Friday, November 20, 2009

Who is watching Jennifer?

May 1984 Saturday

Dear Ophelia,
"Hi, I have so much to say. When I spent the night at Chev's, I had so much fun. Chev put a lot of make-up on me and I looked sooo cool. Last night, Cheri spent the night. We watched Porky's and Zapped. It was fun. Today I got my hair cut, it looks real good.

I don't like Jeff B. anymore as a boyfriend. I don't think I like Pat much either. Today I decided that I want a boyfriend that I can have fun with and be comfortable with. Not that I wouldn't have fun with Pat (ha,ha).

Jeff and I don't get along and Mom thinks it might break up their marriage. I hope not. Tomorrow I'm going to a horse show at Elmendorf Air Force Base. I'm not going to be in it though. Here are my measurements: chest 32 1/2, waist 24 1/2, hips 34 1/4.

Two more weeks of school, yea! Cocoa, Pumpkin, Pepsi and Josh are fine. So am I, I guess. Today Mom and Jeff are mad at me. I don't know why. I'm bored.

Jeff and Mom bought a raft and Joel and I go rafting on the bog, it is so fun. Yea! Well I gotta go, bye. Jennifer."

Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska

Jennifer had just taken her measurements the month before. Her chest and waist did not grow 1/2 an inch in a few weeks and her hips did not grow a 1/4 inch. Jennifer must have taken a deep breath and rounded up! Kids can be in such a hurry to become adults....Jennifer was no exception.

Jennifer and her step-father fought quite often. Jennifer was not shy to push his buttons. She resented his parenting and he didn't appreciate her attitude. They fought over simple things, like her posture at the dinner table. It didn't take much to set them off.

Jennifer's mother was smart to remain united with Jeff as a co-parent. However, it left Jennifer feeling frustrated and betrayed. She pushed her step-dad in constant attempts to make him lose control so that her mother would side with her. Jennifer might have been trying to break them up, but it wasn't a conscious thought. She did long for the little townhouse that she and her mom were supposed to share together. Jennifer did not anticipate the wedding engagement. Jennifer had looked forward to having her mother's undivided attention. She wanted her mother all to herself.

Finally, the fighting broke her mother. It wasn't the result Jennifer had hoped for. Her mom cried and told Jennifer and Jeff that she couldn't take it anymore. She said she couldn't choose between them. She expressed her anger that they both seemed to be forcing her to choose. Jennifer was shocked to see her mother so upset. They had a moment alone and she let Jennifer know that the fighting, if it continued, would end her marriage.

Jennifer knew then that she could win this battle. She could drive them apart and she would have her mother all to herself. But she also saw that her mother would be broken-hearted. They would move to the townhouse but Jennifer knew it wouldn't be a life of painting toenails and talking about boys and watching movies together. It would be a life of loneliness--not hers, but her mother's. After 11 months of living together as a step-family, Jennifer finally accepted her mother's marriage. She conceded defeat. She didn't want to win if it meant her mother had to lose.

June 1984

Dear Ophelia,
"The weekend before last we went to Colony Days horse show up in Palmer. Chev, Teri and I went. It was real fun. We stayed for four days. I didn't ride in it (boo hoo). Chev, Teri and I slept in a tent. Sunday night I barfed in it. ha ha.

Every night I went to bed around 11 or 12 and got up at about 5am. I got to feed horses, tack up horses, pick out stalls, watch the show, eat, clean boots, groom horses, clean tack, put hoof oil on horses and lots of other stuff. Well, I had a great time.

I did OK on my finals as far as I know. I did a project in Social Studies. I'll tell you my grades when I get them.

Last weekend I went to 4H camp. It was really fun. Toby and I shared Waco. Waco is a cute pony. He's really fun. Toby is a groom like me. Chev road Dusty, a fat, lame, pretty horse. Toby has never cantered before and she got in trouble because she cantered on Waco at camp (more later).

You see, the 4H people were divided up and given counselors. My counselor was Laurie M. She owns Gable and she is really nice. Well Saturday, there were clinics and stuff. I rode a lot. I also rode Waco bareback, which was fun. Sunday I practiced equitation and I rode a really cool horse named Spice. Spice is really smooth and fast. I rode her bareback too.

