Friday, November 28, 2008

Johnnie Walker and underaged girls don't mix

When he told me his name was Johnnie Walker, I believed him.

At 16, I didn't have much experience with whiskey bottles.

I also believed him when he said I looked like a model and he'd love to photograph me.

Never mind that I was under 5'7" and over 140 pounds. Never mind that this was Detroit, not Milan. Never mind that we met in a nondescript "party store," not Schwab's Drug Store, the hangout of old-time Hollywood starlets.

But none of that crossed my mind. I was what any non-street-smart high-schooler would be when a man I'd never met said I looked like a model ...

...Flattered!!!!!

His so-called studio was down the street from the library, where I shelved books after school. To his credit, he did own a camera. Maybe even some lights and backdrops.

But he was more interested in me "taking his picture" than he was in taking mine. "Taking somebody's picture" was what my grandparents called it when I sat with my legs gapped open. Girl, stop taking my picture! meant I needed to close my legs because I was being impolite and my underwear was showing.

But Johnnie Walker wanted me to take his picture, and that's exactly what I did, in a dingy Detroit storefront.

He taught me how to masturbate. He taught me how to go down on him.

And, oh yeah, we also took some photos that were much closer to Polaroid than portfolio.

I didn't think of it as molestation, even though he was a smelly, bummy, 45-year-old man that the grown ladies at the library eyed with a definite air of suspicion.

I thought of it as a new, naughty and exciting experience that had nothing to do with my humdrum life as a straight-A student from a dysfunctional home.

I found out that my own body could be a source of pleasure; I took even greater pleasure in imagining how pissed off my dad would be if he ever found out; and I took the greatest pleasure of all in recounting my exploits to my two best friends, who hadn't yet taken their first baby steps on the sexual wild side.

Ironically, my dad is what saved me from being raped, photographed in the nude, pimped or exploited.

One phone conversation with my dad – sight unseen – convinced Johnnie that he'd better watch his step. Johnnie never saw my dad's broad shoulders or his scraggly beard or his ever-present firearms. And as far as I knew, my dad never threatened to shoot Johnnie's balls off.

Just knowing that I had a dad terrified Johnnie. He'd ask questions about my dad and what he was like. He was nervous about my dad seeing the photos he'd taken of me in a bathing suit.

That didn't mean he didn't try to push things further along. He just didn't try very hard.

He had a great idea: we should take pictures of me in a bra and panties, you know like a paper doll that other girls could dress up. "No," I said flatly.

He backed down and backed off – undoubtedly haunted by the specter of my mean, black daddy – a daddy I lived with and could run crying to at any moment.

Johnnie Walker crept out of my life almost as quickly as he slunk in.

He didn't do any lasting damage, but he did leave me with a lasting impression:

  • Kids are easily exploited.
  • Kids can be complicitous in their own sexual exploitation. (In fact, Oprah Winfrey describes child molestation as a process of "seduction" designed to make the kid think s/he was a willing participant.)
  • Doing well in school does not grant a kid immunity from making bad decisions.

I was a smart, naive, rebellious, curious, rule-breaking, unsupervised teenage girl who took a detour off the straight-and-narrow path. Only dumb luck and a crazy daddy saved me from falling crotch-first into the sewer of sexual exploitation.

5 comments:

drjane said...

At the bottom of the page were the choices of reaction, "funny" , "interesting" and "cool". to that I would add, "touching", "educational", & "helpful."

Laetitia :-) said...

Saw your blog via Allison's blog, http://behind-dreaming.blogspot.com/

Yep, sadly good girls and smart girls aren't lauded in popular culture in the west - the pretty girls, the giving-it-all-away girls are.

There are some things in your blog that I wish I'd known when I was 19 and flattered by a uni classmate with whom I should have stayed just friends. And things I wish I had known about geeky, naive boys who were too shy for their (and my) good - having brothers may have helped me here but I didn't have that bonus.

Fortunately for me we broke up for good and I ended up with a man who is my intellectual, psychological and spiritual match. We celebrated our 10th anniversary this year.

I'm adding your blog to my Google Reader list.

Cheers,
Laetitia :-)

D said...

Glad you shared..

every girl should read this

Ann Dee said...

I was with this organization called CRY (Child Relief and You) and worked for a project on CSA (Child Sexual Assualt). It aint easy - surviving unscathed as a girl child. Awww...it really was a very touching post. See you again..

Cheron L. Hall said...

A lot about your blog reminds me of "A Piece of Cake" by Cupcake Brown, I'm sure you've heard of it or have even read it. There is nothing like having a big, black daddy around even if the relationship is somewhat strained...the fear and power of a fathers presence is something that many of us are missing...

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