I really have not enjoyed grad school. I am waiting for interview responses via email for one of my projects. My blog project is done, but I think it's boring. My ethnographic case study I just want to get out of the way, but if my subjects don't answer my questions, I won't be able to answer my question for the project. At least my teaching portfolio seems okay.
However, my "engaged research paper" is something I'm practically drooling over. For the last ten years, ever since I found out about it, I've been obsessed with the Ken and Barbie Murderers, also known as Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka. I'd never heard of them until fall of 2004, when I took a trip to Toronto. A kind stranger skated with me, and we got to talking about people and how they are not what they seem. He filled me in on this murderous duo. The next day, I think I went book shopping and since I was on a breakneck pace while on my vacation (wanting to see and do everything on my list) I began to feel a little bit worn out, and maybe just a bit sick. I spent an entire evening, from probably 6:30 p.m. until I went to bed that night reading Invisible Darkness. I don't know why I didn't buy Karla: A Pact with the Devil on that trip, but I think I bought it a couple years later.
I was enthralled with this tale of sex, drugs, rape and death. Karla is probably Canada's most hated woman.
But at the same time, I could understand a little bit about why she participated in this horrible acts with Bernardo. I have to think what I would have done if I were her. Bear in mind, I was never a pretty little blonde thing. Even when I was younger, I never felt like I was attractive. I never had a date until I was 21. I never had a boyfriend until I was 39 years old. What would I have done if someone like Paul Bernardo had swept into my life when I was younger? I would have been clueless, that's what. I wouldn't have known rough sex wasn't normal. I wouldn't have known that having a guy tell me to say things like "I'm a slut" wasn't normal.
So Karla and I, we probably had a few things in common when we were younger. Sure, she was more popular and didn't seem to have problems meeting guys, while I was shy and drowning in low self-esteem (I still am). But we both came from intact, middle class families. I'm just three years older than her. Our birthdays are three days apart. We were probably the same height and same weight. Our fathers weren't born in the countries we were raised in. Homolka's father came to the U.S. just two years before my dad left Puerto Rico to further his education in Wisconsin. Both of us thought about suicide occasionally. Both of us have high I.Q's. Both of us had have bad luck with men.
So I read Karla's story with fascination and horror. How could a seemingly very intelligent, strong-willed woman fall under the spell of Bernardo? That is what is so frightening to me. I've done things that made me wonder later, "why did I do that?" But I've never murdered anyone. Once, when I was young, I was at the movies with some kids, and one of them wanted me to go over to some black kids and call them niggers. Bear in mind, I was maybe 5-7 years old at the time. I knew it was wrong to do that. The kid didn't force me, but what if he had? Another instance where I was pressured to do something I didn't want to do was when a guy I was dating request we do a threesome. I refused that too. I am, however, angry that the day I had minor surgery, we went on several errands after the procedure and proceeded to have sex with me. After surgery, you usually just want to go home and sleep. I should have told him to fucking fuck off, because sadly, I've learned you cannot be subtle with men. Merely saying, "I'm tired," over and over didn't sink into his head. I am angry that I didn't say, "hey asshole, I just had surgery. Take me the fuck home and fucking leave."
So I'm really engaged with this paper, because although I'm horrified that Karla's relationship deteriorated so quickly (Bernardo started hitting her a year after they met) I can understand, in a way, why she stayed. Love can make you do strange things. And perhaps, in a society where having a MAN, any MAN, is valued so highly, and if you manage to catch one who is gorgeous, educated, and has plans for a comfortable future, you're going to consider yourself lucky.
Even if he hits you.
Even if he calls you stupid.
Even if you wonder why you stay, because you're so miserable.
Even if you realize you've made a mistake.
Especially when you think you might not be able to get anything better.
I am so very, very grateful that despite wondering why I can't seem to attract men, and why I can't find any men that I'm attracted to who are single and decent, I'm glad I haven't met a Paul Bernardo. When you're 17, "too good to be true" doesn't register on your radar because you still believe there is a prince out there for you. When you're 47 and you attract date rapists and you worked with someone who went on to commit murder, you're wary, and with good reason.
I want to get my other project out of the way so I can gloriously wallow in the articles and books written about the Ken and Barbie killers. Who knows, maybe I'll make it my master's thesis...