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I caught the notion, as a child, that there was always someone watching over me. Monitoring my behavior, making judgements whether my choices were right or wrong.

 

First, it is God. And God is a man. Older than Jesus, of course, but faceless. No one has ever seen him. But, clearly, he is a man. My Sunday school teacher  refers to God as “He” or “Him” and I get the feeling that no harm will come to me a long as I am “good”.

 

And then there was Santa Claus, another authority figure. Now, there are tangible rewards for good behavior. When I don’t receive the specific gifts I ask for at Christmas I start to doubt this Santa Claus character is really listening.

 

And also, I wonder if I have been too naughty, ending up on Santa’s bad girl list. Of course before long the myth is busted anyway when I stumble upon my mother’s stash of wrapped presents for the little ones.

 

“Shhhh…don’t you say a word!” she warns. Once I understand that the whole Christmas thing is connected to the household income I give up on being good for Santa. Now, I try to be good for Mom.

 

Mom has her secrets. One of them being exactly what she is up to behind the bedroom door late at night with my stepfather. I know it involves two bodies together, producing sounds I have never heard before. Exertion, exuberance–something wavering in the narrow channel between pleasure and pain. An intriguing mystery I feel compelled to investigate, mostly because I hate him so much. How could such a vile man cast this spell over her? And all the next day, she seems enchanted–cheerfully affectionate, so different than her usual frazzled, impatient demeanor with us kids.

 

God, my internal monitor, was still a voice in my head, integrated with my thoughts–my conscience. Even so, I  feel compelled to do “bad” things, things I know I shouldn’t–rifle through drawers and closets, peek through the tiny gaps between the wooden slats of the bedroom door. For answers to the tantalizing question of sex.

 

My great-grandmother died when I was ten years old. Mom assures me she would be watching over me from heaven forever after. I feel guilty at my relief that she is gone. A stern old woman, she was often my babysitter when I was little and I hold only memories of menace.

 

It seemed she was always after me for some supposed infraction. My inability to sit still or be quiet–the main attributes of a good girl. I don’t recall a tender side at all, excepting her reverent whispers when we said our bedtime prayers.

 

As I got older, I felt great shame that she might be looking down from heaven as  I discover how to make myself feel good. I  close my eyes or pull the shower curtain across and try not to think about her looking–but eventually, because I know I am not going to stop–I start to feel spiteful, even rebellious about it.

 

“Ha! What are you going to do about it, anyway? You are stuck in heaven now. You can’t get me with the strap, now!” I  taunt her in my head.

 

I thought, if I was doing something wrong, God would make something bad happen to me, and he never did. Feeling like I have the go-ahead from this benign force, that always protects me, never punishes me–makes all the difference in my adolescence. Between me and God there is an understanding.

 

Although I acknowledge the cautionary tales telling me that sex is bad and I shouldn’t do it, I have already long ago read the manual. But the clinical information and line drawn illustrations contained in the  slim volumes of the Life Cycle Library don’t explain it all. I am hungry to know more.

 

Eventually it is the young men who fill in the blanks in my education. Our experiences  together bring  the most intense, sensual pleasure I have ever felt. It’s not only physical. It is an emotional connection. It is a psychological satisfaction that transcends the nuts and bolts of our human construction. This is more than biology, more than what can be gleaned from the pages of a book.  And it is free.

 

This becomes my salvation, and ever since. The sweet, abundant reward, whether I am good or bad. Whether I succeed or fail. It’s mine for the taking. I begin to search this secret knowledge in the eyes of men. Do they know the secret, too? I’ve rarely been with a man who didn’t know the secret. And if by chance he didn’t–he would learn it soon enough.

 

 

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