I can still feel his creepy little sausage fingers on my thigh. Babysitting his kids wasn’t my favorite job, but my parents expected all of us to earn spending money. The father always volunteered to drive me home and I dreaded the discomfort of the short ride, the forced conversation, the way he leaned toward me with boozy breath as I hugged the door. Front seats in the sedans and station wagons of the 70s stretched into one long make-out sofa. Great for boyfriends, bad for rides with creepy Dads.
I wanted nothing more than to bolt out of that car and run into my house. But I ‘d been taught to show respect to adults, to be, above all, polite. He was probably in his 30s or 40s – old -- someone who knew my parents, and a neighbor. And if I thought much about it at all, I assumed, with a victim’s shame, that his veiled sexual advances were connected to something I had done wrong. Perhaps my braces-filled smile and newly developed body sent an erroneous message that I had yet to decode amidst the confusion of burgeoning adolescence.
Eating over at a friend’s house the other night their adolescent daughter was headed out the door to a party, dressed to the nines. I jokingly teased her father that he would need to purchase a weapon to keep the boys away. “Windpipe, eyes, groin and then stomp on their instep,” he said reflexively. “Huh?” I replied. “I’ve taught both girls where the vulnerable points are if they get in a situation.” So, naturally, I made him show my girls those moves on the spot.