I came of age in the 1970s. Carole King composed the soundtrack to my early college years. And not just mine, it appears. Her 1971 album, “Tapestry” is, even to this day, one of the best-selling albums of all time.
I managed to wear out an LP and two 8-track tapes as I sang along, loudly and off-key, with “You’ve Got a Friend,” “Beautiful” and “So Far Away.” I still recall the words to each and every song. Later, her hauntingly lovely “Child of Mine” expressed my precise emotions as a new mother: ”Child of mine/ child of mine/ Oh, yes, sweet darling/ So glad you are a child of mine” I felt a connection to King and her music like I’ve never experienced before or since.
I recently read King’s autobiography, “A Natural Woman,” written as she approached her 70th year. She outlined her early life as a musical prodigy who was writing hit songs and having babies before she was out of her teens. She delicately tiptoed around the dissolution of her marriage to her song-writing partner, Gerry Goffin, as he began his freefall into mental illness and drug abuse.
There are fascinating behind-the-scenes details about the creation of “Tapestry” and King’s transition from writer to performer.
There was another marriage. Another divorce.
Then, at a Hollywood party she met a charismatic songwriter wannabe named Rick Evers. The attraction was immediate. They were inseparable from that moment on. Even after he started beating her.
I read these chapters of the book in context of a TED lecture I’d recently viewed. Leslie Morgan Steiner is the author of “Crazy Love.” It’s the story of a woman’s life with an abusive spouse. It attempts to answer the question “Why didn’t she just leave?”
After all, King had everything: money, power, friends and family. Still, she left everyone she knew, took her two youngest children and moved to the Idaho backwoods with Evers, into a remote cabin with no running water or electricity. And no one nearby to hear her if she screamed.
Steiner outlines the phases of an abusive relationship and King’s was a textbook example. Never before had I realized that, like pedophiles, domestic abusers actually groom their victims.
First, there is the perfect relationship, adoring love from a man who is enraptured with everything about the object of his affection. Next, there’s the move to isolate the woman, getting her away from avenues of help or anyone who might see what’s happening and try to intervene. Then there’s the threat of violence, outbursts that test the willingness of the victim to stay. Then comes actual violence, followed by tearful pleadings and apologies. And so on and so on.
Many women stay because they feel they have no alternatives or they’re simply too ashamed to admit what their lives have become. Many stay because they instinctively know what research has proven — that 70 percent of domestic violence murders happen after the victim tries to leave.
Even a woman with all the resources of a Grammy winning singer and songwriter stayed on, coddling a man who resented her success and regularly took his frustrations out on her face.
In the end, fate intervened. Evers died of a drug overdose in 1978.
This isn’t an isolated or even rare case. One out of every 3 American women will be exposed to physical and/or sexual abuse in her lifetime. One in 3.
All that was percolating in my mind when my daughter, Rachel, called home with news that she had been selected to direct this year’s production of “The Vagina Monologues” at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega.
“The Vagina Monologues” is produced yearly all over the world as part of V-Day, a movement to create awareness of violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation and sex slavery.
The play, with readings by a cast of students, faculty and community members, touches on many aspects of the feminine experience, including sex, love, rape, menstruation, birth, orgasm and the many names for the vagina. It’s edgy, funny, horrifying, provocative and empowering.
This year’s performance is sponsored by the Latin American Student Organization and will be a bilingual production. Performances are Thursday, April 3 and Friday, April 4, both at 7:30 p.m. in Hoag Auditorium of the UNG Dahlonega campus. Tickets are $5 for students and $8 for everyone else. Proceeds will go to NOA which serves victims of domestic abuse in Lumpkin and Dawson counties.
I admire Carole King for having the courage to share one of the most humiliating and terrifying times of her life with the world in hopes of letting women know there is help available and there are alternatives to staying, suffering and possibly dying at the hands of an abuser.
I admire the cast and crew of the UNG production of “The Vagina Monologues” for shining a light on the rampant public health problem of domestic abuse and related issues. Knowledge is power and knowing you’re not alone is the most powerful knowledge of all.
Teressa Glazer is a Gainesville businesswoman. Her column appears biweekly on Fridays and at gainesvilletimes.com/viewpoint.