This post deals with sexual assault and might be triggering for some readers.
Years ago, when I was in my twenties, I started seeing a man who was wrong for me, but oh-so-attractive. He was a cowboy (think Brad Pitt from Thelma and Louise). He was tall, with a broad chest, strong arms and a loud laugh. He wore a big black hat that he’d tip, winking when he saw me.
This cowboy worked at the saleyards where I also worked. My job was to ensure the welfare of the cattle and I used to ride a horse to get around them all. He would often buy me a cold drink when the weather was hot, booking it up on the boss’s account at the canteen which I thought was okay in a ‘cheeky’ kind of way.
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Or, he’d just flirt with me, perch himself on a fence beside me and with a cute, lop-sided grin tell me I should go with him ‘out west’ to muster cattle. He’d ask me about the pedigree of my horses and who had made my saddle. He’d compliment me on my appearance, my agility, my work ethic... not in a sleazy way, but in a genuinely-impressed kind of way.
But I had a boyfriend at the time, and I’ve always been a loyal person.
What I didn’t realise at the time, was that my boyfriend was emotionally and financially abusive. I didn’t realise that he had destroyed any self-esteem I had by belittling me with derogatory comments and by comparing me to others. He had manipulated our relationship to exclude my friends and hadn’t delivered on his promise to pay me for working in his business and I didn’t even know it.
What I did know was that I was loving the attention from this really hot cowboy.
Eventually, my deadbeat boyfriend cheated on me and then kicked me out of his house, so I was homeless, which might have been a good thing.