The always brilliant Rollie Anderson sparked a memory in me that I haven’t thought about for a while, with a comment he made yesterday on my post about thrills in addiction. This was a story I axed from my first book, but wish I would have left in because as I reflect backward now and again, I think this played a big part in my maladaptive sexual attitudes.
I don’t think I’ve shared this story here before, at least I couldn’t find it in the archives.
Regular readers know that I was the subject of sexual inappropriateness-bordering on abuse and both certain mental and emotional abuse at the hands of a babysitter I had when I was young. It was the basis for my poor coping skills and primitive survival instincts. But this really isn’t about her.
This is about her daughter.
I’m going to call her Jan because I like short fake names. Alessandra, while also not her name and pretty sounding, is too damn long to type again and again.
I’m going to guess this story happens when I was between 4 and 6. I wasn’t in school yet, or I wasn’t in school full-time, but may have been in kindergarten. She was out of high school, didn’t go to college and was still living at home. I’d guess she was 19 or 20.
Jan was a good-looking woman and I liked hanging out with her at the babysitter’s house. She wasn’t home very much, and she didn’t pay a ton of attention to me, but it was a break from being parked on the floor in front of the TV, paying for imaginary sins in a dark room, or exiled to the backyard for half the day.
One late morning, I was hanging out with Jan in her bedroom before she had to get ready to go to her job at a department store. She made the announcement she needed to change and told me to turn around.
I turned around and sat on the edge of her bed. I noticed if I looked in her dresser mirror, I could almost see her standing at her closet taking her shirt off. I inched my way down the bed as stealthily as 5-year-old boy can, which is to say not very well.
“Are you trying to watch me change?” Jan asked.
“No,” I said.
“You’re not supposed to watch girls change,” she said.
I recall not having a response because I didn’t understand at that point why I wasn’t supposed to watch. My mother had said similar things to me in the past, and with no other females in my house, it wasn’t like I could try to defy the order.
Jan could tell I didn’t have a response to her statement, but that I looked like a deer in headlights for getting caught red-handed.
“Have you ever seen a naked girl?” she asked.
“On HBO,” I responded. She should have known the answer. HBO was on all the time at the babysitter’s house and the new pay cable station was very liberal with the sex at all hours back in the early 80s. I saw Porky’s way too many times, way too young.
“Come over here,” she said.
I quickly crossed around the bed to the other side of the room where this pretty woman was standing in front of me with a black bra on. She reached to the back and unlatched it, letting it fall to her elbows. I was looking at my first set of breasts. I didn’t know what to say or do. It was without question, the most incredible moment of my life up to that point.
“Do you want to touch them?” Jan asked.
Without saying a word, I reached up with both hands and gently placed them on her breasts. I felt a charge – a thrill – some kind of energy and electricity that I had never felt to that point, nor have ever felt again.
After about three seconds, she pulled back, re-hooked the bra and swore me to secrecy that I’d never tell her mother or my mother what happened. I may have been around five, but I wasn’t stupid. Her warning went without saying.
I mentioned this story several times to therapists and in groups during early recovery. It took a long time for me to accept this was a form of abuse because I actually looked back upon it fondly. I have no bad memories about the incident, but I can now recognize it helped sexualize me very young and simply because it didn’t feel like a form of abuse doesn’t mean it wasn’t. But I still don’t look back with scorn. I don’t think if I ever will.
I believe for a lot of my years of ongoing addiction, before I hit the critical point and it turned into something else entirely, the rush of adrenaline, dopamine or whatever happened in that moment when I first touched a woman’s breasts was seared into me. Sure I saw a lot of porn, but I also had a fairly active sex life before settling down and I can’t say I was a saint when I visited places like Tokyo and Amsterdam in my early 20s. None of those experiences, though, ever came close to replicating that surge of brain pleasure in Jan’s bedroom that morning.
Did this feed into my porn addiction? Probably. I’d almost say definitely, because there was a muted version of that surge the first time I saw hardcore pornography years later.
I don’t hold ill will toward Jan. She moved out of her mother’s around the time I started going to school full-time and I left that babysitter around second or third grade. I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw Jan or where she is these days. It doesn’t matter. I’m sure she carries some deep battle scars growing up in that house.
I’m sure Jan thought what she was doing was harmless – maybe even a nice gesture. I certainly saw it as such at the time, but with it still floating around in my mind, never to be truly forgotten, it clearly played a much bigger part in my development than I gave it credit for until many years later.