I was very excited when I got my first waterskiing job. I had gone from just a competitor to being paid for what I loved. The job was in Indiana at an amusement park that had a water ski show for entertainment. The pay scale was sliding depending on what you performed in the show. If I just did 180 on my swivel ski then it was less than if I did 360 on my swivel ski. The swivel ski is this: One wide wooden ski with a boot you put your foot in that has two screws on either side. If you screwed on in then the boot only turned 180/front to back, if you unscrewed both screws it was 360. I attached a picture to show you at the bottom. The safe route was 180 because you could rest your foot on that screw if the water was rough, but I loved to spin a complete 360 on the water. It took great skill to spin around on a ski while a boat was trying to pull you only in one direction. The moment I saw the water at this ski show I knew I would be getting paid less as the water was so rough I would never do 360 spins.
I was picked up at the airport by the head of the ski show, “the manager.” He took me back to the “manager’s house” and I felt incredibly special. My new job was starting. I had just had a birthday and was 17 years old. I was finally away from a chronic abuser, my ski coach back home, and I was more than excited.
I thought about this today as I saw a Jeep. I remembered riding in”the manger’s” jeep. Each side of the road was lined with wheat or corn. It was blowing in the wind. I had lived my life in florida and was used to huge oak trees, not open fields where there was just sky and wheat. It was beautiful.
He and I had a great afternoon and evening and he said since there was only one bed I could just sleep with him. In the middle of the night he was having sex with me. I felt extra special. This guy was 15 years older than I was and he thought I was worthy of his sex. The next morning we got in his jeep and as we were driving to the site of the ski show I felt beautiful. I remember the wind blowing in my hair and feeling beautiful. The wind was blowing the wheat sideways and my hair was all askew and I felt beautiful.
I can still remember the walk from the parking to the ski site. I even dream about it still. We had our own boat dock, place to change into our costumes, a sound system that the announcer announced the shows. When I looked at the water my heart dropped. I was not a great swivel skier. That water was not going to be easy to ski on. The lake was massive. There were literally hundreds of boats and all of their wakes were coming our way and beating against the wall we were supposed to ski next to. There was a bridge where all the spectators could watch us. People lined that bridge at every show time. We did 4 shows a day and the night time show was my favorite because we were all lit up in contrast to the pitch black dark. Most of the other boats had either gone in for the night or were sitting in the lake watching the show without stirring the water. I felt like a movie star with the crowd cheering as we did the pyramid (I was on top) and all of the other acts I was a part of. Being on the water always gave me great peace. No matter the circumstance.
I went back with “the manager” that night again. I was on top of the world. The other skiers stayed at the “ski house” but not me. I was at the manager’s house. He didn’t offer to feed me dinner so I asked if I could having something and he said whatever. So I ate my first peanut butter and chocolate chip sandwich. It was all I could find. The nighttime in Indiana was very cool and he had a big fan that blew the nighttime air in. It smelled heavenly. I was so used to the sticky humid air of Florida. To sleep in a man’s arms under the blankets in the cool air, well, I was pretty much a movie star. I felt like I was finally more than just a girl who gets molested.
Up until that point in time my body had been used for an old man’s pleasure since I was 11. I never knew that a man could make me feel special, and beautiful like this one did.
The next day “the manager” had me bring my suitcases to the show. The amusement park was very exciting. It was a mix between a county fair and something a little fancier. They had gocart rides, roller coasters, tons of fried food. There was a restaurant called the skyhouse I think. It was up high and you could look out over the park and the water. We occasionally ate there. I met two wonderful boys. One ran the go-carts. One ran the recording booth where you could record songs and they would play them over the amusement park. He was a phenomenal singer. I spent a lot of time walking around the park with them in between shows and practices.
That night I was told I would be going to the ski house. Where all the other skiers were. The entire team crammed into one house on single beds which they all seemed to love but I did not. I didn’t understand. I didn’t know why I was there and got no explanation. I had hoped it was temporary.
