Sexualizing

Trigger Warning: Child molestation

My clearest memories begin when I was about 8.  Things before that are just blurry snapshots of isolated events – none of them particularly memorable which makes it a mystery as to why I remember them.

Fifth grade is especially vivid.  At school, they had started a new program for 5th graders.  Funny, I remember the acronym SQ3.  It involved us going from classroom to classroom for different teachers.  I didn’t like it.  Though we didn’t know it then, I was ADD and that disruption of moving from one class to another was a form of sabotage.  While I remember my 3rd and 4th grade teachers, vividly, I have no idea who taught me in the 5th grade.  Mostly, I just remember moving from one class to another.  I do kind of remember the guy who taught us History.  I wrote an extra credit report on Marco Polo.  He questioned whether I wrote it or not.  He said it sounded too grownup.  I was shocked that he would think I had cheated.  I assured him I had written it. 

We were on the breezeway between classes.  It’s a long story and not germane to this one, but I had my pajama top on underneath my dress.  The strap slipped down, and he pulled it up.  His touch gave me the creeps.  He said, ‘What’s this?”  I said, “My slip.” And hurried away.

That’s it.  But in retrospect, I’d bet he was a predator. 

I encountered the next predator when I was about 12.  At least the next one in so far as I knew.  He was my dad’s gunny sergeant, and he came over to the house to help my dad wire the screened in porch he was turning into a family room.  My radar didn’t pick up anything, but my mom’s did.  He was teaching me how to make bread and my mom hovered over us like the Mama Bear that she was.  A few days later he was arrested for child molestation.

About that same time, my brother and I were left alone with the husband of my mom’s best friend.  Bob was also her friend.  We had known them well in Hawaii and when they were transferred to Virginia, we used to drive up to visit. 

Alice and my mom went somewhere overnight, and Bob stayed home to work.  I was old enough, at least considered so in those days, to babysit my brother during the day. 

One night after my brother had fallen asleep, we were watching television.  I was sprawled on the floor and Bob was sitting a little behind me and to my left. 

He touched my hip. 

I hissed, “You creep.”  And I got up and left.  It was late, perhaps 10 pm, and I wandered around the neighborhood for a good long while. I don’t remember going back to the house, but I did eventually.  I do remember the next day though.  Bob was gone to work by the time we woke up, but he came home from lunch.  Neither of us said a word to another.  I have a vivid memory of him sitting at the kitchen table, his head bowed as he silently ate.  He looked so sad.

In retrospect, he was probably scared out of his mind.  I wonder in retrospect if he had been trying something or if I was just being a drama queen.  I just don’t know.

A year or so later, I was visiting my favorite aunt in Kansas City.  I was their summer babysitter.  I walked to the corner store, alone, one day for something or other.  Some guy at the story said, “I’d like to fuck you.”  I went home and immediately called my aunt.  She called the store.  I don’t know if the guy worked at the store or if the manager knew who he was or what.  But I got a phone call from the creep later that evening.  He was apologizing.  Said he had no idea how young I was as I looked so much older.

That looking older thing.  Folks said I did look older than my years.  I think it was because I was so tall.  I had no hips, I had no breasts, all I had to indicate more advanced years was my height and vocabulary.  I’ve seen some photos of me from that age.  In the face, I looked every bit of 12 or 13.

My height captured folks’ attention.  I spent my teen and young adult years getting hit on by men much too old for me.  The ones my age were intimidated or uninterested or something.  I’m 63 and just now dating a guy my age.  The most common age difference between me and my boyfriends was 7 years.  Evidently, men born in 1952 were my thing. 

But I got hit on men much much older than I for years.  I actually went out with a few of them.  They all gave me the creeps by the time the entrée was served. 

Which leads me to the Me Too movement. I just hadn’t realized I was a victim.  That I wasn’t responsible for any of this creepiness.  It blew a hole in my brain that I’m still excavating.  I don’t think I was ever molested in any way, but some days I’m not so sure. 

We have got to quit sexualizing young girls.  We have to.  Just have to.

(Note: I think it interesting that my spell check is flagging sexualizing. Says it should be serializing or equalizing. Interesting, eh?)

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