why i resisted entering a public feud with a cancer patient
by jim "a thief, a fraud, a liar, and a wife-beater" goad

I sleep... perchance, I dream...

Snug as a bug on my two-and-a-half-foot-wide plastic penitentiary mattress, I dream that I'm leaving this House of Pain sometime in the not-distant future and rejoining the Free World.

But immediately after leaving the gates, a torch-bearing mob of angry zinesters and "alternative" literary types confronts me, shrieking for my blood because of my widely publicized mistreatment of my ex-wife, Debbie Goad.

One by one, the angry accusers face me...

An HIV-positive Sam Kinison look-alike from San Francisco waddles to the crowd's forefront and taunts me with this question:

"Debbie says she was never really into that whole 'darkness and violence' trip in ANSWER Me! and that you forced her into it. How do you respond to that?"

As usual, with facts. Long before she met me, Debbie stabbed her uncle with a kitchen knife because he broke her bong. She once gloated to an interviewer about how, long before she met me, she fantasized about killing her father and poisoning her mother. On the night I met her, she wore a button that said I HATE PEOPLE and talked about how they should just drop a bomb and wipe out everyone. She was also so depressed at the time that she was making cassettes with titles such as "Come Die With Me."

I'm not objecting to any of this behavior or misanthropic attitudinal posturing, only her newfound pretense of innocence.

A person-I'm not really sure if it's a man or woman-gets nose-to-nose with me and accusingly says:

"Debbie is claiming that the stress of being around you is what gave her cancer, and that, in effect, you 'drove her to the grave.'"

Boy, I wish I were that powerful. As I remember it, Debbie's mother died of ovarian cancer, and in 1991, Debbie was diagnosed with an ovarian cyst, which later proved benign. Since ovarian cancer is highly hereditary and we never wanted kids, I begged Debbie to have her ovaries removed, but she didn't. The doctors also told her that smoking cigarettes would increase the likelihood of ovarian cancer, and I tried to persuade her to quit smoking, but she refused doing that, too.

Imagine my frustration knowing that I did all these things, and when Debbie finally gets cancer, she blames me for it.

An angry woman with thick eyeglasses and tiny mosquito-bite breasts shouts out:

"But you left her when she got cancer, you fucking misogynist pig!"

Well, I wish it were that simple. I've heard this particular allegation repeated over and over-that I left Debbie when she got cancer, as if it's what caused me to leave her. The truth is that we'd been talking about getting divorced for years, even before we moved to Portland, but we started getting hit with so many crises right after arriving in P-Town-things such as an obscenity trial, the British suicides, and the White House Shooter-that it never seemed like a good time for me to leave.

Debbie has since stated that she "tried to get a separation" from me but that I prevented her, and I'm amazed that no one has asked any mildly probing questions about this ridiculous allegation, such as, "well, why didn't you just go back to live in that house you owned in Brooklyn, the one safely ensconced within a gated community?" Or, "exactly how does someone prevent another person from getting a separation?"

The whole time we were together, I never saw Debbie take the initiative about anything-she was a pillar of inaction. The truth is that I was the one who for years had been talking about leaving, but I genuinely didn't want to leave her hanging. That's why I made sure she was set up with a house in Portland and that she got $10,000 from my Redneck Manifesto book advance. And for a full two years before I knew Anne R. existed, I had been cheating on Debbie with an array of anonymous bar skanks.

The affair with Anne R. started before Debbie's cancer diagnosis. I finally told Debbie about the affair five months later, after she completed chemotherapy. When I told her, she was the one who demanded a divorce and that I move out, and so I did. I fully admit that it was foul to continue cheating on Debbie after her diagnosis, and that fucking Anne R. on Debbie's bed on the night of Debbie's cancer surgery was easily the lowest thing I've ever done.

To be honest-certainly more honest than Anne "I'm a Changed Person" R. is being about it these days-I think we both got aroused by the foulness of what were doing. I also continued the affair because I knew that it was something for which Debbie could never forgive me, and that it would finally allow us to make the complete break from each other for which I'd been craving for years.

A voyeuristic middle-aged man in a trench coat who produces a zine gossip sheet from the Midwest politely raises his hand; and when I acknowledge him, he says, stuttering somewhat,

"Debbie called you 'a thief, a fraud, a liar, a wife- beater, and a psychotically sick individual who should be jailed or institutionalized the rest of his life.' Was she wrong?"

