I recapitulate another memory of the bad girl, the imp inside me. I am walking with three boys and my cousin. I am eleven and my cousin is a bit younger. The boys are a year or so older than me. We’ve all known each other our entire lives. We’ve played together since early childhood.
One of the boys nervously asks, “Do you know what this means?” He makes a rude gesture with his finger. Another of the boys asks if we know what fucking is. The others laugh, but I can see they are all very nervous. I pretend I don’t know what they are talking about, though I know everything. My cousin says she doesn’t know and I don’t think she does, she’s telling the truth. One of the boys pulls out a condom. I see it quivering in his shaking hand. “What about this? Do you know what this is?” I have never seen one before so when I answer that I don’t know, it’s actually the truth.
We are on our way down to the swimming pool. It’s nestled in the valley, a mile or so down from the mountain where we all live. We spend our summers there, swimming in the pool and sometimes the nearby pond, boating and fishing too. There is a cold mountain stream that runs near the pool. There are copperheads and other large snakes around the stream and up the slopes of the mountain that is covered with pines, maples, and oaks. Tall pines surround the pool too. We ride our bikes down or walk, sometimes a parent will give us a ride, but the pool is unsupervised, no lifeguard. Mothers come with small children during the day, but often it’s just a bunch of kids swimming, diving, playing. The fathers come down to swim after work.
Today is cloudy and cool, late in the day, perhaps early summer or late spring. No one is at the pool. It’s totally deserted, just the five of us, talking and joking around. One of the boys asks me if I will go over to the outhouse and dressing room with him, so we can try out the condom.
“No, of course not!” I say.
They try a few other tactics to get us to do something with them, but we stick together, wary of their eager energy. Finally they come up with the idea that we, my cousin and I, should swim naked for them. Skinny dipping! The thrill-seeking imp in me immediately agrees, the ecstasy of it, the cold water on bare skin, the heart-pounding experience of doing something forbidden! I just can’t say no, and my cousin is equally daring and agreeable.
We take off our clothes and run and jump into the pool with a shriek as we hit the cold water. Like three movie directors the boys stand beside the pool and instruct us. Do headstands, flips, back flips, they say. They laugh excitedly, telling us to go slower, so they can get a better look. My cousin and I know exactly what we are doing and what they are looking at, what we have between our legs, that place where the condom goes. They egg us on, but we soon realize that we have the power. They are mesmerized.
I don’t remember how long we stay in the pool somersaulting and showing off our twats, all of us laughing and having fun, but suddenly the boys take off running. With a surprised yell they scatter, running toward the stream, leaving us girls alone. We had been making so much noise that we didn’t hear a couple approaching, the parents of some friends of ours, out for an early evening walk. Suddenly there they are, standing near enough to the pool to see what we are doing. How long have they been there? Panic sets in. The looks on their faces says it all: BAD!
They do not leave. They go and sit on a bench by the pond. My cousin and I are naked captives in the pool, our clothes lying on the ground some distance away. We will have to get out of the water in front of this man and woman. We discuss how we are going to do it. We agree that “really fast” is the only way. We decide we will jump out of the pool, run to our clothes, grab them and run to the dressing room.
“Maybe they won’t notice,” I say, ever the hopeful one. “Maybe they didn’t really see that we’re naked. Maybe they didn’t notice.”
We do as discussed, hop out of the pool, run and grab our clothes and dash over to the dressing rooms. The man and woman sit on the bench and stare, their faces stiff with the kind of disgusted look that only disapproving parents can have. Of course they see us! We fumble with our clothes. Soaking wet, and no towels to dry ourselves with, we pull them on as best we can. We decide we will nonchalantly saunter past the disapproving couple, for they sit smack in our path, blocking the only way out. We are not about to head toward the stream and all its snakes as the boys had.
“We will be calling your parents,” they say, glaring at us as we walk by, as we say a friendly hello, as if nothing has happened, as if they did not just see us naked, as if they did not see what we were doing with those boys.
