The attention started coming when I was very young.
Then again, when your custodial parents partially raise you in a tavern, as a child you hang around a lot of drunken people on a Saturday night.
There was one old farmer in particular — his name was Hap. After working in the fields all week he would still be grubby and smelly, the dirt caked beneath his fingernails. Whenever he saw me, he would grab me into a bear hug, smothering my face into his body.
I smell him still.
He was old enough for white hair, though as I have aged, I have come to realize the adults around me were all younger at the time than I thought. They just looked “old” to me, this collection of farmers and factory workers in their overalls and plaid shirts.
I was wearing my first bra by the time I was 10 or 11, sometime in that period. By the time I was 13, I had curves and wore a size 7 junior dress. That was when the dirty comments started coming, after the dresses started clinging in all the curvy places.
A disgusting note left in my school locker one day sent me into the girl’s room, sobbing. I emerged with an older girl’s mohair sweater wrapped tightly round me as she helped me walk into the principal’s office to hand it in to him.
There was no way to know who wrote that note. I just know it made me feel dirty and disgusting when self-esteem had never been one of my personality strengths. It cut to the core to know this was how I was viewed.
Later, in my early teens while waitressing at my parents’ leased restaurant across the state line, I got heavy on the donuts, burgers, fries and Cokes that became the staples of my diet. Boys my age were not noticing me.
My weight was a shield and a sorrow; a shield from the kinds of boys who would send me dirty notes. A sorrow because I liked some of the other boys and was not someone they would ever think of asking to dance on a Saturday night at the gym sock hop.
I never did have a prom.
Surprisingly, older men were still attracted to me. They would flirt with me as I served them breakfast at the horseshoe-shaped coffee bar in the mornings. Several would put their arms around me and sit me down on their laps to “joke” with me.
If this was strange, my parents never said a word. They were just happy that I didn’t truly date and so wouldn’t end up pregnant like my birth mother had done with me when she was 15.
When I was 17, one of those men who sat me on his lap pulled me into a hallway and kissed me. But it never went farther than that.
That was all that was ever discussed with me regarding male-female relationships: don’t have sex. I was an obedient child.
That’s why when I was 18 and started college locally the first time, I fell hard for the guy tending bar at the supper club where I was a bus girl on weekends and waited tables on weekday lunches.
A Vietnam vet, he was majoring in business at the same college and was ten years older than me. All I knew of love came from the movies. Of course it became physical. But not until he first had me go on birth control pills.
When my parents found out, he asked if they would want me to get married. I was young and stupid, but not so much so that I knew this wasn’t truly a marriage proposal. I said no. That ended that.
Over the years, my romances would continue with older men. One so deeply eviscerated me I made a suicide attempt at age 20. The other I love to this day, though my child called the man an ass — for not loving me back enough to make a life with him and me.
One of his children is a famous Trumplikan now. But the man himself is dead. He was 17 years my senior.
I write this because there is a Republican running for office who impregnated a 14-year-old girl when he was 18. He is holding himself out as noble somehow, using an anti-abortion stance rather than admit even an 18-year-old boy should know better than to have sex with a 14-year-old girl.
Sadly, when this young girl attempted suicide a few years later after their failed teen marriage, unlike me, she would succeed.
I also want men to understand the consequences suffered by others when they don’t just walk away from an improper sexual situation, when they don’t just walk away and take that cold shower.
The desire will subside. And then later they won’t have to tie themselves into ethical knots and pretend they were behaving morally when they weren’t.
Trust me fathers: you do not want your teenage daughters to have had my “romantic” life. Never. Not even if you yourself are just 18.
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