First a warning: This may not be a fun post for many of you. The stories of my first two jobs are not pretty ones. But I am a firm believer in the redeeming power of telling our stories, so I will tell mine.
My first job was babysitting. I loved it and was great at it and made tons of money doing it. By the time I was 13, I was babysitting for all the neighborhood kids and most especially for one family down the street whose parents were good friends of my own. Their mother was like a second mother to me. Unfortunately, the father regularly molested me when he took me home.
When I was about sixteen, I had my first non-babysitting job in a plant nursery. I loved being in the cozy greenhouse, poking the seeds into the dirt with a special wooden tool we had and then moving the seedlings into little pots just a few days later. Loved it, until the old man who owned the place starting reaching around me from behind and grabbing my breasts! The first time he did it, I was too shocked to do anything. The second time, I compared notes with the other girl who worked there and found out he was doing it to her too. And the third time he did it, we confronted him together and he fired us!
Still, that was a better experience for me than the babysitting drama, which was more insidious, dragged on for years and I felt I couldn’t tell anyone for a whole host of reasons I won’t go into here.
I suppose I could have not told this particular story. I know it’s ugly and can be upsetting and trigger people’s own memories of molestation (because I am well aware that, unfortunately, millions of us have had similar experiences). I certainly could have told a much funnier story about my next job: a mind-numbing – but mercifully short-lived – stint at a fried chicken joint at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, where I distinctly remember thinking, So this is what hell is like! I asked my boss there if I could get an afternoon off because I was going to the United Nations to protest the nuclear arms race and it was 1978 and the nuclear arms race was heating up and I was afraid I might not get back to work in time. He said no. I went anyway, got arrested at the Soviet Embassy and then got fired for getting to work late.
Or I suppose I could have told about the not one, but two times I worked for doctors who were raving lunatics. Or my own dreadful telemarketing gig. Or the educational publishing house I worked for that called us all in one day and said something along the lines of, “About half of you are going to be laid off sometime in the near future. We won’t tell you who or when. Now get back to work.” Gosh, there have been quite a few awful jobs (and some really wonderful ones, too).
But instead I chose to tell you the unvarnished truth about my real first and worst job(s). Because it is my story. Or at least, a few of the thousands of puzzle pieces that make up my story. And because I’m the mother of a teenage daughter now. Some of you might also be mothers of teenage daughters – and sons. And we need to make them aware that these things can happen, and give them the tools and the support to protect themselves if they find it happening to them.
So, thanks for listening to my story. And because I am a true believer in the redeeming power of telling our stories, I invite you to share yours. It doesn’t have to be here, with me or with the readers of The Debutante Ball. But I bet there’s someone out there who might benefit from hearing your story. And you just might be pleasantly surprised at how freeing it is to tell it.