Whether I deserve lifelong punishment is a matter of opinion, so I won't address that. But a THIEF? What did I ever steal from her? She neglects to tell people that she got the house, the computer, and $10,000 from my book advance, while I walked away with my clothes. Well, half of my clothes, because some of them remained at the house, and I heard that she destroyed them. She is also in possession of my beloved Chihuahua and has said she won't give him back when I'm released, so who's the thief?

She has also publicly stated that I left her in debt, but how? If she means that creditors are going after her for mutual debts while I'm in prison and unable to pay them, well, how much control do I have over that? I'll resume paying them as soon as I get out. On her restraining order against me, Debbie claimed that I threatened to come to her house and take not only my belongings, but hers as well. I wonder if she'd be willing to put that allegation to a polygraph test?

I'm willing to put everything I'm saying here up in front of a lie-detector. I never threatened to take any of her stuff, and in fact I left a lot of my stuff behind. This "thief" thing really bugs me, because, although I'm guilty of many things, I'm about the least greedy, acquisitive, materialistic person on earth, certainly less money-conscious than Debbie is. And if she's going to call me a "fraud," she's welcome to present the merest shred of supporting evidence-something which would prove that I've ever claimed to be something I'm not or that I've denied being something that I am.

In ANSWER Me!, she claimed to be a society-hating psychopath, but now she says it was all an act, so who's the fraud? Nobody dares to call Debbie a hypocrite for running around threatening to kill people and then converting to Christianity, nor for remaining a hypocrite because she can't even practice it correctly since she hasn't forgiven those who've wronged her or, um, turned the other cheek.

I've lied about some things, so I guess that makes me a liar. I lied about cheating on her, but only so she wouldn't get hurt. I lied on a polygraph test while in county jail to try avoiding 25 years in prison. But I never told a lie to make myself look better or to hurt another person-I don't tell the sort of lies that Debbie Goad and Anne R. tell.

A wife-beater? I define a "beating" as when someone repeatedly strikes another person during the same incident-I've received several beatings in my life, so I know of what I speak. Although I hit Debbie about ten times over nearly twelve years, I never struck her more than once during any given incident. I guess this makes me a wife-beater, anyway. But when we got divorced, Debbie claimed on a restraining order that I was beating her daily while she had cancer, when in fact I hadn't hit her in over two years. If I were beating her daily-or even weekly-while she had cancer, don't you think someone, like maybe her oncologist, would have spotted a mark somewhere?

Debbie later admitted that she lied on her restraining order, but she also tried to shirk responsibility for lying by claiming that a judge had "bullied" her into it. So if you want to say that it's unethical to hit your wife, I'm not going to argue with you, at least not now. But neither is it ethical to lie to authorities about the extent of the violence in order to get your "abuser" into more trouble than he rightly deserves. Just because you hide behind the cops to do your dirty work doesn't make it any less dirty-to my mind, it makes it dirtier.

I need to make it clear that I'm not trying to whitewash or downplay anything I've actually done, but it's extraordinarily frustrating to be accused of misdeeds without having at least been granted whatever temporary emotional release goes along with having actually done them. Being accused of something I didn't do makes me wish I had done it. Debbie makes it sound as if all I did was hit her, and if that's all she's going to remember, I wish that's all there had been. Whenever I would call Debbie to task on some of her false allegations, her only response would be, "I said those things because I was mad at you!" I tried to remind her that I did plenty of things when I was mad at her for which I later apologized, and that being mad at someone isn't really a good excuse for trying to hurt them, but still she refused to apologize or take any blame for willfully trying to fuck up my life.

Of course, she's fully aware that our matriarchal society is so freaked-out by the idea of a woman with a black eye that they'll justify anything that happens to a male who caused it, even his death. If Debbie Goad or Anne R. still want to act like the victims in all this, and that they've suffered more than I have, I propose a simple solution that should quickly alleviate their suffering: give me a few black eyes and let me out and lock them down in here for two-and-a-half years.

A four-hundred pound lesbian Negress wearing a strap-on dildo and holding a Vaseline jar in one hand shoves an ebony finger in my face and says:

"Yeah, but you just admitted that you hit Debbie-why did you used to hit her?"

The reason I hit Debbie is simple-she just made me incredibly happy, and I can't stand to be that happy.

It had nothing to do with ignoring my repeated warnings that I was getting angry and that she'd better lay off, or that if someone had warned me in such a manner, I'd choose to leave them alone or accept the consequences, especially after the first time.

It had nothing to do with complaining and worrying of an order so advanced on the obsessive-compulsive scale that government studies should be commissioned to try and understand it.

It had nothing to do with behavior for which people would miraculously find justification in a man getting hit.

It had nothing to do with such an intense need to see herself as a victim that, consciously or otherwise, she set herself up to be victimized.

