File 0057: Marley, the Surly Mentor
In 2000, Marley had just began their new life at Penn State in State College, doing the typical college things: too much schoolwork, lots of D&D and making new friends. Among these friends was a classmate, Jack and the two would become very close, that is until Jack's internet girlfriend would make the bus trip across the country to live with him. When Marley met Jen she was quiet, awkward and shy, they could've never anticipated how quickly things would change
This is a continuation of the Jen Saga
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It was 2000 when Marley began to attend Penn State University. Marley was a double major, she worked for the school and her hometown was a half hour drive from the university, which kept them very busy.
And that wasn't all, Marley was also big into tabletop gaming (Dungeons and Dragons mostly), they were a cosplayer, LARPer and were involved in community theatre.
A lot of things are a blur as far as exact dates go for me in college, and not for the usual, fun reasons!
So it made sense that they would make their first college friends in class. Marley had been taking Mythology and Jack had sat in front of them. They don't remember what it was that got them talking, maybe it was a book Jack was reading or something he doodled, but it wasn't long after that they hit it off.
Marley and Jack would also befriend another girl from the same class, named Erica and the three became fast friends. Jack lived on campus in the Honors Dorm and had a single room, making it a great place for the trio to hang out and they could often be found there studying, chatting about games and other nerdery. Marley had played FF7 in high school, and while they enjoyed it and liked the strong female characters, they weren't nearly as into it as Jack and his friends
His dorm had its own cafeteria and they got better food than we had in the common dining halls, so he would get us into his dorm and we would hang out all the time between classes. I remember we would hurry over there around lunch so we could get a good table to watch reruns of the ooooold The Price is Right. Believe it or not, this was a popular thing to do, so you had to get there early or you would get stuck at a table with a crappy view.
During this time, Marley and Jack were very close, hanging out practically every day, Jack even giving Marley a pet name 'Marlu'. Marley even met Jack's mom a couple times and recalls her being a very sweet and loving person
It was likely this general nerdery that led Jack to tell Marley about soulbonding. To Marley it sounded like roleplaying or acting, a kind of method for experimentation, to explore different facets of yourself. Marley never really got into it themselves, but saw it as harmless. Looking back now, they realize they really didn't understand the full implications of this belief system that Jack was adopting.
But Jack never pressured them to be involved in the same level, to Marley it was just carefree fun form of expression.
When Marley met Jack, he was identifying as female, but already was exploring the idea of gender and gender identity
I don't know that he had a clear idea of being trans at that time or if it was more that he felt comfortable expressing himself in a way that leaned towards things typically defined as masculine. I've always been a tomboy myself, so at that time, that was one of the things that led to us connecting strongly. I get the whole feeling of your body not really being your home. I think for him, soulbonding was how he explored this - he could be a male-identified character, and that was comfortable for him.
I asked Marley what their social life was like before Jen
Jack and I had quite a few friends we hung out with. He was gregarious and fun before Jen - he's the reason I had the number of college friends that I did, because i am pretty introverted. I was the one who stuck with him the longest and resisted being pushed away by Jen. Nobody else that I knew of was still in contact with him after we stopped talking.
Aeris and Online Communities
Marley knew that Jack spent a fair amount of time in online communities, and knew he had made a number of friends this way, many that Marley would end up chatting with or meeting at one time or another, one in particular being Aeris [see 'The Final Fantasy 7 House' for more about Aeris]
Marley doesn't remember exactly when they met Aeris, but it became quickly apparent that the two were not going to get on. Both were stubborn and Aeris had a way of wanting to bend people to her beliefs. To Aeris, this whole soulbonding and roleplaying thing was a much bigger deal. While Marley respected Jack's beliefs and saw it is a valid form of identity exploration, it wasn't really Marley's thing, and he was fine with that, never forcing it on them. But for Aeris, it was a lifestyle and she didn't appreciate the fact that Marley didn't take it as seriously as she did
Growing up, Marley had endured a fair share of abuse and trauma, which had caused them to grow up very fast and molded them into a very strong and independent person that didn't like to be pushed around and who was fiercely protective of their friends. This combined with Aeris's "my-way-or-the-highway" attitude was a recipe for disaster. Aeris realized early on that she wasn't going to be able to bend Marley and that Marley wasn't going anywhere, so she made a point of avoiding them. Which suited Marley just fine.
