I started out in this life as an only child and, frankly, that was working out pretty well for me. My parents were divorced and I was enjoying living with my grandmother, who had been taking care of me since before I could walk. After some honest self-reflection I can acknowledge that Gram spoiled me, not rotten, just spoiled. Life with Gram was sweet.
Around the age of eight, my father met and married the woman who would dominate my young years with a combination of frenetic Brady-Bunch-like-activities mixed with manipulation and ultimate control over every moment of my daily existence. Upon the union of my father and the woman who we will refer to herein as “Lulu”, I also inherited two step-brothers.
We grew up in a very small ski resort town nestled atop one of the beautiful mountain ranges of Southern California. It was the kind of place where you could safely let your kids walk the mile or so to town to pick up a gallon of milk during a snowstorm, or to drop them off at the lake to rent a row boat and do a little fishing during the summer.
At the age of 15 I did not enjoy what one might consider the normal freedoms of a teenage girl. For the record, I was considered the “goody two shoes” in my small group of friends and hadn’t experimented with much of anything other than kissing a boy occasionally. If I were given permission to be anywhere other than my house , it was well a known fact that Lulu could and would show up randomly to check on me.
On a lovely summer afternoon, June 15, 1982, it was my best friend, Lisa’s 15th birthday . We called it her “golden” birthday because she was turning 15 on the 15th. We had plans to spend the afternoon swimming at their community pool, which was normally empty (of people, not water). We would have the place to ourselves, five girls, Loverboy blaring on the cassette player, Hi-C and a box of Oreo’s. What could be better than that? These were pretty innocent times, at least in our world.
There was one minor detail that needed to be worked out, however. The other girls were all going to be wearing bikinis and I didn’t have one. I was not allowed to wear a bikini. Now, I was a little more developed than my friends at this point, and not something I was happy about, so finding a top to fit me was a challenge. After some rummaging through my friend’s older sister’s drawers though, we found a top that worked and someone else had bottoms I could borrow. They didn’t match, but I didn’t care, I was with my friends and they didn’t want me to feel left out. We walked arm in arm to the pool singing “Working for the Weekend” as loud as we could.
As I mentioned before, it was well known that Lulu could magically appear at any moment and my friends used found it highly entertaining to yell, “Hey, Jen, your Mom’s coming!” They knew those words would strike the fear of God in me and never tired of seeing my reaction. So, as my friends and I were having a great time at the pool I heard my friend yell those dreaded words “Hey, Jeeennnnn, your Mom’s comiiinnnng!” For some reason, this day, it didn’t actually register with me until she said it a second time. I froze mid stride on my way for a refill on the Hi-C (we were crazy like that) and grab a couple more cookies. By the way, did I mention that I was definitely not allowed to be drinking Hi-C or eating Oreo cookies?
Sheer panic bordering on terror washed over me as I was actually looking for a place to hide, like this was a perfectly logical thing to do, when I heard our Jeep Wagoneer come barreling down the road. It had it’s own unique sound, sort of a light jangling in the wheel… I knew the sound of that car with my eyes closed, like a dog knows the sound of their master coming home. I went for the only place I could think of at that moment, behind a door. There weren’t exactly a lot of options. I didn’t actually believe that she wouldn’t find me, I mean she knew I was there, I HAD PERMISSION! This was a Lulu approved event! I just needed a moment to think about how I was going to explain the bikini.
She barged on in, in typical Lulu fashion demanding to know where I was, her big crazy eyes in full effect. I quickly came to the conclusion that hiding behind the door was probably not the best idea, so I decided to show myself and just get on with whatever punishment lie ahead. I was already calculating how long I was going to be on restriction, which was really ironic considering my life at that point seemed to be one giant restriction after another.
There I stood dripping wet in my borrowed, mismatched bikini looking a bit like a string bean with boobs and nothing to say for myself. I know she was yelling something at me as she pulled me by my hair and spanked me in front of my friends yes, I said spanked, all the way to the car, but I can’t remember now. The words aren’t important anymore, but the way she made me feel that day, and on many other occasions, affected my psyche in ways that I never fully realized until much later in life.
My friends were shocked to see me getting spanked and dragged away from the party like a child. I was quite embarrassed myself, but as the time has passed this story has become funnier in its retelling among my friends because of the sheer ridiculousness of it.