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Friday, November 18, 2011

Inspiration Point

I remember that his car was light blue, a Volkswagon bug. It was 1968. A big election year.

My picture was in the paper. A very big deal. My dark page boy behaved for once, the weird wave hair-sprayed into compliance. For once I wasn't wearing tennis whites but a respectable outfit and my impossibly long legs and big feet were nowhere in few. The only humiliation was my geeky glasses. They even airbrushed my acne. Copies of the photo and the article were collected and sent to far-away relatives and I was proud that for once I seemed to have done something to please my parents. And most certainly, Aunt Elsie was over the moon.

Time to get down to work. The adult sponsor of TARS, an up and coming attorney in town whose name wasn't Ron but we'll call him that for now, invited me for an afternoon of orientation and milkshakes. He drove up to the top of Inspiration Point, quiet on a late summer afternoon. He parked and began to tell me about my new responsibilities. Running meetings: piece of cake. Working on agendas and deciding on the issues we would take on: I got that.

And then he explained the realities of the upcoming State Convention. I had to go. I was the Chairman. It was my job to see that the issues our chapter wanted to be included in the State Platform would be affirmed. Okay.

Well, he said, there is always some horse-trading, if you know what I mean. I didn't. Bargaining. I'll give you this and you give me that. Oh, I said, I'll support your issue if you'll support mine. Hmmmm, possible.

Well, he said again, no. That's not exactly how this works. You see, sex is the currency of choice. You sleep with Brad (not his real name) and he will support you.

My milkshake slowly melted and my hands trembled.

He put his hand on my bare knee. My thigh. And offered to help me "prepare" for the convention. He could condition me, give me lessons. In other words, we could have sex. Me and Ron. Not right then and there but he would work it out. That week. He touched my page boy. He looked beyond my geeky glasses into my dark brown eyes. I was supposed to be moved.

I felt sick.

I told him I had to get home. The light blue VW bug slowly wound its way down Inspiration Point. He dropped me off and winked, I'll see you tonight. We can make some plans for the convention, if you know what I mean.

What happened next was what often happens when a child --- I was very much a child, however old I was --- is sexually propositioned by an adult. I went inside and played perfect to my parents who were so proud. I told them I had a fine time and commenced the process of denial. Second-guessing myself. How dare I presuppose he had stooped so low. Surely it didn't happen.

I got ready for the evening's meeting, the first over which I was to preside. I had printed agendas, nametags, folders for all the returning members and information sheets for prospects. I was ready!

I got to the meeting, my mom dropped me off. I felt an out-of-body sort of experience as the other kids arrived. I play-acted my role, pretending an enthusiasm I didn't feel. I faked it well.

Then "Ron," the sponsor arrived, he of the light blue VW bug and the offer of sex lessons.

Without even thinking, I ran into the bathroom and vomited. And vomited some more. And more. "I'm sick," I told a friend. I asked her to call my mom to come pick me up. I made sure the materials and the responsibility got handed off to the duly elected Vice Chairman and, as I was being formally installed I answered "no" instead of "yes." And quit the whole operation on the spot.

My mother came and got me. I told her nothing. I was too humiliated. And distraught.

And that was the end of my career as a Teen-Age Republican.

I don't even remember how I explained it to Aunt Elsie but you can bet real money that I went no where near the truth. Are you kidding? My word against his? Not even close, not a chance.

I wonder these days how many stories like this one are re-surfacing for people, who were once young people and sexually harassed and abused by adults they trusted and admired. It all comes back.

To you who remember, peace be with you. Real peace, healing, comfort. It comes. It does. In time.

Meanwhile, it doesn't hurt to vomit again if you need to.

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