Monthly Archives: January 2016

Stereotypes

People will always wonder what type of woman I am. They will wonder if I`ve gone mad, if I started this journey mad, if I`m being taking advantage of, if I`m having a crisis, if I`m desperate. They will imagine what I look like before they see me. They will wonder how I talk before they hear me speak. They will wonder if I`m educated or not. They will assume something is fundamentally wrong with me, that I`m stuck in between a fantasy and the prison, right between the entrance and what lies beyond, stuck and unable to see passed the world I`ve created with my husband, with the prison.

Divulging my partial place in this world as the wife of a prisoner has been known to pique curiosity. My favorite part of telling people about my life is their facial expression, as it reveals a thousand thoughts arranging themselves like a map scrambling to come up with a direction to go in.

“I would have never guessed that”, is a usual response. Then the slow, but steady, stream of questions, as they try to figure out what is wrong with me, why I do what I do, how I live the way I do, or the way they assume I do.

Sometimes they ask to see a picture of my husband, or I offer because I`m not ashamed of my life, and again, more stereotypes blown to bits. Before I rifle through my wallet for a photo, they will wonder what the person on the other side of the wall looks like. They will assume. They think the image in their head will transfer to the photo I`m about to pull out.

“That isn`t what I expected” is also a usual response. On more than one occasion, it has been revealed that they expected to see someone Hispanic standing next to me in a photo. They expected someone a beautiful shade of brown, with gangster swagger, maybe tattoos, maybe a facial expression that says “I`m tough and this is my woman”. What they find makes their map of a face rearrange even more. They don`t understand. More assuming. Their internal dialog must be trying to come up with a response that is acceptable to say out loud. I chime in without hesitation, “Yes, he is white. I know you expected brown”. Awkward laughter.

So many assumptions. I delight in confusing people, making them want to know more. I give them a bit at a time and their preconceived ideas about my life fade away and are replaced with curiosity. The judgments are still there, no matter how much others say they aren’t, but I`m okay with that.

After meeting me, after getting to know me, people will wonder what type of person my husband is. They will wonder how he got me to stand by his side for so many years. They will wonder if he is manipulating me, if he talks to me in a way that makes me submit, if I`m scared of him, if I can’t leave. Their wonder about me will transfer to him and they will seek out the wrong in him, aside from the fact that he is in prison. They will wonder if he is fundamentally damaged goods, if he is sorry, if he laughs at stupid jokes like the rest of us, what his voice sounds like. They will wonder why I chose him.

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Prison Presents

Have you ever received a drawing or painting from your lover that was commissioned just for you, with details that made your heart skip a beat? What about a rose made out of toilet paper, colored with markers, smooshed in the mail, but quite possibly more beautiful than real roses? Locks of beautiful blonde hair from a major hair cut,secured with a hair that tie, that you drag across your neck and collarbones? A stuffed bear made out of t-shirt fabric, dyed with kool-aid?

My husband surprises me, more than most people on the outside ever could, with these little gifts, these cherished little oddities from inside the walls. They are all sent with love, these gifts from beyond the gun towers. They smell like prison, they look like prison, they embody prison, they are prison in all of its disgusting yet thriving spirit. I love all these things.
It’s half humbling, half heartache receiving these gifts. You know that someone put time into these items, maybe even love, or some semblance of love. I open these envelopes or boxes and I squeal with delight. I examine my “goodies” and I often hold them against my chest, where my heart is, and I connect my heartbeat to the item that my husband has lovingly sent, convinced it would win him points. And it does. Win him points. Every single time.
I smell these items. I know, that sounds strange, but I want to make everything about the item as tangible and memorable and connecting as possible. I want to feel my husband’s excitement over sending me something unique and hand made and strangely meaningful.
These gifts, these little tokens of love and “I’m thinking of you” are so special to me. They are evidence that I am loved, but perhaps the greatest gift I’ve received from prison is love itself.
Love and a man that does not quit. Love and a partner who cares deeply for my heart and soul and every layer in between. Love and a promise of hope that comes from just beyond the barbed wire and is transmitted by sound waves, infrequent visits, and treasures made by the hands of those convicted and condemned.
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