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Yes, those words were used to describe me at about age 13 by my stepfather.  I had no idea what that meant or what I might have done to have been labeled that way, I only knew that those words wounded me in a manner that I couldn’t describe.  My stepfather also said I “looked like a whore” the first time I wore makeup out of the house and many other not very flattering things throughout the two-and-a-half years he was  married to my mother.  Yes, I know, he wasn’t very nice.

My mother had her own issues as well.  She told me, somewhere between the ages of 12 – 16, that I was too forward with men.  She said that I stood too close to guys when I talked to them, that I pushed my chest into them, I touched them too much, and more than once, my mother told me that I was just asking to be raped because of the way I behaved around men, especially ones who were significantly older than me.

I was sooooooo sheltered growing up, we had no television, strictly monitored music choices, carefully selected library books, clothing modest enough to be made fun of all through junior high school and no unsupervised interactions with the opposite sex until I was old enough that they were impossible to prevent.  Add to that the fact that I was raised by a woman who was most likely a sex addict and who was oh so scared to death that her little girl would turn out to be just like her… and I was doomed from the start.

She never taught me how to behave around men and conversely, she never taught me how NOT to behave around men either.  I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 18, and since I graduated at 17 that meant I had already moved out on my own and didn’t live with anyone of whom I could ask questions regarding the many mysteries of dating.  Mom never really welcomed those sorts of questions at any point of my life so I was pretty much on my own.  Doomed, I tell you, doomed…

All of this has come back to haunt me because this last weekend I was a chaperon on my youngest daughter’s music trip.  This involved a 15 hour bus ride there, one day at the competition, one day at a theme park and another 15 hour bus ride back.  My daughter dress and behavior both mortified and horrified me me on this particular trip.  Besides wearing Daisy Dukes, that I naively thought she only wore around the house, paired with either a skin-tight tank top or a mostly see-through shirt my daughter was one of two couples on the bus that were repeatedly asked to stop making out!  I was so embarrassed I cried.  A lot.  I told my daughter that her clothing and behavior made me embarrassed to be her mother at that moment.  She apologized.  We hugged.  She came out the next morning wearing pants and a more modest shirt.  Peace was restored.

The bus ride home started at 10 pm and went through the night so the teacher required girls to sit with girls and boys to sit with boys.  My daughter was The Poster Child for love-sick teenagers all over the world in spite of my changing seats to sit in the seat in front of her and me sitting in that seat cross-way so I could watch her.  Oh. My. Gosh!  That child and her True Love held hands across the aisle, with that Brave Boy sitting very awkwardly in his seat, leaning his head against the back of the chair in front of him so that he could reach his arm forward and hold her hand.  You could almost hear that famous line from The Princess Bride “Wuv, Tuhwooo Wuv”.  I wanted to vomit.  Throughout the long, long drive home I had to tell her to stop laying down in the aisle so she could be closer to him and get back in her seat.  I had her come up and sit with me and we started watching a movie on my laptop.  She said she was going to go to sleep and went back to her own spot where, surprise, surprise, she suddenly became wide awake and started talking with the other boys sitting near her as Prince Charming had finally managed to fall asleep once she stopped being a growth on his hand.  Eventually I fell asleep for a short while (I’m old, I couldn’t help it), only to wake up and see her sitting on his lap.  More tears from me.  She feels bad and says she’s sorry again and goes back to her seat but for the remainder of the trip I am seriously considering suicide, especially because once the sun came up the “girls sitting with girls and boys sitting with boys” rule ended.  I had to stop the other couple from kissing and my daughter went back to sitting openly on Lover Boy’s lap.  I was at my wit’s end. I felt like a failure as both a parent and a chaperon. There was every chance that if I could not stop my daughter and the other couple from excessive public displays of affection that her teacher could get fired and/or the entire music department could get banned from trips requiring bus transportation.  It has happened before in this school district!

I have to admit the thought that my daughter was acting “like a virgin in heat” did come to my mind more than once.

The nightmare finally ended, the bus pulled up to the school and we silently disembarked, wordlessly loaded all our luggage into the car and quietly went home.  In the car on the way she and I started talking and I think we finally, finally connected.  I shared some of my stories about growing up with my mother.  I told my daughter that based on what I saw – and wished I could unsee – from this weekend that she looked like a girl who sleeps around (I specifically did NOT use the “virgin in heat” phrase) and that if I got that impression after only a couple of days with her and her school friends than what were her teachers and fellow students thinking?  What kind of reputation did she have around school?  I then asked her to tell me what kind of girl she is.  She appeared absolutely shocked that her behavior could be interpreted as promiscuous and told me that she does not sleep around.  I chose to believe her.

I really, really hope that this conversation actually got through to her because if it didn’t I don’t know what else I could possibly say to her that would make a difference anymore.  I feel like I’ve failed her somehow, to let her become this desperate, broken, lonely heart but I don’t know how to be a better mom.  I know I’ve done my best but I don’t think it’s good enough and I’m scared for her.  Really scared for her.

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