I’ve been on the fence about this movement, but recently I had a flash that crystalized my point of view. This is what happened to me, years gone by.
I was fifteen, built voluptuously, liking the new body but at the same time wishing I hadn’t morphed. I had enormously enjoyed my total-tomboy childhood, clambering on rooftops, winning foot races, and swinging bats better than most boys. But in my twelfth year those boys had suddenly shot up, gotten faster, graduated from soft ball to hard ball, and left me in the dust. They saw me differently, they no longer picked me to swing a bat, something I had been really good at. I had trouble getting used to the dramatic switch in my life’s role. Bye-bye childhood. What a blow.
I grew into it a bit. My parents and I were visiting a relatives’ camp on the banks of the Guadalupe River, an area for vacation houses in pre-airconditioned Texas. The Guadalupe runs through the famous Texas Hill Country. It’s near Kerrville. And there’s also Bandera’s Medina river, where many hid out back then, to escape the heat of nearby San Antonio. They still do.
“Will y’all have Christmas at home this yeah, Maisie, or ah yuh takin’ the crowd tuh th’ countreh?”
The soft Texas lilt pleasantly colored my childhood. Bandera, on the Old Spanish Trail, was our family’s hideaway place, on the Medina. We liked our San Antonio Christmases, but celebrated summertime birthdays at the Medina swimming hole.
It was June, and this time I had blown out birthday candles with my cousins at their swimming hole at their Guadalupe camp.
Beds were limited; we two girlie teens were outranked by adults and shunted off to outdoor cots down at the river. A plus for us. It was beautiful there, a few steps from the dock and canoes. We lay there communing under towering ancient bald cypresses, catching sight of stars through their lacy canopy, and talked of high school in the fall. Quiet slipped over us with the dark night. We fell asleep.
But in the darkness a large form soon leaned over me. I had ears like a cat and heard it first. Then the bed sagged with the weight of one sitting down beside me. A man pulled my head up and kissed me on the lips. I froze in terror. I was dropped back to the pillow with the whispered words, “I wish you were eighteen.”
The figure rose and left. My cousin slept on.
I waited, clammy and rigid with fright, till I was sure we were again alone, then went into action. He might come back! I was by damn not going to be a victim.
Silently I made my way to a canoe, got in, and pretended I was an Indian paddling, making sure the water sounds blended with other noises of the night. I drifted mostly, downstream. My skin crawled, I trembled with what had nearly happened.
I lay uncomfortably hiding in the canoe, my profile low, until dawn clearly revealed the river. I picked up the paddle and slithered upstream to the dock. I tied up, saw my cousin still sleeping, then made my way up to the house. All was quiet.
Wary and fearful, I rounded a corner and found a car, climbed in, locked the door – and slept. When I awoke, I joined the breakfast group inside. There he was, my uncle, big and oh so affable.
He did not look at me.
I carried this misery with me for weeks until finally, in our cozy family sunroom where all important things were shared, I unloaded my distress onto my mother and one of her sisters, a favorite aunt of mine. They sat upright, exclaimed in disgust and shock, then lifted my spirits with the remark, “Why, that old letch, so he’s still at it! Lord, honey, he’s been a problem for years.”
However light-hearted I might have felt from this revelation, it did not improve my view of my future. Men could be dangerous. I would have to be watchful and clever.
My body was not defiled, but my psyche sure was tattered.