In just a few more days, the strangest event known to man is going to occur. Right — my 40th high school reunion. I am not going. I didn’t attend the 10th, 20th, or 30th; will never, ever attend anything to do with that high school unless, maybe, it’s to celebrate the darn building getting burned down.
I have a couple of male friends who really, really want me to attend this time, guys who’ve been friends with me since I was 12; guys who know my history, who know the awfulness. Guys who can still make me smile, make me laugh, make me feel safe. “We’ll be with you, Marilyn. It’ll be okay. We’ll be together.” As if the past is past; it’s done, gone.
But nothing having to do with me and high school is okay, even though I was really smart, graduated at the top of my class and was the Valedictorian on Graduation Day.
It was only because I was so smart that I was able to skip a ton of school without ever getting caught and do no homework whatsoever, drink like a fish, take a ton of drugs, and still get A’s. Then, after a few years of performing this death-defying feat, the high school principal himself called me at home and pretty much demanded, in a very friendly way, that I was writing a speech and delivering it at the graduation ceremony. (It was a huge school, too. There were over 800 kids in my class alone. The fact that the principal knew me at all, had called me at home on my private unlisted phone number, kinda freaked me out. I thought that I’d better write that speech or I was going to be in some kind of serious trouble.)
For me, the problems with high school started back when I was 11 years old and fell incredibly in love with a boy who was nearly 2 years older than me. I’ll call him Greg because that was his name. Greg was tall, thin, fair-complected with long blonde wavy hair and very blue eyes. He was very smart, too, but he was also very bad. And bad boys, by early 1970s standards, were actually pretty darn bad. But I seriously crushed on him. He didn’t know I was alive until I was 12.
When he did discover I was alive it was only because I was a girl who had fallen into his field of vision and he was horny. He (seriously) got more sex than any guy I ever knew for years afterward, and he was so freakin’ young at the time.
But when I was 12, even though I was sort of the masturbation queen, I didn’t know what masturbation was — that this thing I did to myself had a label, or that anyone else on earth did it too. I had already been taught about “where babies came from” but I hadn’t understood it at all and had no idea that making babies had anything to do with sex, or what sex even was, so me and masturbation were just on this whole other unidentifiable secret planet, isolated from the whole world.
Well, the day Greg discovered I was alive — that was a big day for me, because a lot of key things started to come together in my head. I look back on it now and I cannot believe how young he was. But he was already very into the seduction; talking low in my ear, saying things that make it seem like we are the only 2 people alive. You’re like a deer in the headlights and meanwhile he’s pulling your tee shirt up, unhooking your bra, pulling your pants halfway down. I was completely transfixed — plus I was just so in love with him. It was more than I could handle, really, because it was actually too exciting. I never knew that any guy at all, let alone a guy I had such a crush on, would ever touch me in that secret way that I would touch myself. I couldn’t figure out how he even knew how to do that.
But then we had to deal with the very real presence of the first erection I’d ever seen in my life and the little party was over. I was way too freaked out by it. I didn’t know that erections happened. And so he realized I was way too young for him, and I went right out of his field of vision again, and back he went to the older girls.
I didn’t care that he fooled around with the older girls; I just really, really wanted to be among the girls he fooled around with. A few days later, I was hanging out where he was playing racquetball, and he at least noticed I was alive, but only to smack my ass with that horrible wooden paddle they played with. It hurt like hell because I was only wearing my bathing suit. He gave me a look that was almost a smile but not quite, but it clearly said, get out of here, you’re too young.
My best friend’s older sister was the cutest, sexiest, sweetest girl on earth and she was really bad. She had tits already and hips and the prettiest smile. She laughed a lot and smoked Salems and flattered everyone, and everyone loved her. And she was just plain bad. Her dad loved her a lot and we all knew it. It was common knowledge that she was always getting his belt because she was so bad, but the next day, here came that cute smile again, and her sweet laugh and she went right back to being bad.
She was who I went to to try to understand what Greg had been doing to me, what he had wanted, what had happened. In the sweetest possible way, she explained everything. Even the stuff that kind of freaked me out — like, where that erection was eventually going. She laughed that sweet laugh and said, “Don’t worry, you’ll get wet down there and you won’t even mind it because you’ll be having so much fun.”
