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.
14 Replies to “Not a pretty story, by Deb Eve”
So sorry to know that your early experiences were so hateful. I’m glad that you were able to stand up to the next perv. though. It’s your story, shout it from the mountains if you feel like it!
I’d be stunned Eve if you held back and didn’t tell the TRUTH for — as has been mentioned — you have a TALL voice and this is a serious message. Thank you for the courage it takes to blow so many whistles.
Only by confronting our demons can we defeat them… thanks for your brave post, Eve!
Hey, Eve, good for you for not only keeping your voice intact but using it! The world just won’t be right until women and girls can go to work in peace.
I wonder if there are any females who have not been “molested” in one way or another due to their gender. Not only females, my brother when he was a young teen was accosted by a male and lured into a protected from view area…my brother being pretty smart, talked his way out of the encounter and promised to return later…and return he did, with police. If it were today, this guy would be a registered sex offender, but at that time, I think he was arrested and then released due to some legal fancy footwork.
Myself, well, I did have one experience with my landlord when I was first married at age 18. He was my dads age, and came into my apartment to “fix” something. When I was showing him where the problem was, I found myself standing there behind me with his hands around my breasts. Yuk, what a shock. I was friends with his daughter and went to her wedding. I guess I had a pretty big mouth, so I said…”Hey, how would you like it, if my dad did this to you daughter!” He dropped his hands and left. We soon moved from that apartment, because I knew he was looking into our bedroom window whenever he could. It was creepy.
Oh there were the usual flashers, which would me me run…and on one of my first jobs, while rummaging through my desk, I found a stash of condoms, so I left, went home and told my mother, and never went back.
But I never had the experience my daughter suffered through, and have my own guilt and anger about that, but since Eve has become the person she is I have tried to “let it go”. However, I would still run him over with my car if I had a chance.
We can only take our power back when we speak out. Thank you for posting this.
My mother brings up a good point. It seems like many, many of us – women as well as men – have been “molested” or victimized in one way or another. I think what often makes it worse when we keep it hidden from each other, like’s it shameful. The shame – and the burden of hiding it – should not be the victim’s. And thus, I tell my story – not a lot – but when it seems fitting.
Thank you all for letting me tell it here today and for your warm and supportive responses.
One of my sisters was raped by a family member when she was a teenager. It was a horrible experience that changed her, and changed our family as well. I had left home by then, but I wanted to understand what happened, so I checked out a pile of books from the library where I worked. One of the other girls who worked there asked me if something had happened to me, and although I had wanted to keep things a secret, I told her no, it had happened to a sister. Then she told me what had happened to her, and the other girl behind the counter told me what had happened to her teenage sister, and on and on. I could not believe how widespread this behavior is. It still astounds, sickens, and saddens me. People should never be ashamed–they need to know that they are not alone–they are literally surrounded by women and men who will understand and support them.
Leah, I am so sorry about what happened to your sister – and to your family. I’m glad you had some resources and some people to share stories with – even though the stories are sad and sickening. I hope your sister is feeling strong now.
Figures- the Friday I duck into your Deb-haven the topic is, well, hard. I can relate, and sadly, empathize.
I hope you all are aware, molestation of any kind is about “power”. Sad but true. It is “bullying” in the extreme. That is why…”spoils of war” has alway included “rape” as the victors “right”…pretty sad, huh?
Bravo! As someone who has also been molested over a long period of time by a family member, it is easy to say something bad happened to me. But the fact is, those experiences have shaped the person I have become. I wouldn’t say that I would prefer that they hadn’t of happened, but they did, and now I have to become the best person I can be despite that, not someone I can’t be proud of because of it.
I was in a woman’s consciousness raising group in the early 70’s. Of the 8 in the group, 6 had been raped, or nearly. All of us had stories to tell of being molested or taken advantage of in a way that was painful for us.
It’s when we share our stories, and have the perpetrators (when possible) suffer the consequences, that we take back our own power. I hope it was helpful for you Eve, to share this story. And it will be easier for your daughter to share any concerns with you when she knows that it can happen to anyone, and it isn’t her fault.
Our experiences shape us, but we decide who we want to be. That’s within our power.
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