I was sixteen. My sister was away at college.
My mother had started going to meetings of Parents Without Partners. My sister and I were pleased with that development. Mom had never been a joiner, and it was a relief to know that she was getting out and about with people. It was a great improvement over her sitting at the diningroom table drinking and playing solitaire. I didn't know what the point of the organization was, but it was, apparently, a sort of dating service.
So Mom met this man and she went on a date with him. I think he came to the door to be introduced to me and they left. I watched television and went to bed. I woke up to hear some clumsy noises on the stairs . . . giggling and tripping. The man had brought my very drunk mother home, got her upstairs and poured her into bed. She passed out and he went downstairs. I stayed in bed for a few minutes, but I didn't like the idea that he was downstairs alone in our house. So I got up, in my little flowered jersey nightgown, and I went downstairs.
The lights were on. He was sitting on our couch. I perched on the edge of a chair. I wanted him to go. I didn't want him to be hanging around. We didn't have anything that he would steal, but I didn't like him there unsupervised in our home at midnight.
He and I conversed. I think I got him a cup of coffee. He glossed over the drunk mother part: Your mom had a little too much to drink. I said that that was not an infrequent occurrence. He noticed my high school picture on a side table.
"Is that you?"
"Do you know what I see in that face? ...in that chin?"
"I see . . . determination."
I liked that observation. I felt flattered. I probably made one of those noncommittal indecisive head and shoulder motions that sixteen-year-olds are wont to make.
"May I kiss you?" he asked me.
I thought for a minute. I didn't know how to say no, or indeed, why I should. A kiss isn't a terrible thing in and of itself. "Okay," I said.
So, anyway, he kissed me. On the lips. It was a pretty chaste kiss. He didn't lean me over or mash his mouth into mine, but it lasted longer than I felt comfortable with, and he was all trembly. It was creepy, and I withdrew and said I thought he'd better go.
He thanked me and, shortly after, got up and left.
I locked the door and went back to bed.
I didn't tell my mother. Mom couldn't handle troubling news.
A year or so before, I hadn't told her that the assistant manager at the cafeteria where I worked after school had taken me into the walk in cooler, his regular choice of trysting places. What with the surprise of it all, the short notice, the nerves, our meeting was just a lot of writhing and sweating, no actual sexual activity, but our few minutes' absence from the rest of the closing crew was noted. His old girlfriend, an older woman of seventeen, was jealous. I was fifteen and flattered.
He was forty-two.
When I was fourteen I was sure I was pregnant. At breakfast one morning I broke down in tears and shared that fear with my mother. "That isn't possible," she said. "You haven't done anything that would make you pregnant. Do you know what happens to make you pregnant?"
It was 1965. What world did she think I was living in?
She stood up and hugged me. She was shaking. She pressed her hand against my body and said, "There's nothing in there. There's nothing in there." A few days later I knew that I was not pregnant.
That was all we said about that.
So I guess my point is that probably most kids have experiences that we would all be scandalized to know about. Adults have probably been hitting on kids for as long as there have been adults and kids. I don't think it's particularly healthy or recommended as a way for people to live, but it happens. Adults don't always have the best interests of children at heart, just the way no human always has the best interests of any other human at heart. Adults are not always trustworthy with children, just the way people, in general, are not always trustworthy, period.
I think it's too bad that adults are afraid to touch children who need a hug. Maybe if kids could get hugs when they want them, they wouldn't be so ready to take them from people who shouldn't give them.
One of These Things Is Not Like the Other . . .
2 hours ago