It was early in life that I learned what most monsters look like. They have no fangs, no claws, no high collared capes to hide behind. Instead they resemble regular people. They fit in, they blend, they walk among us, they hide in plain sight.
I was in elementary school when I learned this, although perhaps I had an inkling earlier though I have no memory of it. It was the early 80’s and missing children were barely showing up on milk cartons, serial killers were not celebrities and parents still let their kids walk to school. I was doing just that, walking to school with a group of neighborhood kids when the monster appeared.
He didnt look like a monster, he looked like a business man in his grey three button suit and smoothly combed hair. He carried a briefcase to complete the ensemble. We were less than a block from school as he approached from the opposite direction. The group of us moved into a single file line to allow him to pass us on the sidewalk. Now I will never know if he picked me or if it was just sheer luck that I was last in line but as he passed me, he moved his briefcase. He was carrying it at waist height, directly in front of him and behind it his pants were open and his monster was in full view and at nearly my eye height it was frightening. The suit and tie completely incongruous to the rumpled pants and shock of his penis hanging from his open zipper behind the case. I stiffened (no pun intended!) but pretended not to notice and kept pace with my companions. I never mentioned it to them or the school.
Over the next decade from the age of about 8-18 I was witness to public masturbation and indecent exposure more times than I can count on both hands. Twice at Knott’s Berry farm, while driving, playing at the park, eating at the mall, at the beach and so on. Sometimes I was alone, sometimes with my sisters or friends. As I have grown older I have come to realize that this is not the typical experience. While some ladies I know have had an experience similar, for the most part it is just that one experience. When I would retell the tales of mass public weenie views I am usually met with open mouthed disbelief. Eventually I stopped telling the tales. The looks I received were bad, but the knowledge that I was selected by monsters specifically was horrifying. Why me? What was the reason I was chosen? Why did men look at me like a lion does a steak? Why was I aware of my sexuality at an age when I should have been playing with dolls?
When it was revealed that there was a monster in my own home it started to make more sense. You see my father’s a monster. He didn’t spread his evil out in the world, at least not to my knowledge. Instead he kept his sickness hidden in our house, in our family. I think that kind of evil leaves a trace, a faint smell that is detected by those with the same sick noses. He was my first monster and his stamp of VICTIM was emblazoned across my forehead in ink only visible to those who seek to hurt the innocent.
After years of suffering these and other abuses, both those that I sought and those that I fought. After therapy and drug addiction, after promiscuous sex and failed relationships, after sobriety and forgiveness. It dawned on me that I was not getting as many lascivious looks. Though I was a few years older, I gotta say I’m still a pretty hot mama but something intangible had changed. Somehow during the years of work I put in to understand my history, somehow on the path to forgive him, to forgive me, to let go of the self loathing and start in on self loving, in scrubbing my soul clean I had unknowingly washed away the stamp. The Curse of Victimization was mine no more.
These days when I notice the stamp on another I make a point to let them know. Not that they are cursed, but that they are loved. Not that they are victims, but they are survivors. That they are wanted not for their bodies or sex but for the sparkling potential that this former victim recognizes inside of them.