About a year after Marley met Jack, around the summer of 2001, they'd been home for a break when Jack called them up and asked if they would come up and meet his long-distance girlfriend who had just arrive from California. Marley doesn't recall how much Jack may have said about Jen prior to this, but to Marley it seemed like Jen came out of nowhere. Regardless, they wanted to support their friend, and made the drive back to college to meet Jen for the first time.
My first impression was of this awkward girl with huge eyes, like a deer in headlights. She looked so nervous. I figured moving cross country was pretty stressful, so at first I tried to be nice to her, especially since she was my good friend's girlfriend. She introduced herself with her actual name, and we went to their new apartment
I remember Jen gradually relaxing as she realized that I'm a huge nerd and wasn't going to judge her for her interests, but even back then, she always seemed a little wary, like she thought I was going to steal Jack from her. In the end, she was right that I wanted to, though not in the way she was thinking.
Marley remembers early on that Jen was pretty authentic, introducing herself as Jen and talking about her past, with events that seemed pretty realistic and grounded in reality. Jen was awkward and shy but seemed mostly harmless, and most importantly she seemed to make Jack really happy, so Marley put the effort in to get to know her. To Marley , it didn't seem like Jen originally came to State College with plans of staying, she came with very little and had no real plans, but it didn't take long to see that she wasn't going anywhere.
One of the first personal things they remember Jen telling them about, was Cross Creek, the reform school Jen had been sent to in high school. The experience sounded horrible and when asked why her parents felt the need to send her there
the story Jen originally told about why she was at Cross Creek was that her parents were strict about sex and she'd been caught having sex
But this story would change as time went on and Jen began to embellish her past. It didn't take long for Jen to start making up narratives to suit her needs. Marley was quick to pick up on this, having known her since her first arrival in State College, they heard all the different versions Jen would tell
At first, her story was that her ex (of whom she had lots of pics she loved to show off) was controlling and abusive and she had to leave CA to escape him. She had this one photo of him that she would pull out all the time at first when her strategy seemed to be making Jack feel like he was supposed to compete with [this guy] so Jen wouldn't just leave and go back West. Over time (probably after he kept refusing to give her money and she realized that demonizing people got her sympathy and stronger connections with others in her orbit), he became this demon who had abused her and was constantly attacking her with magic, etc.
At this point, she was not accusing her family of anything and was in regular contact with them. I was present for many phone calls between her and her family, and everything seemed completely normal. Her stories about her family and her ex would evolve depending on things she heard from other people. If, for example, someone were to talk about having a parent or an ex who would hit them, a week later, Jen would be telling everyone the same thing about her parents or ex.
It was like clockwork, and it would always be that oh, she forgot about it because of the trauma and now she remembered. As someone who had an abusive parent, has been diagnosed with PTSD, and who actually has memory issues due to a traumatic brain injury, I really came to loathe her attention-seeking lies.
Marley did try their hardest to get along with Jen, whether they liked it or not, Jen was now a part of the circle. Marley could handle a lot of things, but when it came to their friends, they had a very low tolerance for people taking advantage of or abusing them and even early on they could see Jen beginning to push Jack's boundaries, as if testing to see what she could get away with.
One instance that Marley mentioned was how Jen would try to force Jack to be more masculine:
Jen would often tell Jack that he could never satisfy her because Jen was not a lesbian and Jack could never truly please her because he didn't have "the right equipment" to do so. She would moon over that photo of [her abusive ex] because he could satisfy her in ways she told Jack he never could. It's all really gross, but it worked how she wanted it to. Jack seemed to think he was going to have to accept this male identity that was being pushed onto him. I'm obviously not saying he would never have arrived there on his own, but more that he was pushed into things much more quickly than the pace he was moving at before he met Jen.
I think this was part of her tactics towards undermining Jack's sense of self, forcing him to be what she wanted, making him feel insecure about their relationship. He wasn't ready to publicly be this person Jen wanted him to be, so he became more and more isolated.
October 30 2001
Jen didn't take long to realize that I did, in fact, dislike her, and that I was only tolerating her at all because I wanted to spend time with my friend.
Marley would hang out with Jen and Jack, as soon it became the only way that they could spend time with Jack. They did their best to remain civil with Jen, but the tension was always there.
