to low self-esteem, which leads to poor decisionmaking…and the cycle continues.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s so true. Imagine all the crap we could have avoided if we’d just been better prepared for the stuff life was going to throw at us when we had to strike out on our own! Now I feel like I’m the one educating my mother about how relationships should work. I remember her telling me when I was younger that if a man acts jealous then that means he really likes you. It’s crazy the dysfunction that gets passed down!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Maggie, this is such a brutally honest post. I’m heartbroken you went through this. I’m forever grateful you’re willing to talk about it so someone else might see themselves and recognize the signs. 💛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the kind words. If even one person reads it and says, “Wait, am I in an abusive relationship?” and finds their way out, that’s all I want. I really didn’t know I was in an abusive relationship at the time. It happens so gradually and the manipulation is so sneaky, you’re already at the bottom of the hole before you even realized you were sinking. The mind-games are astonishing, and can make even the most savvy person end up in an abusive situation!

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