On the stage, I sang,"To all the girls I loved before." At home, I have thought long and hard about all the women I have wronged. Like the Drive-By Truckers say, "Don't be so easy on yourself." Starting with my mother, I had disappointed her in grade 3 when I was caught on the playground showing off my older brother's May Playmate calendar. I knew I was in trouble when my grade 3 teacher, a silver haired wire framed glass wearing old maid sat me down saying, of all the boys in her class, she had never expected this from me. Her disgust was palpable, and she had no choice but to share this incident with my mother.
All afternoon I waited for my mother to come home from this parent and teacher conference. I thought of running away, and I got as far as getting on my bike, and riding round the corner, when a large barking dog chased me back home. I returned to my bedroom where I waited for the judgement. When Mom came home, she asked me to sit down, as she had to discuss something with me. You probably know what I'm going to say. I knew what was coming. The feelings of shame enveloped me. Like Madge said, I was soaking in it.
"Of all my sons, you are the last one I would have expected this from," she echoed the teacher's sentiments. Why? I shrugged, I dunno. I'm sorry. I'll never do it again. The reason was simple. The "bad" kid of the class, Randy, ( the bad kids are always Randy) had brought his father's pen with the girl in the bathing suit. When you turned the pen upside down, the bathing suit disappeared. So it was competition that drove my decision, not moral turpitude.
My crime was distribution of unacceptable material, shocking society and the schoolyard with my youthful pornographic interests. But no one spoke of the larger crime: I had stolen this calendar page from my brother. Surely, that should have been the real crime. One doesn't steal from your family.
My theiving ways were not limited to porn; I shoplifted candy just to see if I could get away with it. And I was fairly successful; I did get away with it most of the times, except the one time when my mother caught me. She was not amused. She was suitably shocked and offended. She reprimanded me and gave me her famed "five finger exercise." I'm sure she also threatened me with "wait until your father gets home." Except that my father was not usually at home, except for on the weekends. By the time he came home from his sales job on the road, he had no interest in being the bad guy. He had very little interest in fathering either, much to the disappointment of his children, much to the martyrdom of his wife, and much to the contraire of his public image.
My world of home was dominated by women, my mother and my sisters. My older brothers, like my father, found ways to escape- friends, jobs, girls, cars, wars. I wanted their attention, their recognition, their love. My childhood was not a prison, or the nightmare existence that many children live through; it was a very typical middle class family existence in the 60's. Kennedy, Oswald, Ruby, Apollo, the Beatles, cars, motorcycles, forts, fights, long walks by myself, trudging through snow drifts to get to school, Hot Wheels, Matchbox cars.
In a house filled with so many siblings and parents, I lived mostly in my mind. And it was crowded in there, with all those bad thoughts pushing me around.
My interest in girls began at an early age. My first crush was on my kissing cousin; I am not sure if she knew my feelings then, or even if she knows now. But being attracted to your cousin must be wrong. Next was a girl named Marlene in grade two. I tried to kiss her. I chased her all around the playground. My feelings for Marlene were not reciprocated, but she at least was laughing in a good way. Not at me, I don't think she thought I was a creep. At least I don't think she did. Our schoolyard chases were playful, young and all a bit of fluff. I can't remember if we actually did kiss, but I think we did. Did I wrong her? I can barely remember her.
The next objects of my affection were two girls who I wronged in grade 5, we should talk about them for a moment. She sat in front of me, in the first desk. All the desks were arranged from the smartest kid to the dumbest kid in what now seems like one of the more cruel arrangements of my young life. My teacher was the first male teacher I had. He was very handsome, and always wore a white shirt, button down, with a skinny black tie. Jacket seemed to be non-existent. Often the shirt was short sleeved like Michael Douglas in Walking Tall, no excuse me that was not the name of the film. It was Falling Down. Sort of the opposite. In retrospect, I guess the title Falling Down is a comment on the revenge fantasy of Walking Tall. This teacher was also the coach and the PE teacher. His strength and dominance were compelling to me. He seemed to be interested in me as a person. Often he would let me go to the library to read, as he knew I was bored with the regular assignments. So when he arranged the desks in order of smartest to dumbest, I did not question the logic or the fairness of the arrangement. My place was the second desk, and my place was secure in his world.
In the first desk was an odd girl. Her name was Sally. Sally Odd. I kid you not. She was a big girl with a slight girl moustache, and she was very funny and a great friend and confidant. My wrongs to her were not even considering her attractive, even though as I look back at her white shirt cleanliness, I remember beautiful eyes, and dark eyebrows, and breasts. No, that can't be, it was grade five. Or was it? Strange how the mind plays tricks.
One of the many cruel tricks that the teacher played was reading aloud the homework of some of the more challenged children, including my neighbour, Julia. She lived across the street, kiddy corner, in a small dirty house. She was one of about 8 kids, the result of a blended family of her mother and father's marriages. They were the first poor people I was really conscious of, and it was thought that they all shared one room ( and bed). She was poor, dirty face poor. She was the first kid that I was conscious of as being poor. We were not poor; we were middle class. We had a Catholic family next door before I started school, the Sullivans, who had 10 or more kids. There were so many kids in that house, that it always smelled like piss. Piss and honey. I remember that smell even now.
As my grade 5 teacher read aloud Julia's homework, he cruelly made fun of her bad spelling. "For brekfast I had a pass of tosst." " A pass of tosst? " I sat in my second desk from the head of class knowing that this was wrong to make fun of someone. Especially someone clearly not a mental or social equal. But I sat there in my second desk just watching him make my neighbour Julia cry. I said nothing and that was wrong.
So I wronged Julia too. We are up to about five women that I have wronged, and I haven't even mentioned my sisters yet. Suffice to say, I probably wronged them too, so let's just add them to the list of the women I have wronged.