It's hard to say exactly how Jen felt about Marley , as things with Jack were still new enough that she wouldn't risk alienating him by trying to turn him against one of his best friends. So Jen played nice, whether in an attempt to win Marley over or just as a holding pattern until she had a better grip on Jack, who's to know. But when it was decided that Jack and Jen would be getting married, there was no objections when Jack wanted Marley as his best man
That's right, a bare couple months after Jen's arrival, the couple decided to get married via hand-fasting ceremony on hallow's eve 2001
The way Marley tells it, the whole thing was kind of bizarre. Jen was still new to town, so nearly everyone that attended were friends of Jack's (including Cid who later would help Icarus escape Jen) and they had a friend of a friend get ordained online to perform the ceremony.
I found a quote online from Cid about what he remembers of the wedding
The highlight of my participation was nearly breaking my thumb while bokken-sparring with Mendel, and then helping rush Josh to the hospital after Matt nearly put his eye out with the same two bokken.
But before the ceremony there was the dual bachelorette party held at Hooters of all places
The ceremony itself was held in a building on campus.
It was pretty short, nothing crazy or over- the-top like Jen would normally seem to have wanted. Jack and I wore suits we had pieced together from stuff at thrift stores, Jen wore the same purple velvet two-piece outfit she bought at Hot Topic and wore pretty much every day until it fell apart. [it] was this two-piece crushed velvet thing. Maxi skirt, and very late-90s Renaissance-style top with bell sleeves. The top had some lace details to simulate a corset. She [also] got a flower crown from someone.
Afterward there was a reception of sorts but it didn't last long as Jen was getting handsy with Jack.
Jen had this thing about pushing Jack, who wasn't into PDA, and forcing him to do more in public than he or anybody else was comfortable with, so I think somebody gave them a ride home after not too long, and that was that.
For the record this was not a legal marriage for two reasons
- No marriage license was obtained
- Gay marriage (as it would've been considered) was not legal in PA at the time, despite this the couple would claim to be married. Now there's nothing wrong with holding your own ceremony and not registering with the government or any of that, especially in a time and place where the law was really behind the times. The issue comes into play in the way that Jen used this title as a status symbol, and claim ownership over Jack. This was another way to cement her hold on and to control Jack
The PDA issue seemed to be one that came up frequently. Despite Jen claiming not to be lesbian she seemed to take any opportunity to publicly prove she was:
when frat boys would walk by, Jen would immediately start groping Jack and shoving her hands down his shirt. She's all about the attention. And Jack.... didn't enjoy it at all. I didn't get it at the time - why he'd be with her when she did that kind of stuff to him. Tbh I still don't actually get it.
Jen's ethereal sexuality was a definite source of confusion that left Marley and others baffled
This is not PC but I honestly don't know the correct term for it, and I also know it means something different in other regions, but we called her a lipstick lesbian - meaning she put the title on when she was out in public and took it off when she was in private. As the whole scene at Hooters shows, I think she was into acting like she was a lesbian in public because it would get her attention, and she lives for attention. It's all control and attention with her. I never called her out about whether she actually was even into women. I'm asexual myself, so all of this mystifies me to begin with - I don't get it well enough to question anybody about their sexual identity.
she definitely made a point of denying being a lesbian. It was a favorite thing of hers to tell Jack he could never satisfy her because he didn't have "the right equipment" because she adamantly denied being a lesbian. She kinda acted like being with Jack was this big burden she had taken on and he owed so much to her because she was willing to be romantically involved with him.
At first, Jack's life remained relatively the same, he went to class and worked part time, but over time he seemed to do that less and less. Marley isn't even sure if he finished his degree. None of this was helped by the fact that Jen had expensive tastes
Jack worked the same job as me with the school before everything started. In fact, he got me my job. So I knew he kept cutting back his hours, and I remember a supervisor commenting in my hearing that he also wasn't showing up for shifts. I'm not sure if he quit that job or got fired, but he did have other part time jobs at times, however, it was always the same cycle. Jen would refuse to let him leave the house, he got in trouble for absenteeism, he either quit or got fired. Eventually, I don't think he worked at all and was just home pretty much all the time.
