Today’s post may be disturbing or triggering to some people… Personally, I choose to laugh at these memories, but some readers may not find them very funny, since technically a couple of them are about what many people would consider child abuse. Anyway, you’ve been warned… proceed with caution.
In the interest of writing something that doesn’t have anything to do with current events, I’m going to share a few stories about my dad. Regular readers of this blog may know that my dad and I didn’t have the easiest relationship. He was basically a very good man and he was an excellent provider. But he was also controlling, uptight, and an alcoholic who was occasionally abusive to me. Despite that, he definitely had his moments of hilarity… especially since he was so uptight and military, and I was… well, I was kind of outrageous and frequently shocked him. Case in point, people who know me well, regularly send me this kind of stuff on social media. For some reason, they think I’ll like it.
For some reason this morning, I was reminded of South Park and the episode during which the South Park kids ask Chef (RIP) about prostitutes. He doesn’t want to tell them, and expresses exasperation that they’re putting him in the position of having to explain such a thing. The kids finally goad Chef into bursting into a song about prostitutes, which includes a poor impression of James Taylor…
This morning, after I enjoyed a hearty laugh at this memory, I was reminded of the time I asked my dad about prostitutes. Picture it. The year was 1981, and I was about 8 years old. I’d been riding on the bus, where I endured daily bullying from the asshole kids who had grown up in Gloucester County. My parents had just moved us to the county months before, so to those kids, I was a “come here”. However, as Gloucester didn’t then and still doesn’t have a maternity ward in its hospital, a lot of those kids were born “over the rivah”, like I was.
I was born in Hampton, Virginia, as were some of my Gloucester native classmates. A lot of the other “natives” were born in Newport News or Williamsburg. Those nearby cities all have maternity wards. The difference was, they were raised in Gloucester from birth, while I moved there when I was eight. But since my parents ended up staying there for 29 years, I think a lot of them think of me as a “native” now. Anyway, I digress…
Those kids picked on me mercilessly every day, both at school, and on the bus. I used to come home in tears all the time. I was different. I was also obnoxious, but I was just trying to fit in and make friends. For some reason, one day I told one of the kids about the time one of my male cousins offered me money if I’d show him my private parts. To put this in perspective, when this incident happened, I was six or seven years old. He was two years older, so he was eight or nine. I doubt this was anything more than pure childhood curiosity. It was definitely innocent on my end, although I don’t know what my cousin was thinking. We never got along and I’ve never asked him about it. He’s probably forgotten all about it.
Before we lived in Gloucester, we lived in Fairfax County, up near Washington, DC. University Mall, a glorified shopping center that was kind of like an enclosed mall without a roof, was right behind our neighborhood, and I was allowed to go there by myself– completely unthinkable today. There was a Giant grocery store and a High’s convenience store, where I could get candy. My aunt and her family lived in our neighborhood, so I saw my cousins regularly. They were close in age to me and used to walk me to and from school. So when my cousin offered me what seemed like a lot of money just to show him my vagina, I trusted him. Because, at that point, I was not taught that any part of my body was “private”, per se… Remember, it was the late 70s, and he was my first cousin.
Some hours later, my parents found the money and questioned me about it. I told them what happened, and they returned the money to my aunt. I think she gave my cousin a spanking, and that was the end of it. I never came away with the idea that there was anything weird about the story, so I guess I told it in an attempt to fit in with those kids. But the kids on the bus laughed at me, and called me a prostitute. I had never heard that word before, so I didn’t understand why it was so “funny” for eight year olds to call another eight year old child that.
That afternoon, my dad was working in his frame shop, the business he ran out of our house. I asked him what a prostitute is. Our conversation went something like this.
“Dad, what’s a prostitute?” I asked.
“What?” He was pretty shocked at the question, and his brow furrowed because I was so young to be asking.
“What’s a prostitute?” I repeated.
“Where did you learn that word?” he demanded.
“I heard it on the bus.” I replied.
My dad got a look of disgust on his face as he explained. “A prostitute is a woman who sells her love to people.”
I was a little confused, since love is supposed to be a good thing. Selling is legal. So is loving. So is fucking, for that matter. But I didn’t press him for more details, because he looked kind of pissed.
A few years later, the neighborhood pervert, who used to refer to his penis as “the home of the Whopper”, gave me my very first issue of Mad Magazine. I loved reading Mad, back in the day, and I still enjoy it, even though it was introduced to me by a person who used to regularly show me pornography, completely unbeknownst to my parents. They thought of him as a good neighbor and a friend. He even babysat me once or twice, even though he used to show me Penthouse, Playboy, and a strange quasi-medical book called The Sex Atlas. Again, I was very innocent, so I didn’t think what he was doing was wrong. I used to watch whatever I wanted on HBO and was rarely monitored by my parents. It wasn’t until I was much older that a mental health professional told me that what my neighbor did was technically considered sexual abuse of a minor.
Anyway, there I was reading Mad Magazine… I was maybe ten or eleven years old. And I came across yet another word I didn’t know. The word was “enema”. There was a feature on doctors and the running gag was a physician who would prescribe enemas for everything from a sore throat to hemorrhoids. Naturally, as a somewhat sheltered kid, I didn’t know what enemas were. I also didn’t have access to Google in those days, so I asked my dear old dad.
My dad was a somewhat formal guy. He had a sense of humor and could be funny when the mood struck him. But he was also very military and conservative and he didn’t approve of my raunchy sense of humor. To put this in perspective, my dad– who served almost 22 years in the Air Force– once blushed seven shades of red when Bill told him what “Charlie Foxtrot” is a euphemism for in the service (cluster fuck). My dad didn’t like swearing or other “inappropriate” talk. In retrospect, he probably didn’t like it because it reminded him of his father, who was also an abusive alcoholic, and swore a lot. He and his father did NOT get along.
Still, I was totally innocent about enemas, and my dad didn’t mind teaching me about such things. I had never heard of them and simply wanted to understand what they were so I could get the joke in my favorite magazine. Our awkward conversation went something like this…
“Dad,” I asked, “What’s an enema?”
Dad put down what he was doing and said, “What?”
“What’s an enema?” I repeated.
He got a strange look on his face and said in a rather matter-of-fact tone of voice, “An enema is a very uncomfortable and unpleasant procedure in which someone forces a tube up your behind and flushes out your bowels with liquid.”
“Huh?” I asked, suddenly shocked and grossed out.
“It’s very unpleasant and uncomfortable.” my dad reiterated. I guess he hadn’t heard of Fleet’s, which are somewhat less horrifying than the old fashioned enema bags he was likely thinking of.
I started thinking about it and wondered if my dad was speaking from personal experience. He probably was, come to think of it. But somehow, I knew better than to ask him more specific questions about enemas. To this day, I haven’t yet experienced an enema. Certainly not one like he had described. I have witnessed Bill going through them, though, since he’s a man of a certain age.
And then there was the time I asked my dad about hemorrhoids, but all he told me about that was that your intestines come out of your ass and bleed on your underwear. That happens to be factually incorrect as well as disgusting.
I really could have used Google when I was growing up, but if I had, I wouldn’t have these funny memories of asking my dad about inappropriate things like enemas and watching him struggle to tell me about them without blushing. At least I never asked him about douching. And at least this post has taught me how to spell hemorrhoids. It takes practice, that’s for sure.