Hockey

There’s this guy I know. He’s a decent guy, for real. Not a Chauvinist, not a pig, just a nice guy. But we had this conversation the a while back that got under my skin.

He was involved in some peripheral and not-high-cool-factor way with the Olympics. He told me, “You wanna know the number one thing people want to see on the Olympics website? The slide show of the US women’s hockey team members. And numbers two, three and four are other pictures of women athletes.” I guess these other ones are sort of racy pictures, maybe even light porn. You know, accidental nipple and crotch shots and that kind of thing.

When I heard about the hockey team, I thought that was pretty cool. I don’t really do sports, but even I have a soft spot for women’s hockey. Of course people wanted to see them. My guy went on to say it just really struck him how much Sex is what sells. I bit just a little at the suggestion that the hockey women and the porno shots were the same thing. I hadn’t seen them, but I just didn’t buy the idea that people were getting their thrills by looking at the US women’s hockey team.

He said, “Well, you have to see the pictures. Some of them are in V-neck sweaters, sitting on fences, some are even taken in what looks like a women’s bathroom with a red light in the background.” V-neck sweaters! Ooooh, how erotic. Sitting on fences? Oh my goodness.

Now I hadn’t see the pics, so I couldn’t argue too forcibly. Maybe these chicks were sell-outs sleazing for the camera. Later in the day, he’s sitting with his computer and when I approach, he turns it my way, “Here’s the pictures.”

Two things I want you to keep in mind right now, maybe three. One, this is at least the second time this guy has looked at these pictures in one day. Two, he hadn’t gone looking for the pictures to show me. I just happened by. Thirdly, the pictures were really not that interesting to me. Normal, healthy young women. Some in street clothes, some in their hockey gear. Some clearly had breasts and hips. All could easily take my dear friend in a bar fight.

But one of two things seemed to me to be happening. Either these pictures were doing something sort of exciting for this guy and a lot of other guys. Because here he was looking at them AGAIN. And because when he described the hits on the website, he lumped them together with the accidental porno shots. Or it didn’t occur to him that people could possibly be interested in women’s hockey and the players for non-sexual reasons.

Maybe women who can kick your ass are secretly very exciting to men all over the world. Maybe it’s just curiosity about what kind of woman plays hockey (which only explains one hit per person). Maybe the hits are women, who are more interested in the actual people who are playing the sport than other kinds of fans.

I wonder what’s going on here? With this good guy and all the other guys out there hitting on the same pictures. It isn’t disappointing or surprising, just curious. I’m interested to know if it’s me, or if this really something I need him to think harder about (though I know for damn sure, he doesn’t need to do anymore research into the subject).

Magic

I can’t remember the first time I knew I had magical powers. And when I tell you about how much I enjoyed my powers (only use your powers for good, Lisa), you will like me a little less, maybe. But I think you’ll get over it. You might as well know. I probably didn’t hide it that well anyway. You might have known about the powers because you had them too, or because you were enchanted by someone who did.

Now there are those of you who think you know about my magical powers, but you’re wrong. I used to be able to, and still can to a certain extent, predict what people are about to say or what they’re thinking. That wasn’t magic. It was a parlor trick. The truth is, people aren’t that tricky when it comes to conversation. They say what they’re supposed to say to keep the conversation going, or they make a joke that surprises you. Even the radio is easy– I used to predict that, too.

One of the first times I remember knowing I had magic was when I got my first pair of white Levi 501s. I remember walking to work, along Portland Avenue in my white jeans and a pink tank top. I was barefoot likely as not, carrying my shoes. I was probably 16, and I thought I was cute.

And can we digress a little here and say, that thinking you’re cute is half the battle? It isn’t the whole battle, and I know that. I know because of a number of uninvited thong sightings (whale tails, in more ways than one) I’ve had. Thongs rising out of cleavage that made me pray for deliverance and have flash-backs to Nam. But women know where their ass-crack and underwear are as a general rule. If more than an inch is showing in public, its because you think it’s cute. And that confidence, in my opinion, leaves you halfway through a battle with not much more than a carnage strewn field to show for your efforts.

