I tried to stay pretty busy yesterday, and I mostly succeeded. I got off to a somewhat late start, as I woke up after 6:00 AM, which isn’t so common for me anymore. Then I made coffee, fed and cleaned up after Noyzi, and started a load of laundry. I did a longer cycle so I could focus more on yesterday’s rambling post that wasn’t particularly tight. While I’ll admit it was a stream of consciousness type post, it did turn out interesting, at least for me. As I read it, I had all of these memories of my younger days, when it seemed like I had forever before I would be considered “older”…
I actually needed some help getting started writing yesterday. There’s a lot I could write about, but I don’t feel knowledgeable enough at this point. And it’s not really what’s on my mind, anyway… I mentioned yesterday that I went down “Memory Lane”, starting with reading old posts about our move to Wiesbaden. I’ve written about that a lot, but I don’t know if I’ve conveyed just how totally difficult that move was to make. It seems like it was just a bad landlady/tenant situation, but it was really so much more than that.
That situation with our former landlady really drove home to me how easy it is to fall into true mind fuckery when you’re dealing with an abusive person. They can make you feel like you’re worthless, as if everything is your fault… or as if you don’t deserve better. It’s hard to break out of that mindset once you enter it. It’s so hard when you trust someone and they betray you, or they turn out to be someone totally different from the person they seemed to be.
Granted, in ex landlady’s case, I did have a subtle warning. There was something about her demeanor that tipped me off at our first meeting. Under normal circumstances, I might not have been so eager to rent her house. Actually, I wasn’t that eager to move into the house, as I was to finally be settled. The summer of 2014 was a very difficult one for us… from Bill’s Army retirement, to my father’s somewhat sudden death, to the very rushed international move to Germany after we found nothing viable in Texas… We were vulnerable.
In August 2014, we still had sharp memories of September 2007, when we spent six weeks in a grubby German Gasthaus in Vaihingen, where there was visible mold on the bathroom ceiling and the place reeked of stale cigarettes. Today, I would have insisted that we move to a better hotel, but we had much less money and experience in 2007, and Bill was fresh from the war zone in Iraq (which he spent with a narcissistic boss). Besides, that particular hotel was in walking distance of where Bill was working, and it was very dog friendly. So we stayed for six weeks. It wasn’t all bad, but I certainly didn’t want to do it again.
So, when we met former landlady, even though I had some mental misgivings about her, I took the former tenant and her husband at their word that she was “great” and my gut feelings weren’t “right”. That was a mistake.
Although it wasn’t all bad, just like our six weeks in a really crummy Gasthaus in 2007, it’s not an experience I’d ever want to recreate. Never before had we ever had such an intrusive situation with a landlord/landlady, even though I’ve seen lots of videos and written plenty of accounts of nightmare property managers, landlords, and landladies. We’ve have had other rental situations that sucked somewhat, but none as personally soul crushing as dealing with our previous landlady. What made it very different and so much worse was the former tenant.
It was one of those perfect storm situations… I’m a blogger, and I made the mistake of sharing my posts in a somewhat small community. People in the military community– I’m sorry to say– are not always the most open-minded people you’d ever meet. You’d think they would be, given how much and how often military folks move to places worldwide. I don’t mean to say that people in that community aren’t diverse, nor do I mean to say that everyone is an asshole. But there are a lot of people who have rigid mindsets about things. Someone who dares to write a blog called The Overeducated Housewife is automatically going to catch shit. 😉
I do know that some people down in the Stuttgart community got some good things from my writings. Quite a lot of people told me they tried restaurants I reviewed, or they visited places I wrote about. But there were so many who just wrote off my efforts because they didn’t like the name of the blog and lacked the desire to find out why I titled it the way I did. How dare someone refer to themselves as “overeducated”, even if they literally are for what they do every day? 😉
I don’t actually think I am “overeducated”. There is obviously a whole lot I don’t know. I also don’t believe that being “educated” is the same as being “intelligent” or “smart”. I just didn’t need to spend seven years in college to be a housewife. If I had known this was going to be my future, I wouldn’t have bothered with college or grad school… but then, I probably never would have met Bill, either. THAT is why this blog is titled as it is… and it came into existence several years before I started engaging with military folks who might be offended by it. In fact, the beginnings of my blog were very humble, as I didn’t even share my posts on Facebook. It took a long time before it evolved into anything people read on a regular basis.