Well, nothing else in my life was remotely like hers so I was kind of sketchy about all that fun I’d be having with that erection, but still, she did change my world. She changed what I understood about it. And come autumn, when I was 13, Greg and I were finally in the same school building and he noticed me again and we fooled around a little bit but I could still tell that he could take me or leave me. So I went to the local bookstore and I bought the Joy of Sex. A book that only people who were around in the 1970s can appreciate the full magnitude of. An illustrated book that not only described in explicit detail every single sexual act imaginable, but had pictures to go along with it so, finally, you could not get lost.
I found a much older guy, a hash-smoking, anti-Nixon musician, who thought I was a lot older than I was (even though I didn’t say one way or the other how old I was, still, I was tall and had tits by then and pubic hair, so he literally did not know). And I point-blank asked him to have sex with me and to show me how to do all these things that I’d read about. It took a little bit of persuading but he eventually went along with it. He taught me how to do everything. He was really patient, fun, nice, and almost died when he found out he had just deflowered a 13-year-old girl and taught her how to have oral sex.
But, needless to say, the next time Greg wanted to make out with me, I was full of surprises. And, over night, I became the only girl he was fooling around with. I did not regret a moment of this, gang, because I loved him. But everyone at school was soon talking about me because he’d told his brother what was going on between us and his brother promptly told the entire world. But Greg was just the most unusual guy. So smart. Soon, it wasn’t just about sex. We could talk about a lot things, and he listened to me, to what I knew about music, or poetry, to what I was figuring out about life. He was almost 16 by then, I was 14.
And then, suddenly, in late August, it was over; he was killed in a motorcycle accident and my world fell to pieces. I could not handle his death at all, but the worst part was that, once he was dead, all the other boys started sniffing around. God, it was scary. Everyone knew I wasn’t a virgin. Those boys all wanted to have sex simply because I wasn’t a virgin and I was not interested in any of them; I wasn’t even interested in being alive anymore. But they would follow me home, or call me on the phone, or assault me in the woods that I had to walk through every afternoon to get home from the school grounds.
I’ve always been the kind of girl who, even if I’m scared, will simply speak up for myself. I won’t ever just quietly take whatever anyone wants to dish out to me. So I fought all of them off and basically told all of them what I thought of them. And most of them hated me and called me a whore, but I didn’t give a fuck because I didn’t regret anything that had happened between me and Greg.
And then one Friday evening, at the start of Christmas vacation, 2 older boys from the high school — seniors — got hold of “Marilyn, the 14 year-old girl who was not a virgin,” as I was walking home from a Christmas party and I could not fight them off and they raped the hell out of me. They did not stop until they had taken absolutely everything they wanted from me. Then they were gone. And I was naked, pissing myself, vomiting, crying. No one came to help me. No one was around.
I confided in a couple of my girlfriends about what had happened. In those days, there really was nothing you could do about being raped. Nobody really cared. And it was more an issue of, well, you should have stayed a virgin if you didn’t want guys to treat you like that. Everyone at school was sort of “aware” that this thing had happened to me, but they talked about it like I had “had sex with 2 older guys from the high school.” Not at all how I thought about it.
I wound up attempting suicide and being put away in a mental institution for many months. When I got out, I was suddenly in high school, even though all my friends had been going there for a while already. I never really recovered from that. Never found my right place,never found my footing. Certain jerks on the football team, who never even knew Greg, would still call me a whore. But I would just look at them in disgust and say to their faces, “You’re an asshole.”
They didn’t scare me, because by then, I knew what fear was really like. I knew I would recognize it if I ever saw it coming for me again.
So even though so much life has happened in the meantime; everyone has gone on to have their lives, lives that are sometimes rewarding, sometimes harrowing, but always all-consuming, and so who remembers a rape that happened over 40 years ago to some other girl? And who really cares? If they remember me at all, it’s from that speech I gave on Graduation Day where I told all of them not to be afraid of life, to go out and follow their dreams.
But still, there is so much I do remember, even though I try not to go there because I end up feeling like throwing up. I can forgive and have forgiven, but a reunion? Christ. What would we be reuniting for?