The next day the manager’s girlfriend came and was part of the show. He never acknowledged me. He never spoke to me unless it was in reference to my job. One man. Crushed me. He reminded me that my body was just something that would and could be used. The rest of the ski season that summer was me hoping that the manager would pick me again. His girlfriend left and I had hoped that meant he would come to his senses. I thought sex, using my body, meant something it did not. I had no idea what it meant. I had spent my entire childhood being molested. The blowing wheat didn’t look beautiful anymore. I didn’t feel beautiful. I felt like I was nothing.
The 2 boys who worked at the park, I completely overlooked. They were kind and caring but I was damaged. Too damaged to see their worth. Because I KNEW that deep down “the manager” had to love me or he wouldn’t have had sex with me.
As my timeline is very unclear during those years, I can’t remember when I saw him again, but it was to be in a competition that would be an integral part in me getting a job as a waterskier at SeaWorld. “The manager” stayed at my house in Florida. I think it was a few months later but I can’t remember. For all I know it could have been the next summer. But he had come to his senses. He really cared about me and in my own home, under my parents roof, had sex with me in my childhood bed. And I felt special again.
The next morning we traveled to the competition and stayed in a hotel. The competition had an intro that I had never done before and was very nervous about. I would run up to him, he would throw me in the air. I would do a complete flip and he would catch me in his arms. I believe I stayed in the hotel with my parents because I did not see him until the next day. He was late to the competition. He had a massive hickie on his neck and smelled of booze. I was nothing again. I was broken hearted. He had slept with another woman and stayed out all night. During the competition when he threw me in the air he never caught me. Fortunately I landed right on my feet. I did a flip in the air and landed on my feet in the sand. Our routine was complicated on the water and I hoped he would not drop me. He didn’t. There were scouts there from Seaworld who asked me after the competition to come and audition with them, which I did, and got that job.
I started Seaworld that next summer right after I turned 18 and sure enough “the manager” got a job there too. He didn’t speak to me in a cordial or kind way. He often slapped me on the butt and told me I needed to “tighten up.” I hated him. But I had to work with him yet again and there was no feeling special. I had come to my senses finally and realized I was just being used by yet another ruthless manipulative man.
By the time I made it to Seaworld I was very alone, very lonely, very withdrawn, and very lost. I had no money for an apartment so I slept in my car. I had body image issues, eating disorder issues, and I was numb to life. When I was on the water though, I felt special again. I felt on top of the world. Standing high on the pyramid or on a man’s shoulders spinning around, skiing in to a huge crowd in the stands cheering. I felt incredible. People asked for my autograph like I was actually someone special. “The manager” couldn’t take away everything it seemed.
I have no regrets for what “the manager” did to me. I was barely 17 years old and just leaving a child molester ski coach into what I thought was a world of freedom, finally. What he did to me is on him. I was too young, and too victimized by others to know what men were and were not supposed to do. He did some serious damage though to my already fragile self esteem and body image. Later I learned what he did was considered statutory rape based on his age and mine.
My body has overcome a lot. My mind and spirit have overcome a lot. When I wrote the book of poetry, My Body Speaks, it was my way of letting my body finally have a voice. So many men had hurt me in one way or another. My body never got a chance to really tell its story.
I am now almost 45 years old. It has taken a lifetime to not base my self worth or identity on anything but my own heart and spirit. But I have finally achieved that. My worth is not about a cheering crowd, a job, my body, someone’s use of my body, or anything near that. My identity is rooted in my heart and soul and in my capacity to unconditionally love.
It is a huge victory!
Here is me and my swivel ski: the red face indicates the man’s house who molested me my entire childhood. He lived across the lake from me most of my life.
My waterskiing stopped with the onset of my muscle disease. It was the end of an era that was long overdue to be ended. It was riddled with abuse and pain. But I can still remember the feeling of being on the water. A memory worth keeping.