I don’t know, technically speaking, if there are so-called ‘bad girls’ anymore. Luckily for humanity, social morays have changed quite a bit in the last few decades. (Fingers crossed, they don’t start changing back again.) But when I was in high school there definitely were bad girls and I was very definitely one of them. Not my fault, really. It didn’t feel like a choice at the time; it was the only behavior I had learned for interacting with persons of the opposite sex. I’d been sexually abused /trafficked from before I was even in school. What did I know about normal behavior?
The answer to that question is “Nothing.”
So, yes, I was the girl in the bushes at the boy’s private school; I was the girl making out in a dark corner at a party with some guy I had just met. Provide a salacious set of circumstances, insert my name, and you’ve probably identified some salacious ridiculousness in which I’d participated. When the kind of girl I was met an actual “good” guy, he usually ran the other way… at least if he was smart, he did. Because girls like me didn’t stick around and we didn’t play nice… even though, I must add, we dearly wanted to be wanted, to be loved, really.
Lucky for me, college hit in the mid-60s, making my behavior practically unnoticeable or at the very least, unremarkable. It was still, however, my behavior and it got me into trouble from time to time but it also got my mother to drop me off to a psychiatrist once or twice. (in my favor, I was the one who wanted to go; she didn’t feel it necessary.) College though, not unlike high school, was a kind of a safe space because you got to know most of the people in the space before you made a commitment to go someplace dark with them or back to their apartment. After graduation, out in the real world, I quickly discovered that I was attracting some very strange men with some very strange ideas. Once or twice, I found myself in circumstances where I thought I might not be going home… ever.
It happened purely by accident that I ended up working with a woman I’d known in high school, an outsider of a different sort than I, who said that she knew someone in whom I might be interested. The good thing about this for me was that someone else would know who I was going out with and at least if I didn’t show up the next morning for work, someone would know where to look for the body.
This possible person of interest asked me to marry him on our first date shortly after we’d had sex on his kitchen counter. I said yes without giving it even a moment’s consideration because all I wanted was to get out of the dating market. It was way too scary. And we did have a lot in common… well, a couple of things anyway. He was a gifted artist and he was smart as hell; I liked that. Still do.
We had a couple of rough years together as my bad behavior hadn’t come to any kind of a screeching halt just because there was a ring on my finger, and I was unable, it seemed, to stay faithful. I made the unilateral decision to have a child, hoping that it would somehow fix me, and to my great joy, it did. I decided, again unilaterally, that I would ultimately like to have five children. Prior to the marriage, having been the oldest of 11, I hadn’t wanted to have any children. I was pretty sick of taking care of children. So my husband had married me, expecting no children… I think you can see where this is going.
I managed to sneak in a second child, decided to breastfeed, and discovered that I was happier than I had ever been… and faithful. No problem. Ahhhh, biology at work; it can be a wonderful thing. Then my husband’s parents moved in next door and my life went to hell. His mother was mean and intrusive and his father had the temerity to hit on me. All I wanted at that point, was out of the house and away from them but I got pregnant again, this time by accident. My husband was furious and insisted angrily that I get an abortion and have my tubes tied.
I didn’t know how to get out of it. My body was 31 years old but my emotional response system was still only around 10 or 11. My husband was in charge, bringing in the only paycheck we had, and I had to do what I was told. Within another few years, once the kids headed off to school, I took a job as a Playboy bunny and began living a whole other life on the side. Long story short, I was divorced within a few years and lost custody of my children in the process.
I then married the most recent guy with whom I’d been cheating, hoping to improve on my previous behavior as I had been especially devastated by the loss of my children. I really, really, really did not want to fuck up again. The marriage, which was not wonderful, lasted 24 years during which period of time I cheated with exactly one man and only a few times. For me, that was practically miraculous. During that time I also contracted a disease that almost killed me but instead, changed my life, and ultimately changed who I was so much that my husband began looking around.
