I’ve spent all afternoon thinking about my parents and there is no avoiding the obvious – I’m supposed to be thinking about me, about my life, trying to connect the dots. Since that seems both narcissistic and daunting as hell I’m going to try to write this as a narrative, with snaps, which allows me the luxury of fiddling with design and keeps things at arm’s length…a cheat I know, but I am trying and you never know – I may hit psychological pay dirt in the process (by mistake).
So…I was born in February 1973 in a clinic in Johannesburg, apparently to a student and I was given up for adoption after she spent one night with me, at her insistence. I don’t know anything else about her and I couldn’t care less who the sperm donor was. I was given to a very evangelical Christian orphanage (which makes me wonder if my birth mother was a clapper Christian – perish the thought). I was there for 5 weeks before I was adopted by G (34) and L (40), married for 16 years with no children of their own.
Currently my earliest memories are of sexual ‘encounters’ with my father. The clearest, earliest memory (other than flashes of oral sex-type feelings from before I had words) is of my father jacking off in front of my cot, with me holding onto the bars, the light coming into the room from the door behind him. I know we moved to a mine 40 minutes outside Johannesburg and I’m told that when my mother started haemorrhaging I ran down the road to a neighbour (aunty A) to call her, though I have no actual memory of that. I was about 2-and-a-half years old at the time. Piecing together the flashes and scraps of memory I think that was the first time I was left alone with my father for any length of time and that was when he first had sex with me. Penetrative sex.
I remember loving my oupa, vaguely remember my Granny-love who smelled faintly of booze and strongly of cigarettes and was very thin. She lived across the road at E’s house and she died when I was little. I was afraid of my ouma when I was small – she was mean. I hated her when I got older. I didn’t have much contact with my cousins on my dad’s side – they were all much older than me. We spent most Christmases with my mom’s brothers and their children. I remember playing doctor with T and J, uncle T’s boys – we must have been around 4, and I remember being terrified ouma would walk in. I also remember pushing them to do more than they understood.
We lived in C briefly when I was 6 and 7 (1979-1981). I walked to school with J, our domestic worker. DZ was mean to me and said she wouldn’t play with me. CR tried to lift up my skirt in line after break and I hit him with my cold drink bottle and broke his tooth. We used to go (as a family) with my ouma and oupa to Maranatha Park, somewhere on the east rand every year for Easter – 3 days of Afrikaans evangelical fervour (the horror, the horror). I was sent to ‘sonskyn hoekie’ with the other children to sing ‘father Abraham had many sons, many sons had father Abraham, I am one of them, and so are you, so let’s just praise the lord’ with actions…like the clapper hokie pokie. No wonder I’m Jewish (I converted)! I was adopted from the Maranatha orphanage and my mother loved to reminisce about when they got me and how I was a gift from G-d. Sis.
I used to do rude things with the neighbour’s kids, the Afrikaans kids next door, the Ns and the girl across the road, an English girl a year younger than me whose name I don’t remember – K maybe, or Ky? The Afrikaans girls were M (who was my age) and I think the little one’s name was G – can that be a name, she was maybe 4 at the time – there was a boy too maybe 5 years old, though I can’t remember his name? I think I hurt the little girl, put a pair of scissors into her vagina and a thermometer. I think she told and I got into trouble. Then in 1981 we moved – on the day of the royal wedding, when Charles and Di got married (29 July 1981) – I remember because I was watching it when they switched the TV off to move it – funny what you remember!
When we moved up to the mine property (that’s what we called it – I live on the property) I was 7. I had to catch 2 buses to school, the first at 06h30 which drove us from the mine into town, dropping us off at the Afrikaans high school where we had to wait for another bus to pick us up at 07h00 and take us the rest of the way to school. I remember wishing I was a boy because they got all the cool toys and didn’t have to wear dresses and could have short hair.
I was beginning to be less baby fat and more fatso by 7 and I was taken to paediatricians and put on diets. I weighed 42kgs at 7. I used to bleed too, anal bleeds and the paediatrician said my diet was wrong, I needed more fibre. It hadn’t stopped by 1981, I was in Std 1 and I was hospitalised for rectal surgery to repair the tears. No-one asked any questions.
I’m a bleeder and started haemorrhaging after the surgery and had to be rushed back into theatre. I remember the blood. Why didn’t anyone say, my goodness, this kid has gained 15kgs in 18 months and is bleeding from her arse and fiddling with the neighbours kids, something isn’t quite right here?