It had nothing to do with the fact that, although I recognized Debbie's pain, she was oblivious to mine, and maybe I was the hyperemotional one while she was relatively numb.

It had nothing to do with learning over time that it was the only way to make her realize I was getting upset and there's only so much I can take.

It had nothing to do with the fact that I was exposed to intense violence in my infancy and that I've been floating around in a sort of post-traumatic, Vietnam-vet-style limbo ever since.

It had nothing to do with the fact that I'd eagerly trade the half-dozen slaps, two punches, and two or three kicks to the shin I gave her in exchange for all the emotional exasperation she caused me.

No, it had nothing to do with all that-it was the fact that the girl was making me way too happy, and I had to find a way to stop it.

If all she remembers over twelve years was the violence, it says more about her personality than it does about my behavior. An obsessive focus on a couple of black eyes at the expense of everything else cheapens and simplifies everything. It may work for cheap and simple people, but not for me.

An Asian dwarf in a wheelchair who produces a zine devoted solely to the Banana Splits Saturday-morning TV program of the 1960s wheels up to me and says:

"Debbie has charged that you 'kept her down.' Discuss."

Well, I'd really be curious to hear some specifics about that one. This was a woman with an IQ of 86, someone who was unable to drive a car and had trouble operating a simple cassette player. Precisely what awesome potential was I allegedly suppressing?

Debbie lived with her parents until she was 32, and she was so passive that if I never came along, she would probably still be living there. The entire time we were together, she had more than 20 grand in the bank while I was living hand-to-mouth, since we kept separate bank accounts even while married. And for that entire time, I endured her whining about how much she hated working as a typist. So I encouraged her to take some time off and figure out what would make her happy-she loved animals, so why not go to school and learn to be a veterinary assistant? In 1986 she was complaining about being a typist, and I warned her that computer technology would make her occupation obsolete. She did nothing. Ten years later, she was having trouble finding even temporary work at even half the hourly wages she received in 1986, and yet still she saw fit to complain to me about it-daily.

The entire time we were together, I never saw her read one book. I never saw her even try to develop even one skill, whether personal, social, or professional. Saying that I "kept her down," when in fact I was the one who tried to "get her up," is a cheap shot designed to mask her own laziness.

Debbie seems to fit the model of what psychologists call a "codependent personality"-one who places all the control, and subsequently all the blame, in another's hands. I never had any desire to control her, and in fact, having to make all the decisions was a major pain in the ass for me. But when a car's careening along at high speed and the other person refuses to grab the steering wheel, it makes sense to grab it.

How else did I keep her down-by rewriting all of her ANSWER Me! articles so they'd read better and then giving her full credit for them? Anyone who doubts my claims of rewriting her ANSWER Me! rants is encouraged to read anything she's written since our split-up and compare. Notice a certain luster missing in the new stuff? I took a rather plain donut and applied a generous honey glaze to it, but she'll never cop to it.

Debbie did one internet posting in which she cited a videotaped interview we did where at one point we're both crouching in front of the camera, then she stands up and motions for me to stand up, but I remain crouching. She offered this little episode as "evidence" of how I was supposedly a control freak, but really, who was trying to control whom? I wasn't telling her to do anything; I was merely refusing to take orders.

When I was in county jail in the fall of '98, Debbie kept mentioning some study that had been released which stated that the marriages which lasted over time were ones in which the men obeyed the women, and that seemed like a good thing to her. I responded that I didn't think it was a good thing for anyone to obey anyone else, but she said that men should obey women, so who's being the sexist control freak here? And this is the main reason, far beyond cheating and beating, that Debbie Goad, Anne R., and whatever howling twats and cuckolded males who support them feel that I'm "evil"-because you can't tame me. You're all painfully aware of how extensively you've been scared into obeying the dictates of the crowd, while I only follow my own conscience. I've never tried to tell any of you how to act, yet you all try to dictate my behavior. And you can put me in prison-or even in the grave-and I still won't bow down. And that's why you hate me-because I remind you all of how thoroughly you've been tamed.

A tall-but-homely Texas male who for years has loudly proclaimed his support of "women's issues" in an attempt to get laid scoffs and says:

"If all that you're telling us is true, why didn't you respond to Debbie's allegations when she first made them? When my magazine did a cover story about her, I asked you for your side, but you refused."

Yes, I remember that-and you were the only person who interviewed Debbie that even bothered to ask me for my side, and for that I thank you. But I also seem to remember that when I declined, you spat back an e-mailing which stated something to the effect of, "Yeah, it's because you're afraid of the truth and you know I would have torn you to pieces," and I remember thinking, "Gee, willikers, thanks for having such an open mind about it-now I really regret not speaking with you!"

