One thing I could always count on from my boyfriend Sam, who was 22 years older than me, was extreme jealousy. Early on in the relationship it was flattering, but as the years went by, the feeling of being flattered quickly turned into feeling stifled and suffocated.
Sam had an expression—“shining on”—which meant that if my gaze lingered on another man for too long, I was “shining on” to this new guy, at least according to Sam. I quickly learned to keep my eyes to myself, especially when a handsome young male came anywhere near me. Sam was getting older, but I was blossoming at work and had a thriving social life. He was quite aware of this, and was desperately trying to hold onto me.
Because of Sam’s possessiveness, I actually snubbed my neighbor—who happened to be a young man—when he showed up at the same restaurant where Sam and I were having lunch. My neighbor kept trying to get my attention, and when I finally had to acknowledge him, I acted like I barely knew him. I was worried that Sam would accuse me of “shining on” to him if I acted too friendly. Sam seemed to have eyes in the back of his head when it came to me; so of course, he immediately noticed when I did finally acknowledge my neighbor. I had to introduce them to each other, and explain to Sam exactly how I knew this other man. Obviously, Sam would later accuse me of sleeping with the neighbor behind his back.
I remember another occasion that Sam’s possessiveness became an issue. This time, his behavior was so bad that it was almost enough for me to walk away from him forever. It was at an office Christmas party at a house nearby. I was in my mid-20s, and loved a good party. This one had a lot of employees from out of town that were in the city for a national-wide company meeting. I had the chance to meet a lot of people with whom I previously only had phone conversations. I was chatting with a manager from one of the other state offices, and he asked me to dance. Since Sam was occupied in a conversation at the other end of the bar, I figured it would be okay, so we went out on the dance floor.
After the dance, we walked back to the bar, and continued our conversation. I looked away for a second, only to see Sam charging toward us, with a look of anger and determination on his face. He butted into our conversation, loudly introduced himself, and made it very clear that I was his “lady.” I had always enjoyed when he introduced me with that title, but this was one of the first times that it made me feel uncomfortable.
I couldn’t help but think about what this upper-level manager—with whom I was just sharing my career aspirations—was thinking about me now. He was probably confused about what was happening. He was probably also wondering whether or not Sam was going to haul him out and punch him. I was absolutely mortified and felt like a child that had just been scolded in public.
Later in the car, Sam asked me if I would have rather stayed at the party and gone back to the man’s hotel room. Needless to say, the rest of the night was disastrous.
Some part of me wished that I had slept with all of the men he thought I had been with—my 20s would have probably been so much more exciting. The truth was, I was just afraid to sleep with anybody else. Sam’s temper was so volatile; I didn’t know what he would do to the other guy, or even me, if he ever found out.