It didn't take long for Jen to start asking people to buy her things
She asked everyone to buy things for her. She would drag us around to stores and demand we buy "shinies". I don't remember buying her anything, but I can't guarantee that I didn't. I had a LOT less disposable income than most of the people she knew, though.
But things weren't all bad, they still found time and try and do fun things together, Marley told me about one of these events
Jen, Jack and I were three of the first members of the Penn State Paranormal Society. If you've heard of Paranormal State, that's them! I lasted only one meeting, though, because the founder of the group claimed he was possessed by a demon and started talking in a deep voice and said that he was going to kill me that night. Fucking weirdo. No interest in going to more meetings with that. I don't think Jen and Jack lasted much longer either.
Later that same year, Jack would introduce Marley to a new friend he'd made online, Icarus. Icarus and Marley hit it off. When Icarus came to visit Jack and Jen that first time right before Christmas, Marley took that opportunity to meet up with him as well
Aeris Exodus (2002)
Some time in 2002 Jen and Aeris would have their falling out. Marley suspects this was largely a case of when an immovable object meets and unstoppable force. Jen and Aeris both had the same need to control the people in their life, and they both had the same target: Jack. At one point Aeris decided she'd had enough with Jen's bullshit and wrote a public letter online decrying Jen and her "phony and stolen beliefs"
After Aeris was no longer in the group, Jen and other members of the group began to experience attacks in online forums and communities. Jen swore this was Aeris
[Aeris] was trying to get Jen kicked out of some of the communities everyone hung out in. I did a lot with computers back then, so I helped Jack trace the IPs, that's why I know some of the accounts that came after Jen were actually [Aeris] ...
The instances I know of were in soulbonding communities. She would actually make sockpuppet accounts and attack herself and claim that Jen was sending people after her (Jen liked this tactic and used it frequently herself later on).
I don't know of Jack ever saying anything to Jen about the self-trolling. I think he felt so trapped and like he was on such a precipice that he couldn't go against her by that point.
Summer 2002 - Icarus
Marley was ecstatic when they found out that they would be going to study abroad in August 2002. So they spent the next couple months preparing and wrapping up their heavy course load. So when Icarus moved in with Jen and Jack, Marley struggled to find free time to hang out with their friend and didn't realize what was happening
I'm sure the signs were there, and this is something that eats at me to this day, but my attention was not focused. This is one of the few traumas I carry from that time - not seeing the full scope, not helping my friends, not realizing [Icarus] needed help, not being able to drag Jack away. I didn't find out what had been going on until after [Icarus] left. He talked about what had been going on and I was stunned. I had no idea Jen was getting that bad. I was immediately ashamed, but glad [Icarus] had gotten out. This was when I decided I was going to keep up the façade of being friends with the group in order to keep an eye on what was going on.
I asked Icarus if he had tried to tell Marley what was happening. He admitted he wasn't sure who he could trust as Jen had worn down his self-worth and made him paranoid, but a big part of it was the guilt and shame of being in that situation. He very much blamed himself for what was happening to him.
Jen hadn't bothered to even tell me they were on the outs or anything and I hadn't even known that [Icarus] had left. So yeah, by that time I think Jen knew I wouldn't cut off someone who was actually my friend for her sake.
Icarus wasn't the first of Marley's friends that Jen had preyed on and they hint at a multitude of incidents. In one scenario, Jen had actually stolen something from a friend of Marley's. Jen lied about it for months, even though the item was in her possession. Marley naturally sided with their friend and tried to get the item back until the drama was just too much that the friend said forget it.
I ask if Jen had an issue with stealing and Marley said
I know she shoplifted, but other than that I do not know of her stealing things. But hey, has anybody told you about the time they got arrested for having magic battles" behind the apartment complex? I know one of the charges was for terroristic threats, and I know she got arrested more than once while she was here, but that was the first one.
Jen's LARP Arrest
This is actually
something I had heard about before and even found a news article about the
incident. Now is as good a time as any to share this
Thursday, November 15, 2001
It started out as a skit: Three friends pointing a sword and a fake pistol at each other.
Then, a young girl walking by the Lions Gate apartment complex saw one of the women with the gun, and in minutes, the pretend gunfight had eight real police officers ordering all three people to the ground.