So back to thinking I was cute. I knew I was cute, but I remember for the first time that guys in cars were honking or whistling at me. Guys I didn’t know. They looked over their shoulders at me. It was like magic. Like being famous. Or maybe just like being 16. But I swear to god, I could feel the blue electric charge every time it happened. Zzzing! At a stop sign, at the gas station, walking home, I had power. I felt like Samantha from Bewitched. And I loved it. I loved it. I started walking all over town, facing the traffic so I could see if guys were looking at me. A lot of them were. It was intoxicating.

I wasn’t make-your-eye-teeth-hurt, beautiful. I remember the girls who were, Tressa DeRider, Tracy Ybarra. That kind of beautiful is something I can’t really comment on much. you might ask my sister about it. People she doesn’t know buy her drinks. Once in MinneapolisWhen we were kids, an Indian guy yelled at her and told her she was a witch. I think even then, people could tell she was going to have a lot of magic.

I didn’t have much more than 16, cute and confident going for me. But it was enough. And the hard part of this story is that at some point in the last few years, at a stop light, I realized that I had become Everymom. I am becoming invisible. Shake your head at my vanity, tell me I’m shallow and wrong, but deep inside I know it’s on its way out. I’m sure it’ll be replaced by something else maybe even more meaningful and blah blah. Cut me some slack, OK?

I was a clumsy, tiny, afraid-of-the-ball kid whose mom had to browbeat the basketball coach into letting her play during games. I took piano lessons for 7 years and to this day cannot read music. No matter how hard I tried, and I did finally start to try in high school, I couldn’t be orderly or organized. I was flat chested and four-eyed.

But goddamn it. I was cute, I was even sexy, and I loved it. I enjoyed it. I didn’t take it so much for granted, as I was unable to grasp its perishability. Even when, as I was admiring how cute my round little butt looked, in my bandeau-waisted, wide-waled maroon corduroy pants, my mom said to me, “You think you’re going to always have that perky little butt, don’t you?”. I thought I was. What did she know

I wouldn’t remember it if it didn’t make some sort of impression on me. But I couldn’t understand it in the way she meant it until pretty recently, having more disappointing results with some different pants and an entirely different butt. And you know what? I love my mom, but I think it was mean of her to even try to warn me.


Garry the Pervert Part 2

I stayed long enough to not seem rude. And knowing what I know now about kids and poker faces, I’m sure I showed enough in my face to titillate him. By the time I ran home (skipping, so as not to give my self away), I was shaken. Why I felt like I needed to pretend I didn’t see anything, I don’t really understand. I think it has something to do with a sense of guilt at having seen, having been there at all.

After all, what if it was an accident? But also, playing it cool seemed like the only good option in case it wasn’t an accident. On some level I knew if it was on purpose, he was looking for a reaction; and by reacting, I would be letting him win.

I felt bad. Sick to my stomach. Hot in my face. Isn’t it strange how just seeing a part of this adult’s anatomy set off this whole adrenaline response cascade? He never, ever laid a hand on me. I don’t think I said anything to my mom or dad. I never would have told my dad. It didn’t seem like an option. That was definitely the feeling that I had done something wrong. That I had been contaminated by what I saw.

The second time it happened, he actually made an excuse to go and change (read that as remove his underwear and put on his short-shorts). I think my sister was there with me. This time when his one eyed wonder worm made an appearance, I knew it wasn’t an accident. I again played it cool, felt sick, and left the scene. This time I told my mom. I don’t remember what she said, but I’m pretty sure she told me not to hang around over there anymore. I know she told me not to go into his house under any circumstances. I never did.

He did invite me in a couple of times. The only thing I ever did was go with a group to watch the brick smashing. All of this happened over the course of years, I was probably 12 the last time I went over there. I must have been a really stupid 12 year old. I still can’t figure out how or why I ever went over there again. He did have a lonely, whiney quality about him that made it hard to say no to him. Other than that, I don’t know why I went.

But I did. And the last time he really got me good. We chatted a little bit, his mom was in the house yelling at him from time to time. He told me he needed to change his clothes and he had a problem with his screens. He talked to me through the window.