A lot of people have only heard one side, and without even bothering to hear my side, they've already made up their minds. Why? Because Debbie is telling them what they want to hear. Debbie doesn't seem to realize that most of her support is coming from people who never really gave a rat's ass about her so much as they hate me and whatever they think it is that I represent ideologically. And if anyone in this crowd has already made up their mind and will only filter out or misrepresent what I've been saying, really, that's fine with me. I have no desire to waste any energy trying to persuade people whose minds are willfully shut on this matter. I fully understand what is meant by "cognitive dissonance"-when a true believer's most cherished beliefs are proven to be false, they'll only clutch onto those beliefs with twice the intensity. A lot of you fit that type, and to my mind you're all less than worthless.

There are several reasons why I was initially silent about all this, and I'm sorry if this isn't what you wanted to hear, but none of my reasons had anything to do with being embarrassed by what Debbie was saying or in trying to devise ways to deny it. But on the other hand, a lack of response on my part should not have been construed as an admission of guilt or a concession to all her allegations.

First off, Debbie's cancer and our divorce created more genuine emotional pain for me than I thought it was possible to endure without dying. Despite the valiant efforts of those who have a vested interest in depicting me as a two-dimensional monster, the fact that I hit Debbie a few times doesn't mean I didn't love her. Nor does it mean that the sight of her dying didn't make me want to die myself. I've probably been on the receiving end of more violence in my life than everyone in this crowd combined has endured, so I know what violence feels like. On numerous occasions I've been beaten up far more severely than Debbie ever got it from me, so when you all try to guilt-trip me about how horrible violence is, I don't think you realize who you're talking to.

I wish that those who feel obligated to criticize me or condemn me regarding a situation in which they weren't even remotely involved were able to feel even a thousandth of the pain I've felt through all this, and it would shut them up immediately.

And by "pain," I don't mean whatever trifling discomfort is supposed to come from public condemnation or being hated or idiot assholes saying mean things about me. That's all easy to handle, because I've been single-handedly fighting crowds my whole life. I mean the pain that comes from the prolonged exposure to watching the only human being I ever loved dying; seeing a love that was so special to me die, too; and sensing the emotional pain, helplessness, and feeling of betrayal behind Debbie's animosity toward me. I felt so much pain I thought I would die-and not from guilt, but from sadness and loss. I cried so hard over this, I could hear the tears falling on my jeans. When the full story is known, I think it will be seen for what it was-a desperate, tragic, very, very sad tale of two people who thought love would save them and were only doomed by it.

So given that the situation was already intensely ugly and painful for me, I was depressed to see that Debbie chose to cheapen whatever residual poignancy it had by turning it into a tabloid-TV, mud-wrestling free-for-all. Exactly how gauche would it have been for me to publicly lock horns with a woman who was bald from chemotherapy? All she had to do was hoist her tumor up on the podium, and I'd lose the debate, regardless of the facts. I was expected to exercise tact and restraint at a time when Debbie was pretending as if such things didn't exist.

Another reason I hesitated to respond is that I felt it really helped Debbie to see me as a monster and to place all the blame on me, and that to paint the picture in any colors beyond black and white would be too painful for her, because it might imply that she failed in some way or was the slightest bit responsible for why the marriage didn't work.

So what you restless, hungry mobsters need to ask yourselves is this: Did she place all the blame on me because I'm so frickin' guilty, or because she was never able to take the blame for anything-anything-throughout the entire time I knew her? Ironically, the fact that she tries to pin all the blame on me shows just how blameworthy she was. Saying it was all my fault takes away her own responsibility for failing to keep me happy or knowing how to hold onto me. Endlessly chanting "He hit me! He hit me!" is a cynical ploy which has a greater purpose than making me look guilty-it's supposed to make her look innocent. It's amazing how many sins a simple backhand will knock out of a person.

Maybe I'm unique, but I don't suffer from this need to entirely blame others for what goes wrong in my life. I see life as something a little more complex than a Mother Goose tale, and the truth is usually that everyone's to blame when things go wrong between people. Hard experience has taught me that those who scream the loudest about how others are to blame usually do so in an effort to deflect attention away from their own shortcomings.

Debbie is one of these sorts. She never even had the guts or maturity to say, "You know what, Jimmy? Maybe I didn't make you happy, either." So when Debbie started venting, at first I just let her vent, figuring I'd betrayed her so badly that her animosity was only a reflection of her emotional pain. But she apparently interpreted my truce flag as a flag of surrender, my reluctance to do battle with her as an invitation to attack.

