It all started with a grab of the pussy.
It was in second grade, on the playground. A dare gone wrong and I was the target. “I’ll give you a dollar if you touch Jennifer’s privates” and he did. Walked right up to me with a grin on his face, he grabbed my pussy and ran away with a buck.
You know what? I forgot. I FORGOT. Forgive me, sometimes these things all blend into one and I forget. It didn’t start in second grade. It started much earlier in my short life, in my grandparent’s garage. Most of it has been blocked out of my mind and I choose to not try to recover those memories through vigorous, exhaustive therapy. But my body knows it happened. My heart and my spirit know it happened. One thing I do remember is a hand coming towards my pussy.
Let me show you something, let me show you something, let me show you something.
I hesitate to write about this because I worry people will say I am attention seeking (because we know how people love to be the face of sexual assault and put their private lives out for public consumption for all to judge). There is also that part of me that has given up and says sexual assault is so common what is the point of telling my story. Why do I have to be such a sad sack and show you all my shadows? But I know deep down, story telling is how we heal.
There is no other way.
My depression started early in life, probably around age 12. I have diary entries where I list every part of my body that is ugly and describe it in detail and why I hate myself so much. I wax poetic about the ennui I feel towards life and I know that I’m odd. I was a smart kid. My compassion for animals ran deep and I became a vegetarian and animal rights activist at age 10. I cried about the ozone layer deteriorating and wanted so badly to recycle long before recycling was even an option in my city. I wrote a letter to the mayor of Cleveland begging him to help me cure AIDS after I watched the story of Ryan White reported on television and saw the quilts people had made to honor the dead. My little heart was broken by the world from the beginning.
I liked to stay up late and read and read and read. I loved V.C. Andrews’s novels and Babysitters Club books the best. I would microwave mugs of hot chocolate and sneak packages of those peanut butter filled orange cheese crackers my grandma kept in the pantry and tip toe back to my room, so excited to be cozy in my bed and start another chapter. Taking those bites back and forth; salty then sweet, salty then sweet. Those are my favorite childhood memories. Everything else seemed to hurt.
I’ve been called too sensitive my entire life but most especially when I was a child. My family was constantly trying to figure out what could possibly be wrong with me because I cried so much and I reacted so emotionally when my body was commented on or I was made fun of. I looked to the left and my dad was telling me “Don’t let yourself get big and fat like your cousin, you’re not that fat now but I can see you could be heading there.” I looked to the right and my mom was on Weight Watchers and refused to wear sleeveless clothing because my step-dad told her her arms were too fat to be seen in public. I turned to my 8th grade teacher who told me I wasn’t a pretty girl like some but at least I had brains. I think I always felt paralyzed by life and beauty expectations. I think my body was never mine.
As I got older I unconsciously decided to harden myself, I would not emote. I would not breathe. I would focus on wanting to desperately to be a beautiful girl when I was alone. I knew I wasn’t, so I acted accordingly. I became the funny friend, the chubby side kick, the protector and confident of all my girlfriends. And I would seethe with envy that I was never the one looked at twice. I would sign onto the internet. Age/sex/location? I had cyber sex with countless men, telling them my age. 12…13…14. It was never an issue. In fact, it was probably a requirement and I didn’t even know it.
When I first read the book Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, I felt I had never read such beautiful words. The obsession on the youth and beauty of a child was thrilling to me. I wanted so much to be a nymphette, a desirable other. Just a body that is watched from the shadows while I dance by myself. By the end of the book, Lolita starts to grow up and her personhood can not be hidden under the ornaments of childhood any longer. She screams “Murder me! Murder me like you murdered my mother!” at Humbert Humbert. With that I knew that I had more in common with dear Lolita than I actually want.
I wished they would have killed me instead. Sometimes I think it would have been kinder.