“I got these screens, see. They’re the kind that you put on so you can see out, but people can’t look in, right? But the stupid thing is, I put them on backwards, I think. So people can look right in here, and I can’t see them. Isn’t that dumb? I want to fix them today, but first I gotta get changed. So I can talk to you, but I can’t see if you look in here, understand?”

What an idiot I am. I peeked. Of course I peeked. And he wasn’t just changing. He was standing naked in front of the window talking to me. Telling me not to look “So you’re not looking in here are you? Because I couldn’t see if you were.” He was looking right at me. What a mind-fuck to do to a kid. I guess maybe I still have a little anger when I think about it.

I don’t remember if he had an erection or any details other than an impression of something wrinkly, ugly, red and wrong. And a feeling of being caught in headlights.

I think most girls have had experiences like this. I wasn’t an unusual child, I don’t think. But how would I know? Maybe I tell myself that so I don’t feel weird about it.

Can someone tell me why this is fun for these guys? And why I ever felt guilty about it? And what would be a really clever reaction, sure to deflate the flashers? I’m at a place where I think of them as common losers, not deeply evil, not even all that rare. I don’t feel permanently traumatized.

There was the old man rubbing himself at the library while he watched me do my homework. He was sitting far enough away that he could see under the desk to my crotch. It took me a while to figure out what was going on,I thought he was just nuts. But eventually I made the connection between crossing and uncrossing my legs and his urgent whispering. Yuck.

There was the guy in the hot-rod who regularly happened to be driving by when I got off the bus in high school. He had probably gone around the block 3 times before I looked in the window of his car. He had one hand on the wheel and the other wrapped around his cock, and man! Was he ever glad I finally looked over. He actually turned up a few times over the course of a couple weeks. My mom told me if I saw him again I should ignore him or point and laugh. I think I started getting rides home. But not from him.

Or Mister S. at Elliot Elementary. I never had him for a teacher, but he always told me how cute I was as I was leaving at the end of the day. “Such pretty blue eyes.” It always made me feel nervous. He started to just say, “See you tomorrow, Blue Eyes.” I blushed and looked away. Eventually a teacher pulled me aside and said, “When someone tells you that you have pretty eyes, you should say thank-you.” But I felt like he was really creepy leaning up against his classroom door, and I didn’t say thank you.

Years later, I saw on the news that he was arrested for molesting a student. I bet she had pretty eyes.

So, an informal survey. Anyone else get visually molested in their childhood or adulthood? I hope I don’t seem to be wallowing and whining about my childhood molestations. Although at the time it was really icky and terrible, I don’t feel permanently scarred by it. I’m just curious about if it’s just me. Believe me, it wouldn’t be the first time I realized, “Honey, it’s just you.”

Garry the Pervert Part 1

Garry was the neighborhood pervert. Or the most obvious neighborhood pervert. He rode around on his 10 speed bike, circling the neighborhood aimlessly. Kids liked him at first, for no other reason than that he was an adult who seemed to have nothing to do. Adults who have time and inclination to just hang around kids are hot properties as far as the kids are concerned. At first.

He had another thing going for him. He knew Karate. He didn’t just say he knew Karate. He knew it. He was a black belt. He had the white suit and the, black belt to prove it (we saw the belt,we were no dummies). On top of that, he could do stuff that looked cool. Once or twice he’d invite a group of kids to his garage to watch him break patio blocks. He did a whole stack of them, with quarters in between each one. It impressed the boys, anyway.

Other than being a grown up who could smash patio blocks and had lots of spare time on his hands, I’m not sure why the girls talked to him at all. If I think back, it was flattering to have an adult (he was my patents’ age) who wanted to talk to me, just to chat. And to a 9 year old, the fact that he was still living with his mother didn’t seem weird. I lived with mine.

So we’d tease him, calling him “Mr. French fry” and pretending to try to catch him on his bike. He always made it point to say hi to us if we were up at the park and he happened to be riding by. Lucky for us, he rode by a lot when we were out. He lived kitty corner behind us, so sometimes he’d say hi to us over the fence. He’d ask us to come and visit and have a pop and chat.