Despite all my tears and apologies, she just kept kicking, and it began to remind me of the bottomless misery which caused me to abandon her in the first place. Debbie always wanted pity more than she wanted love-or let's just say she confused the two-and since she was dying, I didn't want to stand in the way of her getting what she wanted. I hesitated to tell my side because if I did, she wouldn't get nearly as much sympathy.

If I'm the Shit Magnet, then Debbie is the Pity Sponge. She's the only person I've ever known who can make having terminal cancer worse than it actually is, who is the embodiment of "misery loves company" and will not be satisfied until everyone around her is as miserable as she is. In a perverse way, having cancer and being betrayed by an abusive husband is the best thing that ever could have happened to her, a Pity Gold Mine beyond her wildest imaginings. I never asked any of our mutual friends to take sides in all this, not like Debbie apparently did. The ones who discontinued contact with her told me they did so after tiring of her one-note "Jim is an asshole" self-pity routine.

And I know of no major sycophants who rallied to her "cause" who didn't privately complain to others about how depressing it was to be around Debbie, how she's only absorbed in her own problems and couldn't care less about theirs, about what a hassle it was to run errands for her and how ungrateful she was when they did, how she doesn't respond to encouragement and seems fixated on her misery-in short, everything which rankled me for more than a decade, they learned in only a matter of a few weeks or months.

At first I was surprised at the fact that Debbie felt the need to exaggerate my misdeeds-I mean, being hit a few times during a marriage and being betrayed while you have cancer would seem enough to supply anyone with a lifetime's worth of sympathy, but Debbie has a rare appetite for being pitied. Sympathy is like heroin to her, and the worse she can portray her suffering, the more emotional stroking she'll get.

A male zinester with a bleached-blond Julius Caesar haircut who discovered punk rock twenty years after it ceased to be dangerous wriggles to the front of the crowd and asks:

"Yeah, but you have reason to lie in order to make yourself look better-what makes you so credible?"

For years, I've been accused of lying in order to make myself look more evil and dangerous than I am; now I'm being accused of lying in order to look like a good guy. Make up your minds!

I think the reasons I'm more credible than Debbie should be obvious-I'm not blaming her for everything like she is with me; I'm not acting remorseful or moralistic in a way designed to curry sympathy or forgiveness with anyone; I'm trying to stick with logic rather than trying to manipulate anyone's emotions; and I'm portraying both Debbie and me as confused human beings capable of both tenderness and malice. Debbie has depicted it all as such a retardedly simplistic parable of Innocent Victim (her) vs. Evil Monster (me) that I'm surprised anyone swallows it, but one should learn never to underestimate the number of retardedly simplistic minds out there.

But let's turn your question around for a moment: What exactly makes Debbie so credible? Her cancer? My betrayal of her? Has it occurred to anyone that bitterness over these things might be motivation to lie? How about revenge as a factor? How about the ol' hell-hath-no-fury-like-a-woman-scorned principle? Let's review:

* She says I forced her into a world of darkness and violence, yet she was violent and morbid before she met me.

* She confiscated some of my belongings and destroyed others, yet she called me a thief.

* She called me a fraud, yet she turned her back on everything she claimed to be in ANSWER Me!

* She lied to authorities, yet she called me a liar.

* She says I gave her cancer, yet she ignored my pleadings to have her ovaries removed in order to avoid this highly hereditary disease.

* She claims I kept her down, yet I was the one who took her out of her parents' house at age 32, who encouraged her to find a career that would make her happy while she obstinately resisted my advice, and who rewrote all her ANSWER Me! articles so she'd look like a better writer.

Sense a pattern here? A bit of guilt-projection going on, maybe? An attempt to blame me of things for which she's guilty?

I've just presented numerous examples of how she's lied to you all about our relationship-you are now urged to present even one example of me lying to you about it.

The crowd stirs for a moment, realizing it can't greet my challenge. It realizes that I'm not the one who's trying to shake off guilt, but that Debbie is.

The crowd also suddenly realizes that by pointing fingers at me, they're trying to make themselves feel a little less guilty about whatever skeletons lurk in their own closets.

There's a pause.

And then instantaneously, the crowd rushes up and kills me anyway because I made them feel guilty.

Postscript: Debbie Goad, née Debra Susan Rosalie, passed away in July of 2000, finally succumbing to the cancer she'd been fighting for more than three years. She was forty-six. "Life is torture," she said to a mutual friend near the end, and I can't say there's much to argue with on that account.