(About a 7 minute read)
Diane had a wicked sense of humor. Usually, she didn’t repeat jokes she had heard, but rather made them up on the spot. But besides being creative, she was quite level-headed and down to earth.
She was the evening manager of a fast food restaurant. After we’d gotten to know each other, I took to staying late in my office so I could drop by her restaurant around seven or eight o’clock on the nights she worked. We’d sit together in the dining room for two or three hours until the restaurant closed.
Diane had the greenest eyes I’ve ever seen on anyone, a pretty good figure for someone who’d had two children, and dirty blond hair. Her facial features included high cheekbones and an angular chin. I think Diane’s most beautiful feature after her eyes was her grin. It was wide and generous.
Our conversations were rarely serious, or at least not wholly serious. Once, Diane soberly mentioned she’d been raised in a nondenominational Christian church before becoming an agnostic around the age of 18 or so. Somehow that quickly led to a flood of jokes about preaching. Yet, there were almost always truths wrapped within the jokes — insights into each other’s lives, views, and values.
One of the very few times when we discussed something that neither one of us laughed at occurred about a year after we’d met. As usual we were sitting in the restaurant when, for some reason I’ll never know, Diane’s mood abruptly changed. “There’s something I want to tell you, Paul, but it has to be a secret between us.”
“Sure”, I said a bit too casually.
“No a real secret. You can’t tell anyone.”
“I promise”, I said, becoming attentive. After searching my face, Diane glanced away, as if gathering her thoughts.
“When I was seven years old, Paul, someone in my family taught me to give him blowjobs. He’d pay me a quarter. I’m not sure why, but I want you to know that about me.”
“God! I mean…God!” I was too shocked to say more at the moment. “What…Who was it?” I finally asked.
“I don’t want to tell you who”, she spoke calmly, “But it messed with me. When I started having sex, I couldn’t at first take pleasure in it. I thought I was fridged. It took me a long time to learn how to enjoy it.” Diane went on to describe how she’d overcome her initial inability to take pleasure in sex. As she spoke, I became aware of the emphasis she was placing on her success at healing herself, and the almost casual way she now seemed to all but dismiss the early abuse of her.
“Diane…” I paused, searching for the right words. “A handful of women have told me about being abused as children, but I think you’re the only one I know who has gone so far in overcoming the problems it caused them.” Diane thanked me for my understanding, and for the first time since she had begun her story, she smiled. “It’s been quite a journey, Paul.” Her smile, I realized, was one of victory.
Our evenings together lasted about two years. During that time I came to regard Diane as my best friend in the city. I wondered if she felt the same about me. One night I decided to test her interest by suggesting we go to a movie that weekend. She enthusiastically agreed.
When Saturday night came, however, she was late showing up at my apartment, where we’d arranged to meet. A couple hours went by, and then another. Finally, she called. She was on her way, and would be there in 30 minutes. Yet, by the time she arrived, it was too late to go to a movie, so we sat on opposite ends of my couch making small talk.
At some point during the evening, I decided on an impulse that it would be a wonderfully good idea to tongue her ear, so I casually crossed over to her end of the couch, and proceeded to do just that. As it happened that was indeed a wonderfully good idea because her ears were among her erogenous zones, and she was quickly overcome with pleasure, which I thought was yet another wonderfully good idea.
We then spent the next six or so hours walloping each other with pleasure in every way we could imagine to do so. Afterwards, she fell asleep in my arms for about an hour and a half until I had to wake her up, for she was pulling a double shift that day by working both the day and the night shifts.
Late in the evening of the day after our love-making, I drove over to her restaurant, parked my car, walked up to the door of the restaurant, and observed Diane behind the counter talking to a co-worker while grinning ear to ear and laughing uproariously.
It was the last time I would hear her laughter for several months.
The moment she caught sight of me, the happiness in her face popped out of existence almost as fast as it takes to snap your fingers. It was replaced by an expression of pure worry, and she placed her hand over her stomach as if something felt wrong with it.
I think I might have turned to look behind me to discover what had caused the change in her expression, because I couldn’t imagine it would be me, but I can’t entirely recall now whether or not I did. At any rate, when we spoke to each other, she quickly asked me to go back to my car and wait for her. I did.
It was a long wait. Naturally, I had no clue what it all meant. And I was pretty anxious when she at last came up to my car to kneel beside it and speak to me through the open window.
“I’m sorry I made you wait so long, but I was hoping you would leave so I wouldn’t need to speak to you. Please, Paul, forgive me for being a coward.”
Leave? Forgive? Coward? I didn’t understand a word she said.
She went on, “All day today, I was happy. I didn’t think about last night even once, but then I saw you and my stomach instantly dropped to my feet. I’ve never felt it sink that fast and low before in my life. That’s how I learned something was wrong, very wrong about what we did last night.”
I couldn’t believe what I was now hearing. I stumbled out some question about whether last night’s sex had been that bad.
“No”, she said, “Honestly, Paul, that was some of the best sex of my life.”
I was now totally lost. Some of the best sex of her life? The worse sinking feeling she’d could remember having? Nothing in what she said was aligning well enough to make sense, but it was just dawning on me that she was in the process of dumping me.
“You made me feel like a slut, Paul.” She didn’t say it accusingly, but she said it with sad conviction. “That was our first date and we should not have had sex. We should have waited. I can’t live with being reminded that I’m a slut, and you remind me of that. That’s got to be the reason my stomach fell when I saw you. It has to be. I have never felt so guilty and ashamed in my life.”
Now to put all of the above in context, this was the first completely irrational thing I’d heard from Diane. It wasn’t like her to run around with a tin foil hat on and a club for beating off alien abductors. She was in my experience, always a reasonable person right up until that night.
I was so surprised I could think of nothing to say besides, “What do you want me to do?”
“Please leave. Please go home. And please don’t come back unless I call you back. I think the best way I can get over it is alone.”
I drove off that night without having said a thing to change her mind. I was so shocked I couldn’t think of anything that might persuade her she was being unreasonable, let alone persuade her to relent.
We didn’t see each other again for several months, but we eventually got together again a few times — albeit never sexually. I was unsure of her now — too unsure to want sex with her. But I wasn’t angry with her, and I bore no grudge against her. Diane’s irrational behavior had been incomprehensible to me, and — instead of resenting her dumping me — I came to feel a bit sorry for her. Whatever had provoked her behavior was a mystery to me, but she was above all a friend — I was unwilling to condemn her for it.
I am still not entirely certain what her rejection was all about, but in the intervening decades I’ve come to know a great deal more about the likely long term effects of childhood sexual abuse. Although I will never really know, it seems plausible to me now that the abuse of her lay behind her behavior towards me. One thing I do know: The victims of child abuse do not merely include the children themselves, but everyone who will ever love those children at any point in their lives — from childhood through old age — so long as any fallout from the abuse still remains.
It’s been decades since I last saw Diane, and I imagine, having known her, that she has worked out over time all or almost all of the problems the abuse of her caused. She seems to have had a genius for that. But I cannot imagine she’s paid anything but a heavy price, no matter how successful she’s been in the end.