My cousin and I walk slowly, reluctant to face what we know is coming. Maybe, if we delay, our fate will shift, but we both know we have to face the music. My cousin’s house is closest so we go there. The news has already reached her mother. She is waiting as we walk in the door. She has company, so the company also knows what happened. One of the guests is a woman I have long admired, independent, tough, not physically attractive but I have always sensed her beautiful soul. One day I overheard her say, “What a beautiful child!” Now I am no longer her beautiful child. I am a monster. I am embarrassed and ashamed that she now knows the true me.
“What am I going to do with you kids? What next?” my aunt yells, but we see that she is laughing behind her stern look. “Get out of my sight,” she says.
We go to my cousin’s bedroom. That wasn’t too bad, her mother has a sense of humor, but my mother is different. I am reluctant to go home. The phone rings. It’s my mother, yelling at me to come home immediately. I can hear the cold, controlled anger in her voice. My cousin looks at me with big sad eyes.
“Uh oh, you’re going to get it, aren’t you?”
I walk home as slowly as possible, but eventually I arrive. I am ushered up to my room by both of my parents. They are dressed for the evening, my father in a suit, my mother in a flowery summer dress, ready to attend a party in the neighborhood. My mother is livid. I am spoiling her evening! I am an embarrassment! I am a disappointment! I am a stupid girl! Why do I do these things! How is she ever going to live this one down! What is she to tell people!
I am in tears, apologetic. I know she hates me, my mother hates me. Then I notice that my father, sitting on my bed, is covering his mouth. His shoulders are shaking. He’s trying to hold back laughter! He gestures to me to keep quiet. He doesn’t want my mother to see him laughing!
My mother delivers the punishment. I am grounded. I am not to leave my room for the next three weeks. I am never to play with my cousin again! My father shrugs his shoulders and with a goofy look on his face follows my mother out the door. I hate my mother! What a bitch! The boys don’t get into trouble; they get away with being boys. Girls are troublemakers.
I really was not allowed to play with my cousin after that. I would sneak off with her anyway, but I always got caught. My mother would find out, somehow, where I was. She’d call on the phone, anger in her voice, or she’d just show up and drag me home. It was an effort on her part to both keep me safe from my inner imp and to save her own face.
What’s the lesson in this recapitulation? There’s always a lesson.
Even as the imp inside me led me on another harebrained adventure, she also came to my rescue. The skinny dipping and the subsequent discovery by the man and woman saved me from some other fate, perhaps being raped by three oversexed boys. It’s interesting to note that though I was, at the time, being sexually abused by a grown man and his cohorts, whom I could rarely deflect from their evil intent, and amnesiac to that side of my life, I had no problem saying no to these boys. Perhaps it was the experience of discovering normal preadolescent sexual energy, power, and excitement that spurred me to engage in precocious exploration. The other side of me, the abused girl side, was deeply hidden, unconscious inside me. She never showed up alongside the imp.
These boys were friends. We’d all been naked together in the past, playing caveman and cavewoman in the woods, building lean-tos and acting out what we thought were primitive man woman relationships. But those were more innocent times. We were all younger then, exploring our bodies in childish, nonthreatening ways, showing each other what we had inside our pants but never really intruding on each other, except with minor touching. Innocent enough, but I instinctively sensed something else going on this time.
The boys, though gawky and nervous, were looking for some other experience, a willing participant to try out intercourse for the first time with. I was not willing to go there with them, but I also had to accept the power in the pussy, so to speak—oops that imp again!—for once in the water it was very clear to me that I was the one who was really in control. I had what they wanted. It was a personally powerful moment of acceptance of my female enticement. Even though I was not using it for sex, I was using it to control three boys who thought they wanted an experience of it. I was totally in control. My mother was right, I really was a bad girl, a dangerous imp.
I am once again thankful for the imp inside me who teaches me and instructs me as I make my way through life. As a child, under the dominance of my parents and their expectations, and as a child who was sexually abused, I nonetheless had other formative experiences throughout my childhood; the imp inside me made sure of that! She had a knack for showing up at just the right time, offering salvation and adventure, and I could never refuse. She continued to offer the thrills so badly needed as compensation for a traumatic childhood.
Beyond compensation, she led me into the normal unfolding of becoming a sexual being, discovering indeed the power of the pussy or, in the deepest sense, the power of the feminine—Yin, Female Nature. I am forever grateful.
A blog by J. E. Ketchel, Author of The Recapitulation Diaries