Former tenant probably wouldn’t have been so involved in our situation if I hadn’t been a blogger. Our situation with ex landlady might have turned out like every other situation in which someone hands off a “lemon” to someone else.
Here’s a for instance. Back in 2003, Bill and I adopted an adorable beagle named Flea who had been abandoned in rural Virginia. Flea was a very fancy beagle. His original owner likely paid a lot for him. But, he got separated from the pack when they were hunting. When Flea was eventually found on the side of a road, he was skinny, covered in fleas and ticks, had Lyme Disease, and heartworms. The lady who rescued him got him cleaned up and offered him to a beagle rescue, as she also fostered him for them. The beagle rescue gave her money to get Flea treated for heartworms and Lyme Disease. When we met her, she’d seemed so nice and committed to Flea. But then it turned out she’d never completed his heartworm treatment. Instead, she pocketed the money for the second half of the treatment. So, when we adopted him, we were unaware that he still had heartworms.
Months later, when we discovered Flea’s heartworms weren’t all dead, we tried to contact his rescuer… who then promptly ghosted us. Flea also turned out to be quite a bit older than she’d said he was. Flea wasn’t a “lemon”, per se. He was actually a fantastic dog. But we got stuck dealing with his problems, because someone lied to us. Fortunately, the beagle rescue paid for him to be treated a second time for heartworms. However, heartworm treatment isn’t easy on dogs. I think it took a toll on his health in the long run. We had him for six years before he got prostate cancer, which eventually killed him.
Just like the situation with Flea turned out to be, I guess that former tenant felt the need to get out of her rental agreement with the ex landlady. And she was eager enough to get away from her that she wasn’t entirely truthful or forthcoming about her when we showed up looking for a place to live. We were sitting ducks… because we really needed a place to settle after a tough summer. Former tenant probably figured there was no harm in what she did… I’m sure she totally justified it. Fair enough. Maybe ex landlady really was as wonderful to her as former tenant claimed, and she really did just need to move closer to her job. There was probably even an element of truth to what she told us… but it wasn’t the *whole* truth.
I figure that if I weren’t a prolific and somewhat well-known blogger in the Stuttgart military community, former tenant would have just ghosted us, too. Ex landlady would have been “our problem”, even though the two of them were “friends”. Ex landlady probably would have complained and gossipped to her about us, but former tenant could have just laughed it off. She wouldn’t have been at all concerned about what I was thinking, saying, or writing. But because I was a somewhat well-known blogger, and she had loved Germany and was still following the community on social media, she couldn’t stop herself from following me… and she got upset that I was candid about our experiences.
Instead of realizing that I have the right to my opinions and perspectives and simply unfollowing me, former tenant felt the need to try to control me from afar. Not only did she deceive me, she also tried to silence me… and she seriously misjudged and underestimated me as a person. To her, I guess I was just a sucker who had the “audacity” to label myself “the overeducated housewife”. She probably thought I was just some silly twit– certainly not a match for her. She tried to take advantage of the fact that I’m basically a good person, using shame, obligation, fear, and guilt as a means of trying to fix the narrative. I complied with her for a time, but then wised up about what she was doing.
The irony is, if I weren’t a blogger, Bill and I probably would have been stuck paying for another lemon. Writers are recorders, so I had photos, blog posts, and bits of history that I could show proving the ex landlady’s version of events wrong. We probably would have won, anyway, but it wouldn’t have been quite so handily. Still, when all of that was going on, I felt like shit. I certainly had no desire to be on bad terms with anyone, nor did we want to sue anyone. But I’m also not about to be someone’s patsy.
As if that situation wasn’t bizarre enough… then I looked up former tenant last year. Curiosity killed the cat. I should have learned my lesson about not following people who show me who they are. That’s when I found out that former tenant took her own life. That makes me wonder about a whole lot of things… and it’s also left me with a burden.
All we had wanted to do was find a place to live in 2014. Now we’re left with this very strange chapter in our lives. We’ll probably always think about it and talk about it, and other people probably won’t understand. Some will even try to blame us, even though I only met former tenant in person a couple of times in 2014. Any interaction we had after we rented that house was initiated by her, after she read my blog. I doubt I had anything to do with her decision, but I don’t know. All I can think is that she had a lot of issues that led her to make a tragic choice. Her decision had ripple effects beyond her immediate family and friends that she’ll never even realize.
