Updated: Dec 31, 2018
My first husband carried his rage just beneath the surface of his skin, and although he never raised a hand to me, I was always afraid if his anger.
My second husband, the man I am married to now, is an angry man. In fact, he loves to quote the scene in The Avengers when Hulk is needed and Captain America (my husband’s favorite hero) says to Bruce Banner, “Dr. Banner, now would be a good time to get angry.” To which Banner replies, “That’s my secret, Cap. I’m always angry.” My husband is Hulk.
When I met him more than a decade ago, his anger was large and palpable. It scared me, the sheer intensity of it. I later learned that he was carrying the history of a severely twisted childhood trauma and his father had committed suicide about a year prior. He had plenty to be angry about. I was both repelled by his rage and drawn to it at the same time.
In my family growing up, we didn’t get angry. Well, my mother did. She screamed and raged and threw stuff when she fought with my dad. But I got the message that you shouldn’t get angry- and by “you” I mean women. My sisters and I, we learned to cry when we were angry. Women (specifically white women) are allowed tears and sadness, but not anger or rage or fury. Never that.
Many years ago on a trip to visit my parents, I voiced my anger about something. I was in my thirties, married and had a young daughter. It was “post-treatment”. Treatment being one of the markers I use for reference on the timeline of my life. What I learned in treatment gave me the courage to voice my anger that day. But let me be clear. I didn’t express my anger. I just talked about it (I’ve learned those are actually two different things). I remember my father said, “Yes, I know. You and your mother get angry. I don’t get angry.” My father actually believed he did not experience the emotion of anger. He was right about my mother, though. She raged. She was an angry, banner-carrying feminist. "Male chauvinist pig" was a term she used regularly, as I recall. My father believed anger was pointless. He thought it was better to "take action", to problem solve, as if emotion and action were mutually exclusive.
It makes sense to me now that I was both repelled and drawn to my husband’s rage. He mirrored something inside me, my own inner Hulk. Fast forward to the 2016 election followed by #MeToo and the collective rage of women all over the country. Tracee Ellis Ross and her TED Talk on A Woman’s Fury showed up on my feed, and I devoured it. I watched it again and again. I read Brittney Cooper’s Eloquent Rage and now Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister. I have purposefully and intentionally sought out connection with other women who could validate my experience. I have “thrown a line” deep into my emotional waters and hooked the rage I once worked so hard to keep submerged. And even though it scares me, it is exhilarating. Freeing. Today I’m embracing my anger. That freedom feels good.