I did a couple times. I remember three times. There must have been times in between that weren’t memorable. How I had the lack of judgment to return the second time, I do not know. And the third time… What the hell? At least partly, it was about not being able to lie convincingly and say I was busy. I don’t know. I was kid. I was dumb and easily lead astray. He was a grown up. He seemed to be so interested in talking to me. He asked if I had a boyfriend, because I was so pretty. He grew up in the neighborhood, so he could tell me about my mom when she was a kid.

He sat on the lounge chair in the back yard, offered me a pop. I sat and chatted with him about god knows what. Eventually as we were chatting Gary put one leg on the ground instead of out in front of him. This allowed his genitals to hang lazily out the side of his shorts. Maybe they were special Karate shorts that gave one’s penis the opportunity to breath deeply of the fresh air. Maybe it was an accident and he didn’t know.

All I know is that the sight of a man’s penis makes me, made me feel afraid. It’s getting different, not so jarring of a fear now that I’m a married woman, but it feels primal. I remember recently reading with great relief and recognition about the typical reaction of men and women to naked people. When men see a naked woman they generally have a feeling something akin to hope or lust. When women see a naked man, she tends to have a reaction of fear, or danger.

Evolutionarily it makes a lot of sense. A naked woman is just one more field to plant your seed in if you’re a man. If you’re a woman, a naked man is possibly about to totally limit your options as far as which crop you’ll be tending for the next 9 months (or 4 years, even) . You have only so many seasons. But I digress.

Grasshopper

Once there was a little girl. She adored her dad, and he was pretty fond of her right back. They watched science fiction and Kung-Fu onTV. The girl loved David Carradine, loved the blue-eyed blind priest, the walking on rice paper, the whole bit. The dad loved the fight scenes, the quiet small guy kicking ass and the 60 minutes of the girl not talking.

The dad and the mom thought it was pretty great that this girl’s favorite show was Kung Fu. So for her birthday, they got her a Kung-Fu lunch box. Red plastic handle, action scenes and bas relief characters on the front. Everyone was happy. The girl loved her lunch box, the mom and dad felt clever for having raised such an independent minded little woman.

When she got to school she showed her little friend in the cloak room. “Oh, Kung-Fu, like karate, that’s cool. You watch that show?”. She was excited for lunch and she wiggled and daydreamed more than usual until lunch. Until lunch.

Something went wrong at lunch. Kids started to point and stare and laugh. They asked her why she would carry a boy’s lunch box. The hall seemed really long, and the other kids seemed to get taller the more they picked on her. The lights on the ceiling buzzed louder and the floor seemed shiner.

She ate her lunch with the box open so only the inside showed. The rest of the day was OK, but lunch made her tired. When she got home she said something about the lunchbox not working. She fumbled with the latch and tried to make it not close. It closed fine. She mentioned maybe not using the lunchbox tomorrow to her mom and dad. They smelled a rat.

She got a pep-talk about there being no girl shows or girl lunch boxes. “Whatever you like, that’s a girl lunch box, because you’re a girl. They’re just jealous.”

Back to school again with the Kung-Fu box. Back to the long hall, the tall jeers and the shiny floors. Back to the “You’ve got a boy lunch box” and the teasing. The mean faces and voices were ugly to her. They made her throat hurt like she wanted to cry. But she didn’t.

Until she got home.

She was going to have to be brave. She was going to have to stand up and tell her parents that she could not take that lunch box back to school. They’d be mad, but they didn’t know. She realized that her parents were wrong. It wasn’t OK to have a boy’s lunch box, no matter what they said. It made people be mean to you and laugh at you and made you want to cry. Maybe their family was weird, and weird was OK, but only at home.

When she told her mom and dad, they were mad. Didn’t she know that she didn’t have to let those kids tease her? Couldn’t she be proud of her new Kung-Fu lunch box and ignore those dumb kids? She couldn’t.

Her dad was quiet. His brow was down and his lips were together. He said he would paint over it so she didn’t have the Kung-Fu on it anymore. Yes, yes, yes, that would be just right. He took the lunch box down the basement and said it should be dry in the morning, It was.

The next day she brought her lunch in her new shiny lunch box. It was painted completely black.