I didn’t have many friends on the property, which was four streets in total, maybe 50 houses. We lived in 1st street, across the road from the 9-hole golf course, down the road from the rec club, the pool and the tennis courts. JF lived next door. She was a year older than me and she moved away when I was 9. JL taught me to swear.
I used to read a lot. Noddy and ‘Rupert the Bear’ when I was small. I liked ‘Mary learns to cook’, which taught me how to make pancakes. Then ‘Secret 7’ and ‘Famous 5’ (I loved George, obviously), then all the Willard Price Adventure books were my favourite from Std 2-4. I read ‘Tiger Adventure first’, but I loved ‘South Sea Adventure’ and ‘Underwater Adventure best’, with manta rays and flying fish and living in bubbles under the sea. By 11 I had moved on to Lace, all saucy sex scenes, school friendships, rape and pornography. I can’t imagine why my mother let me read it, but then again I’m not sure they really cared too much what I read (since my father introduced me to German porn that same year, Lace seemed like Disney I guess).
I also discovered music round then, I’m ashamed to admit a love of Michael Jackson (but this was pre his white paedophile phase, at which point the love was ancient history) Cyndi Lauper, Culture Club, Eurhythmics and Duran Duran. I still love Cyndi and Annie. Music became a way for me to connect to other people, a way to identify, a way to interact with the world and it remains a point of reference. I can remember what was playing for almost any important event in my life.
My father liked country music and professed a love of opera, though there was ABBA and Lance James in the car. We had a Volvo, white with brown leather upholstery, the smell of which I will remember as long as I live – leather and cigarette smoke and dad-smell (sort of Brut/fart/sweat/smoke/leather).
My mother listened to Jim Reeves and religious stuff like Jimmy Swaggart – revolting!
I was also friends with KH, who moved to the property when I was 11, she was 12. We used to play ‘A-team’ on the roof of her garage and watch Isis on TV. Then she went to high school and I was still in primary school so we didn’t talk anymore. My bedroom was lilac when we lived in K, then yellow I think in C, then red and white on D through primary school until I turned 13 and insisted everything had to be black.
My parents’ room was yellow and white – my mother still has the same headboard (with my father’s ashes in it.) I would lie in bed with my dad while my mom got ready to go to town, or maybe it was for church (so I must have been 10 or 11). The light was yellow through the curtains. He was naked. I remember his hands on my inner thighs, my arse, under my sleep shirt with the smiley face, no panties – never sleep with panties, your cookie needs to breathe my mother said. I think she must have known – how could she not?
I don’t remember the sex clearly, though I’m trying to. I know I was lonely. I think I knew from an early age I was gay. I remember talking to my cousin B about it when I was 11 – thank G-d for Martina Navratilova. I saw her and her lover in the Huisgenoot and looked up lesbian in the dictionary and the rest as they say is history. I remember being obsessed with videos about women who were raped and then exacted bloody revenge on their rapists. There was no cinema in C through my childhood so the video shop was a regular Saturday stop. I started finding those sorts of movies when I was maybe 10 or 11 and my parents didn’t seem to mind me watching them. I remember being fixated on a movie called Savage Streets, a terrible B-grade movie starring Linda Blair (who I later discovered was the little girl from the Exorcist). I loved that movie, I’d get it week after week and my parents tried to convince me to get something else but I resisted. I must have watched it 20 or 30 times by the time I was 13.
I weighed over 80kgs at 13, almost doubling in size in 6 years. By the time I started High school I stayed indoors a lot and watched videos and read and wished I had someone to love me, someone who saw me and accepted me and wanted to be with me. I was so very lonely and angry and isolated and all I wanted was to find ‘my people’.
Even in primary school I used to lie to my classmates and tell them I had lots of friends in E, where my mother’s family lived, older friends in a gang, drug-taking tattooed friends. Funny that I would fantasise that into being – they clearly knew I was lying, but I wanted it to be true. Why I wanted the drugs and tattoos and perceived violence I don’t know? Maybe I thought if I had ‘tough’ friends I would be safe (and cool). I seem to have become that which I daydreamed for comfort.
I think I gave up on finding my people and I’m trying to become my own saviour…nothing wrong with that really.
We are all in the process of becoming and I’m doing the best that I can.