I got sick when I was 18 or 19 with what I thought was the flu. I had a 103 fever and all the other flu symptoms. The difference in the flu and this was I didn’t recover. It took a year to feel physically able to function normally again but things still weren’t right. I was easily weakened. Looking back now it is probably when I contracted Lyme disease. A few years after I was still struggling with dizziness and chronic fatigue symptoms, when a friend of mine introduced me to an elderly man who she said would help me with everything. What was everything?
He seemed very sweet. He was in his 90s I think. My friend and a few other girls our age would go out to dinner with him a few nights a week. He seemed genuinely interested in each of our lives. His wife had passed away and he was lonely. He had long since retired from being a teacher and spent time with family and some of these “girls” that had befriended him along the way. He supported all of my interests which back then were going to school for Child Development, painting, and a few other things. He even put a few of my paintings up in his house. I was dating someone at the time and he thought it was great that I had a grandfatherly figure in my life. All of the girls talked about boyfriend problems, family problems, health problems, and everything else going on in our lives. We always met out together or met at his house and I always felt comfortable and safe. One day he offered to pay for me to go to the Mayo clinic to get evaluated for my constant dizziness. He said he would pay for me to stay at a hotel and pay for an evaluation and testing. I was pretty desperate for answers as I had already spent a few years going to doctors and not finding anything resembling a diagnosis. So I decided to go to the clinic.
Since I can’t sleep away from home, due to reasons yet to be determined but obviously rooted in abuse, I stayed awake all night in the hotel. The next few days I slept during the day between testing and appointments and stayed awake all night in the very fancy hotel room. I left the Mayo clinic with an answer. My inner ear was damaged, they thought from the flu (my doctor now thinks it was from Lyme disease and the high fever), but there was no treatment. I did finally have an answer though to that mystery of the dizziness. I was given a blank check for the Mayo clinic by the elderly man and I don’t remember what price I wrote on it but it was a lot.
That next week I profusely thanked him for paying for this trip for me. I was still on my parents insurance and they could have paid for it and would have had to pay the copay but they hadn’t offered and they didn’t disagree when he had offered to pay.
That next week he asked my friend and me to go to a movie. I had known him about a year now and this was the first time we had been invited to a movie. I don’t remember the movie. I do remember his hand on my back. I remember his hand in my hair. I remember looking over at my friend and he was doing the same but she was watching the movie with no regard to his hand. I on the other hand was in shock. I really had no idea what to do. So I sat there as my back was stroked and my hair was played with by an old man in a movie theater. I spent a lot of time convincing myself, as I had done in the past during abuse situations, that maybe I was misconstruing this, maybe I was overreacting maybe I was misinterpreting his intention. I, I, I . Not him. I had to be wrong. I wasn’t . When the movie was over my friend was holding his hand as we walked out to the car. He, holding her hand, leaned over and gave me a wet, open mouthed kiss, and did the same to her. I just stood there. They got into their cars and left. I just stood there. I then wiped my mouth and went home to scour my mouth and body as I felt a violation had definitely occurred.
I called my friend the next day. She was like…”DUH, what did you think, he was giving all this stuff away for free? Just let him rub on you and kiss you every now and then, it’s a small price to pay really.” Now I don’t want to misquote her so let’s just say those are hazy but pretty accurate quote marks there. She definitely said a kiss is a small price to pay for the free stuff. Was this common knowledge? Right after that another one of the girls had “a lump removed from her breast”. When I saw her later she had massive breasts. I confronted her on this “lump” and her response was an angry retort of “at least I wasn’t faking an inner ear disorder to go to the mayo clinic.” So it was common knowledge. These girls were knowingly taking money from this man in return for inappropriate touching!!!! And who knows what else. They claim he was a harmless old man who just liked a kiss now and then. They all thought the price was worth it.
I went to the Mayo clinic at the cost of being kissed by an old man who was preying on young girls, most young girls who didn’t seem so much to mind it! I guess they hadn’t spent their lives trying to get away from it. I never spoke to the man again. I had no voice to explain my disgust, my horror at this arrangement that was willingly going on which somehow I had been pulled into with not so much as a warning. At what cost do you lose your dignity willingly? At what cost do you lose your morals willingly? What price, what cost, were these girls willing to participate in to get something for free? I was and still am completely dumbfounded by their choices. But that was them. I am talking about me.
I always had to pay a price. I never got anything for free. I didn’t get protection. I didn’t get unconditional love, or loyalty. I got to ski on a ski team at the price of the innocence of my childhood being massacred. I got to go to a ski school at the cost of being molested. I got to go to Costa Rica at the cost of being molested. And now I got to go to the Mayo clinic at the cost of being touched and kissed by a man that had no right to do so. The price I paid. When I sat in that movie theater my body remembered what it felt like to be touched when I didn’t want it. My brain had put it aside, temporarily forgotten, but my body remembered.
Our minds can do funny things. They can block out memories. They can create flashbacks. They can be triggered by smells, touch, sounds. Our bodies don’t forget. Our bodies remember. Our bodies tell us all we have blocked out or forgotten just in one single moment of vulnerability. Anyone watching would have seen my body language of an abused victim. Inside my body remembered as well. My skin burned, my insides felt like a hot rod was being stuck all the way through. I was nauseous, dizzy, and sweating, frozen from the cellular memory of past abuse, frozen from the fear and suffering it evoked, being in that movie theater.
How many girls had this man tried and succeeded with this behavior? I was one down but he still had a handful willing to play the game. My boyfriend was furious. He wanted me to suck it up, kiss the guy, keep getting money and free things. My boyfriend, and my friend, tossed me to a (I can’t say wolf because I actually like them, but interject an appropriate stand in word for same meaning here). Of course my boyfriend at the time also was a saddistic bastard who would have sold his own soul if he could so it wasn’t so far fetched he’d sell me off for a free meal.
That same year, the same friend introduced me to another elderly man. He was RICH. Had hundreds of acres, a ranch, a mansion, horses, and boots to fit any size foot that wanted to ride those horses. These old men happened simultaneously. I rode horses on a regular basis with other “girls” he had met from the gym. And once again apparently the price of skeet shooting on the weekends after riding horses all day was a kiss from an old man. This time was different. After being kissed I promptly told his wife that he had kissed me. She was not at all surprised.
It seems for every predator, there is another person covering it up.
I had no instinct to warn me that this kindness came with a terrible price. Kindness should not come with a price. It does with a predator.
I am only a few months in to trauma therapy and we have barely scratched the surface of my childhood. It will be awhile before we even get to these two old men. It can feel overwhelming, The idea that we have to tackle All of this. I shared this story because so many who have been victims of childhood abuse have also had many other traumatic experiences that followed. You are not alone. We have a lot on our plate. We may have also been tricked and manipulated into abusive relationships on top of and after all of the abuse we endured. The list of traumas may be a long list. The list of traumas I have experienced is long. They cannot all be tackled in a day. Maybe some of them won’t need to be tackled at all. Maybe, by the time I get to these two old men in therapy there won’t even be a need to discuss them. Maybe this is the last that will ever be spoken of them. As I heal from the childhood abuse and everyone who perpetuated it, maybe all of the others will fade away. That is my hope at least. It is my hope for me and everyone else with a long list of traumas, that the big things will get smaller and smaller as soon as we knock one off the list. What was big hurdle today, will be a small step tomorrow. Today my therapist said that we don’t have to remember everything to heal from it. Which is good. I’m tired of remembering. I’m ready to just heal.
Sidenote: This mayo clinic trip had nothing to do with my mayo clinic trip yesterday. This happened 22 years ago. My mayo clinic trip yesterday just reminded me of these events.