I never thought I’d ever be a blogger. I did like writing and likely would have loved a “real job” as a writer. But even when I was a teenager, I didn’t really let myself hope writing was how I could earn a living or make my way in the world. I used to have a lot of ideas and dreams about what my “adult life” would be. I figured I’d have a career and probably a family. As I got older, it seemed less likely that either convention was going to be in my future. I didn’t really date much, nor did I have great luck at impressing employers that would pay me a salary on which I could live comfortably.
Granted, after I finished graduate school, I might have managed to find a job to support myself properly. I didn’t really have a chance, as just after I graduated, I moved in with Bill, and six months later, married into the military lifestyle, with its constant upheavals. I was familiar with it, since my mom was an Air Force wife. But by the time I came along, my dad’s career in the Air Force was winding down. I didn’t know the realities, because my parents ran their own business for over half of my childhood.
I think marrying Bill was the right decision, and the best choice I could have made. But it definitely derailed the plans I tried to make for myself. I don’t think they were the right plans, anyway… but they were MY plans. And now I’m sitting here in Germany, writing this blog, wondering where it all went.
Yesterday’s post was a meandering stream of consciousness piece. It started in one place and ended somewhere else I hadn’t really meant it to go. Alex’s first comment to me kind of took me aback. He’d offered me consolation, which kind of distressed me. But, looking back at it today, I can see why Alex left a comment of reassurance. The end of yesterday’s post was about how I felt after reading the post that had inspired it. I was so very angry about the audacity of our ex landlady, treating us like we were the worst kind of people. It pissed me off anew, and brought up some old feelings of shame and worthlessness passed to me from someone whose opinion used to mean a lot to me.
No, I don’t mean ex landlady. I mainly did what I could to appease her, which I now realize was far too much. I mean my dad. I don’t think he hated me. I think he even loved me on one level. But he often treated me badly, and acted like he didn’t like me very much. He took out a lot of his frustrations on me, and treated me like an embarrassment. When I was a young woman, I realized that he was very often abusive to me, and that treatment shaped how I felt about myself. Some of that stuff still comes up today, as I try to stay out of trouble and hesitate to engage with people. I figure they won’t like me… and when some of them don’t, I get bitter and more reluctant to get to know people. When people treat me poorly, I remember it forever and hold it against them, even if their bad attitude doesn’t even have that much to do with me, personally.
There were a lot of times when ex landlady reminded me a lot of my dad. As a grown woman, I can now react in ways that weren’t safe when I was a child. I can speak out, for instance. So I often do. But doing that didn’t suit former tenant’s agenda, and I suspect she thought she could manipulate and control me. So she tried to do that, and I tolerated it for awhile… until I didn’t anymore, and the shit hit the fan. She took issue that I figured out what she’d done… passed off her lemon to Bill and me and expected us to see it as a favor. She wanted me to shut up and pretend I enjoyed the sourness of her lemon. Because it suited her, and her agenda. Who cared about how it affected us?! We’re just a couple of suckers and losers, right? Obviously, if ex landlady didn’t like us, it was entirely our fault, and it was our responsibility as Americans to make her like us…
What a load of shit that is. Seriously… I can’t even believe it! We’re supposed to tolerate abuse and PAY for the privilege, because former tenant is/was friends with the ex landlady, and she doesn’t want to offend her or anyone in her family? If there’s a problem, it’s not because of anyone but me… and it’s entirely my fault. Again… that’s a lot of bullshit that doesn’t even have the courtesy of smelling lemony fresh! I can’t believe we wasted a single year on that crap, let alone four!
Well… at least it’s over now. We did prevail. But, like the proverbial lemon, that situation left a sour taste in our mouths. I’m left a lot more wary than I once was. I don’t share things like I used to. I’m not eager to get to know people like I used to be. I trust people less. The memory of that ordeal leaves me a bit depressed on some level. And the fact that former tenant killed herself makes it all the worse, because now it seems like I should feel sorry for her. Or at least act like I feel sorry for her. Really, I’m just angry with her on many levels. I’m sorry she felt the need to off herself, but I also realize that I spent weeks agonizing, feeling totally traumatized and fucked up, and the truth was, I wasn’t the fucked up one at all!
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a believer in destiny… We were probably supposed to meet these people, and these experiences were probably supposed to happen. We’ll just have to learn from it, move on, and either keep our lemons to ourselves or be honest about them. Sometimes lemons are a good thing, after all. In the grand scheme of things, this particular lemon at least taught us to be wiser, and we got to see some beautiful parts of the Black Forest. So that ought to count for something, right?