Life’s a beach

Dear Diary

I took the kids to the beach at Fort Snelling today. Dyan was going with her boys and Lizzy. We piled the kids into the road warrior with some sandwiches, pretzels, beers and a cooler of cool-aid. It’s cheap, good fun for the kids. Wears them out and kills one more day of this hell they call summer vacation.

Dyan and her boys are good sports. The boys play with the little kids out in the lake although they’re teenagers and I’m sure there are a million places they’d rather be. Eric is just a little sullen, but Marky really seems to enjoy himself.

The day went pretty well, we let Erin run around without bottoms, aired out that rash. Patrick amused himself pretty well with sandcastles and collecting bits of things. Well, that and dropping sea-weed in the girls’ hair. Jenny chased the bugs and birds, looking for all the world like Saint Francis. They practically come to land on that kid. It’s funny. Not fair that she’s the one with allergies.

Lisa has gotten to be so neurotic, I don’t know where to start with her. How’s she ever going to live in this world if she’s going to be afraid of, or grossed out by everything in it?

When we got here, I could hardly get her to get out of the car because of the bugs. She tried to sit in the car, but it was way too hot. When we finally got her to the beach, she didn’t want to go swimming because of seaweed and whatever else is under the water. I did threaten her enough to get her to go play with Mark and the other kids. She seemed to be having fun, maybe forgetting to think about the weeds or the fish. I don’t know what it was, but she was playing with Mark (he‘s so good with the kids), and she just started kicking and flailing around like a goddamned idiot.

I hollered at her to settle down, but she couldn’t stop acting like an idiot out there, I suppose every piece of weed that crossed her feet just freaked her out, I don’t know. But the last time I yelled at her to mellow out, she splashed and kicked Mark, left the other kids and just came and sat on the beach in her towel. Wouldn’t take off the towel or go hang with the kids. Is she getting to be a sullen teenager already? She’s only 10 for chrissakes!

Dear Diary,

Today was stupid. We had to go to the stupid beach. It was bad from the time we got there. When we got out of the car, Jenny and Erin were walking in front of me. Right when we got by the trees, I saw a black bug with a red stripe land on Erin’s shirt. In the back; she didn’t see it. Then every trash can had all these long skinny bees flying around it. But when we walked by, they flew at us! I am not kidding.

I was watching Jenny, Erin and my mom in front of me, Patrick and the boys were behind us. I could see all these black bugs on Erin and Jenny’s back. Only one on my mom, I don’t know why. But then I saw an actual BEE land on Jenny’s shoulder. They were flying all over. I was so scared.

I had this picture of what if I was walking behind myself, what would I see…? It scared me so bad, I started to try to move my shirt all over to get the bugs off of me. My mom got mad because I was acting so weird. She said they were just Bogzelders on the girls. I don’t care what they’re called, I didn’t want them on me! I just wanted to go home where we don’t have Bogzelders.

Then we went down to the beach part. It was OK, there weren’t so many bugs. I didn’t want to go swimming really, but I thought if I got in the water, the bugs wouldn’t follow me there. They didn’t.

Mark was helping Lizzy and Jenny to swim. He came over and asked if I wanted him to teach me to swim. I already know how to swim, I told him. Plus, he has lots of zits and they gross me out. But he said he could teach me other kinds, like on my back and stuff. We were in to water pretty deep, up to my chest.

He picked me up so I was sort of floating on top of the water. He had one hand kind of under my ribs. His other hand pulled down my swimsuit bottoms. That part was under water, so nobody could really see. I got so scared. I started kicking and splashing and trying to swim away, but he was holding onto me, so I didn’t go anywhere.

His hands were so cold! My mom yelled at me for being wild. He stopped pulling on my bottoms for just a second. But then when I started to swim, he grabbed them and pulled them to the side. He started trying to stick his fingers into my crotch! They were big and hard and cold. It hurt. I freaked out again. It’s pretty hard to swim with someone so big holding you on the chest and in the crotch!

He did that two more times and I kicked him in the chest and face the last time and swam away. I got out of the water and sat by my mom. She asked why I was such a chicken. She didn’t really know. I pulled the towel up over my head and bent my knees so I was like a little tent. The bugs didn’t bother me, neither did Mark. But I hate the beach.