BY ELIZABETH THOMSON
"We accept the love we think we deserve."
The last post featured domestic abuse and the effects it had on Charlie’s sister, Candace. This post continues with Charlie's crush Sam, who also exhibits the behavioral patterns of a woman who has been abused.
She breaks down and confesses that her father's friend abused her when she was a child; she had not told anyone until a year ago, which facilitated the abuse. Naturally the sense of stability and trust that Sam should have received from her family -- namely her father -- dissolved. Sam begins dating a guy named Craig, who does not appear to be mistreating her at first, but Charlie notes his lack of regard for her:
Craig doesn’t really listen to her when she talks. I don’t mean that he’s a bad guy because he’s not. It’s just that he always looks distracted. It’s like he would take a photograph of Sam, and the photograph would be beautiful. And he would think that the reason the photograph was beautiful was because of how he took it. If I took it, I would know that the only reason it’s beautiful is because of Sam. I just think it’s bad when a boy looks at a girl and thinks that the way he sees the girl is better than the girl actually is. And I think it’s bad when the most honest way a boy can look at a girl is through a camera. It’s very hard for me to see Sam feel better about herself just because an older boy sees her that way.
Sam depends on her relationships and males' opinions of her to understand her identity. Though Craig does not know her completely and love her in the unconditional way that she desires, she settles for his partial affection and feeds on his minor compliments. Again, Charlie does not understand, and seeks outside opinion:
I asked my sister about this, and she said that Sam has low self-esteem. My sister also said that Sam had a reputation when she was a sophomore. According to my sister, Sam used to be a "blow queen." I hope you know what that means because I really can’t think about Sam and describe it to you. I am really in love with Sam, and it hurts very much.
Just like my friend, even if another guy treats her with respect, she cannot accept it. She cannot relate to it. Because the wounds are so deep, the negativity becomes a part of her identity, and it becomes impossible for her to relate to men in any other way unless she seeks help. Too often today's culture -- and males themselves -- persuade girls that the way they can receive affirmation and love is to provide sexual pleasure. A mixture of seeking real love, an identity, affirmation, or even an attempt to associate sex with a memory other than with abuse drives a girl to promiscuity. Sam stays with Craig for the bulk of the book, and they are sexually active. Toward the end of the book, a new aspect of Craig's personality is revealed:
Craig had been cheating on Sam ever since they started going out. And when I say cheat, I don’t mean he got drunk once and fooled around with one girl and felt bad about it. There were several girls. Several times. Drunk and sober. And I guess he never felt bad.
The book is neither specific about how Sam and Craig met, nor what was the initial attraction. Nonetheless, Sam overlooked some of Craig's unlisted traits that may have given many women clues that he was cheating. Given Sam's past, it is unlikely that the unfaithful relationship was a fluke. While above I discuss at length the role of the father in a woman's choice of partners, sometimes it has nothing to do with her dad, but it is by chance that she winds up in an abusive relationship, beginning a cycle. With Sam, it is unlikely that this is the case.
Part three will continue with the cycle of abuse and how it affected Charlie’s Aunt Helen.