On Wednesday in Centre County Court [Jack], 20, and Ibrahim Yucel, 19, both Penn State students, and Jennifer Cornet, 19, said they were role-playing on Oct. 6 when a young girl's mother reported that shots had been fired outside their apartment at 424 Waupelani Drive.
To get there, police officers pushed through congested Penn State football game traffic and later handcuffed all three on the ground, police said.
Public defender Shawn McGraw argued that there was "not even an inkling" of evidence to support the charges and that their role-playing was all a misunderstanding. District Justice Daniel Hoffman agreed, dismissing charges of terroristic threats, harassment and recklessly endangering another person.
A woman called police after her daughter came running into their apartment and said, "There's a woman with a gun outside," according to the criminal complaint. The woman told police she looked out her window and saw a woman fire a shot at two other people, who then disarmed the woman.
After a preliminary hearing, Cornet apologized to the woman and a police officer, who returned the plastic pistol and sword.
"We were just LARPing," Cornet said, explaining the activity also known as Live-Action Role Playing similar to duels seen at renaissance fairs.
I actually reached out to Ibrahim and asked him about this. It turns out it wasn't long after this, that he washed his hands of both Jack and Jen
Marley Abroad Aug 2002-July 2003
Not long after Icarus told Marley what really happened, they left on their year long study abroad to Japan. They had no idea that Jen had become so controlling and they were deeply worried about all their friends, especially Jack as he was still living with her. They tried their best to stay in contact and keep an eye on things from a far
I was still friends with Jack, but he had already changed so much at this point. It was clear he was still himself in our private conversations, but he was exhausted, and in public, he had to keep playing the part he had been given. There wasn't anything I could do at this point, because I was not going to be back in the US for a year, so I tried to be supportive of Jack and I started paying closer attention to what was going on with the group in the private convos.
Marley would later find out that a new subgroup of friends had been created that Jen had intentionally excluded Marley from. Marley doesn't know what happened in that group that they didn't want them to see, because in the main group Jen would talk trash about Icarus, knowing that Marley was there and was still good friends with him. Marley suspects Jen was trying to bait them into telling Icarus something and that he'd say something so that Jen could prove that Marley was a "traitor"
Of course they told Icarus everything, and the two would laugh at Jen's antics, but Icarus never let anything leak that would implicate Marley
I asked Marley if they and Jack ever talked about what happened with Icarus
Jack would sometimes ask me about [Icarus] and how he was doing. We didn't discuss what had happened, he never made excuses, but he also didn't deny anything about [Icarus's] story in private. In public he, of course, did what Jen demanded, but he knew I was still in contact with several people who were on the outs, and he would ask about them.
During this time Jen's behavior only got worse, a lot of stuff Marley didn't realize until they came back to the states.
They were always asking people for money, and Jack would work to finance things, but then Jen didn't want him to be going out and doing that either. She wanted to have complete control over him, I think. So then she would lure people in to get money from them to pay for rent/food/shiny shit. That was his state of being when I came back from study abroad
But Jen had a new fandom to obsess over: Hellsing, the vampire anime. Since the original show and comics came from Japan, Jen desperately wanted merchandise. Marley had no interest in finding these things for Jen, but Jack was also really interested in the show
I sent things to Jack. She probably took them, but they were for him.
Returning and Angel
When Marley finally returned home, they found that someone new had been added to Jen and Jack's relationship: Angel
She hated me from the start and was openly hostile towards me. Protective instinct to keep me away from Jen? I have no idea. We interacted very little the whole time she was here. Even online, if I entered a discussion, she left it. She openly said she didn't trust me. Too bad her instincts didn't work to keep her away from Jen.
It quickly became apparent that Angel was the new shiny thing
Once Angel arrived, Jack was shuffled off to his own room. Jen and Angel had the master bedroom, and Jack was absolutely at least the third wheel if not pretty much a non-entity [...] Jen was bored of him and had many others to control. He seemed completely isolated in his room at the house, but he still wouldn't leave.
Marley feels like Jen was only keeping Jack around that point as a form of income
By the time that Marley moved back, Jen and co had moved from State College to Bellefonte. Marley went and visited them a couple times, and had met many of the new faces in the house, but never really got to know them, though they did talk with Mela a bit online. Their last visit occurred around Thanksgiving 2003.