I recognized the behavior, having once been attracted by it and I gave him about six months to get his act together. Then, when he suggested it, I got a divorce. I moved out; he was surprised. For some reason, he thought all I wanted was not to be married, when all I wanted was not to be with him. I knew bad behavior when I saw it coming; I’d spent most of my life as the poster child for bad behavior… I’d made a lot of progress and I didn’t want to ruin it by supporting the very kind of behavior I’d managed to put behind me.
I spent the next year on my own, for the first time in my life. It was the longest I’d gone without experiencing sex since I’d been four years old. I thrived. I rejoiced. I celebrated my freedom every Friday night dancing with a group of women whom I didn’t know from Adam… sorry, Eve, but who got together every Friday night to dance, each woman to her own inclinations. No partners.
That was 2008 though and when the economy crashed, my job situation, which had been iffy for years but functioned well enough for me to live, went down the toilet and I had to make a big move just to get a small job that would support me. There was no more dancing on Friday nights but there was food on the table. That was good and I was different. I’d lived alone and known myself, for the first time in my life, without a man. I liked it so well that I knew that I’d be happy to spend the rest of my life as a single woman.
Months went by, and I’d managed to scrape together just enough money to take a couple of days off and run away. An actual vacation. I haven’t had one in years .I figured I deserved it. I booked a room at a clothing optional resort that I’d frequently attended with my second husband who’d been a nudist. I was not a nudist but I did discover, at that resort, that I loved dancing naked. I’d also discovered that a nudist resort was the safest place in the world for a single woman who wanted to be left alone because, although one had to turn down a lot of offers of company, those rejections were always honored , always met with politeness. A single woman at a nudist resort is like gold and the proprietors know that. Disrespectful behavior is simply not tolerated; ejection of the offender is inevitable.
I called a married couple I knew who lived nearby and made arrangements with them to hang out so that there would be even less chance that I’d be bothered by someone. That night I danced like a wild woman to my heart’s content. At one point during the evening, while my friend were dancing with each other, I was asked to dance by a very polite man. I turned him down, naturally. He nodded and returned to the table from which he’d come, although a little while later, when a fast tune came on, he returned and asked again, probably thinking that I may have rejected him the first time because the song had been slow. But he wasn’t slow and so when I turned him down a second time, he mentioned that he lived up the road and that if I felt like coffee in the morning, he’d be delighted to see me. He told me exactly how to get to his house and, as it happened, I knew exactly where it was because the nice man lived in a house that I had once seen years before while it was being built and had secretly thought to myself how much I would like to live in such a house. But I had known at the time that if such a thing were meant to be, it would’ve been, and I’d never given it a second thought once I’d turned my back on it.
My friends left the next morning, and with nothing to do, I thought I’d take that walk, have some coffee and get a look inside the house I’d once been so attracted to. As we sipped our coffees, he described to me the building of the house. It turned out that he had, essentially, built it himself. We chatted for a couple of hours before I had to leave to return home. We exchanged email addresses. I liked him but he was so different from me. He was a nice man, a good man, and had clearly always been one, honorable and honest and respectable. It had been years since I had been ‘a bad girl,’ a bad woman, even, but I felt as though a small black cloud were still following me wherever I went. He didn’t seem to see the cloud though. And when he emailed, he told me that he had visited my website. My history was there, on my website, for everyone to see, and he’d read it; so, he knew who I was, who I had been at least, and he’d emailed anyway… and then he called… and then we dated. Dated! I was 63. I hadn’t dated since the aforementioned date with my first husband and I had never, never, either dated or been with a man like this, a truly good man.
Somehow, I had attracted this man. All those years of personal work seemed to have paid off. I could scarcely believe my good fortune.
To my amazement, not too long after we were married, later that year, I realized that I had fallen in love with him. That was a first. It’s been over seven years now and I am still amazed and even more in love. I’ve had to do some serious work to take personal ownership of my old self, to learn to love the wounded child and the angry woman that I once was because I have discovered that those parts didn’t just go away even though they definitely became ‘better,’ and that only by loving myself unconditionally — by loving all the selves that I have ever been — could I love him with as much love as he deserves and fully embrace and honor all the love he has brought me.