I have a nine-year-old. She is a beautiful girl. I’m pretty sure she will be a beautiful teenager, aesthetically and otherwise. I was a beautiful girl, tall for my age, long limbs and long hair, and I attracted the attention of older men from the time I was 10. Much older men. And it made me uncomfortable, and it made me scared. And I grew into a teenager, and I still received attention from older men, the catcalls, the gross suggestions hollered from passing cars when I rode my bike down the street, the hey baby’s and the worse, and sometime around age 16 my parents divorced and sent me into a hormonal flurry of angst and insecurity and anger and sadness.
The older guys were nice.
And I was scared and sad and insecure and I reeked of it. I smelled like Love’s Baby Soft and the occasional sneaked clove cigarette and stolen sips of lukewarm champale chugged behind the bleachers after class. I just wanted people to be nice to me, men to be nice to me, and when you are pretty and angry and lost you date older guys because they have cars and money and your dad moved out and your mom is busy crying so you go with them.
At least I did.
And my mom did her best, but when you have this Tasmanian Devil of a daughter who screams fuck you and pierces her nose and sneaks out of her room and you are just trying to work to put mashed potatoes on the table (because potatoes are cheap–they are still cheap) there isn’t a lot you can do. And you work long hours and cry a lot and your daughter has a bedroom with a window and a balcony and she is a quiet ghost who waits on the corner for a car to pick her up. By some older dude with a full wallet that can buy drugs and booze and cheap jewelry that turns her neck green but at least it is someone.
And the boys her age are loud and boring and don’t even know how to talk to a girl, can’t even read her signals which are shrieking tell me I matter tell me I’m smart tell me I’m pretty. And I was so smart. Leaving high school to move away from home and attend college where my older boyfriend followed right behind me and made very sure I was never more than two steps away and nothing my mother did could ever stop that.