Jack's mom was there and got to witness just how horrible Jen had really become towards Jack. The food was not properly cooked and was inedible, and Jen was just screaming and crying and blaming everyone but herself, though my understanding was that she wouldn't let anybody help her. I know I had offered and been declined. She was yelling at Jack, claiming he was psychically attacking her. Meanwhile Jack's mom was sitting by Jack and I and she was clearly horrified.
When Marley told me this story it surprised me as I had heard that Jen was a pretty good cook from other survivors, when I asked Marley about this they said:
I read the question and was stunned. Jen was a TERRIBLE cook. I'm a really good cook, and I tried to teach her how to not set the damn apartment on fire, but she was still awful. I swear I'm not just saying this. Jen could and did fuck up spaghetti in my presence. She wanted to cook steak every day, but she would just boil it into rubber. My mother is an awful cook, which is why I learned how to feed myself, and her best friend is a professional chef - that's who I learned from. I am not Gordon Ramsay over here, but I would use a Gordon Ramsay meme to describe my reaction to anything Jen ever cooked that appeared in front of me. Maybe she took cooking lessons? No idea. But that Thanksgiving meal was totally on-par with the skill level I knew her to have.
This made me think about the context of the people that told us about her being a good cook. A lot of the survivors came from unstable homes and it's highly possible that their experience with home cooked meals may have been limited to packaged or just add water meals at the time. Whatever the case, Jen's "cooking" left an impression on Marley
What I didn't get with the Thanksgiving dinner was that I was there and I offered to help. She said she was fine, but she did make a joke that she should have me do the mashed potatoes because I'm Irish. I mean....I do make good mashed potatoes...and it is a family recipe...and we are Irish, but ok.
But the food was the least heartbreaking part of the meal
Jack's mom tried to have a serious discussion about things after dinner, but Jack was completely tuned out, even after having been treated so poorly in front of everyone. His mom and I both assumed this meant it was a regular occurrence by then. He used to fight back, but it was like he was just deadened to it all. I remember the look in Jack's mom's eyes the last time I saw her - just fear and heartbreak, really. But as you said, what can any of us really do when the person doesn't want to leave?
That dinner marked the end of many things
after that dinner, Jen pretty much forced Jack to cut off contact with his parents, and I was getting ready to leave the country again and I was completely burned out trying to help Jack see what Jen was doing to him. I had tried so many times to point things out, but I'd been afraid that he'd tell Jen and I'd just be cut off and unable to help if he needed it.
I decided I was done. I took myself out of the equation. I can't remember exactly what I told Jack. It was a very emotional conversation. I know the gist was that I loved him, I wanted to help him, I wanted him to get away from Jen, and that if the day came when he needed me, I would always be ready to help. He didn't get upset, but he wasn't going to leave.
Even though Marley was no longer in their lives, somehow they became the big evil #2 (with Icarus as the primary). They'd hear random things like that they and Icarus were psychically attacking Jen. Which was pretty impressive especially when Marley went back to Japan
But it wasn't all bad, Marley had made some good friends, they and Icarus were still close, and not long after they cut off contact with Jen and Jack, they met Theo and the two became very close and they even attended Theo's wedding
we used to talk quite regularly. Though we aren't in regular communication now, we do connect once in a while, and if I were in their area, I would not hesitate to reach out and invite them to dinner or to do something. I care about them a lot and know them as a good person.
Sometime after Jack left Jen in 2009, Marley did hear from him.
I have had no direct contact with Jack, but he did relay a message to me telling me his name, that he has come out as trans, that he is safe and well, but that he did not want to reconnect with me at that time.
I think about him often, but I respect his wishes. I wouldn't blame him if it seemed like I was abandoning him at the time - in a way, I did, but I had tried for so long and.... you just reach a point where you have to take care of your own mental and emotional health. W
hen I heard he had left Jen, I was happy - so freaking happy. Even if he never wants to speak to me again, I'm happy for him.
I guess it made sense that he and Angel would still be together, because it would have probably have taken both of them leaving to get either of them to do so. She had such a strong hold on both of them.
Even though Angel and I didn't get along, I'm glad she escaped too. If Jack ever wanted to reconnect with me, I would be so happy to talk to him again. He would never have to talk about anything related to Jen unless he wanted to. I miss talking about comics and mythology and history and everything else with him. I miss my friend.
Today Marley continues to explore all that life and this world have to offer.