Toby doesn't know that much about horses. She just wants to ride, ride, ride. Anyway, today I found out that Debbie found out that Toby cantered Waco which is a no, no. Debbie said that because of that and other reasons, Toby couldn't ride for one month. Well Toby quit.

Debbie also found out that I rode Waco bareback and I didn't know that I couldn't. Well I didn't get in trouble. Debbie also said that she heard rumors about me and Toby sitting on the Pone when we take her for walks. Well we did but I told Debbie no because I don't want to lose my job and I want a second chance.

Well from now on, I'm going to be a very good groom and use my common sense so that Debbie can trust me. I like Toby but she is a bad influence on me. Monday and Tuesday (today) I worked at Diamond H and it was so fun. Monday I painted fences and rode the Pone. I did the same thing today among other things.

Hopefully soon, I'll be leasing the Pony. Debbie kind of put me in charge of her. I'm so happy. Every day this week at least, I get to ride her and groom her. I also get to clean her stall. She is a little stiff in her leg so, right now, she only walks and trots and jumps a little. I only get to ride her about 20 minutes. But I'm happy. Well I gotta go. I'll write tomorrow. Bye Ophelia. Your friend, Jennifer, Pone."

As a parent, this just enrages me! Jennifer doesn't want to lose her "job"--she isn't even paid!!!!!! She is thirteen years old! She is away from her parents sleeping in a tent in Palmer, Alaska (while Debbie slept in a live-in trailer). She is up until midnight and waking at dawn. She is doing everything a groom at a horse show gets paid to do. She is shoveling manure, cleaning other people's boots and saddles and washing their horses for free while they ride in the show and she just watches!!

Debbie is a piece of work!!!! She dangles the riding privilege over the girls, she punishes them for sneaking a ride (granted, they shouldn't do that....) but they work their tails off for nothing! Jennifer never did ride as much as she worked or even close. Just because Jennifer is so happy--doesn't make it right!

(By the way, in what world is barfing in a tent funny???)

The horse show was part of the annual Colony Days festival in Palmer!

School is out now for Jennifer and it is summer vacation. Her brother, Daniel, is visiting. He lives with their dad in Foster City, California during the school year.

July 11, 1984 Wednesday

Dear Ophelia,
"I've been so busy. Just about every weekend I've gone to a horse show. At the Diamond H horse show, I was going to ride the Pone but she went lame. I've been going to the ranch almost every day. The Pone is at Debbie's house and I'm not leasing her.

This coming Monday, I'm going to California so I can't lease her till I get back. I might lease Laura M.'s pony, Jodi. She's a big pony.

Guess what I did? Well a few days ago, Erik came over to visit Dan. Well, we stayed up all night. Daniel and Christian finally went to sleep and Joel, Erik and I did Joel's paper route. Then we came in and watched, Snoopy Come Home.

Well, Joel fell asleep and Erik had his head in my lap. Soon he had his arm around my waist. Wow. Then he was feeling my thighs. Then he looked at me and we started kissing (french). And we were totally making out on the couch. Joel was asleep. Then we went outside and made out there. (EDIT)

Then a few nights later, Joel and I got accidentally drunk. I had 20% alcohol in my blood and Mom and Jeff took me to the hospital. I had my stomach pumped and blood tests and I almost died. I'll tell you my punishment later.

It was an accident. I'm never going to do it again. It wasn't worth it. I didn't even try to get drunk. I just wanted to try some wine.

Well, I'll write more tomorrow. Bye the way, yesterday I babysat Debbie's step-son. He's 8. She's going to pay me today. Today I'm babysitting for Karen M. for $2.50 an hour (Debbie pays $2.00 an hour). I babysat for the M's before and I made around 44 or 54 dollars. I can't remember which. Well, I gotta go, bye. Your friend, Jennifer."

I will be throwing in EDIT's here and there from now on as I transcribe these diaries. It is to preserve Jennifer's dignity for herself and for her family. I will also attempt to preserve the dignity of the people she writes about. When I write EDIT, it is because I'm not going to transcribe every word of what follows. I will, however, stay true to emotional content. I will always explain the purpose of the EDIT and I will re-word what Jennifer wrote as best I can with the preservation of dignity being of primary importance.

The EDIT above is for what happened between Jennifer and Erik while they were outside. I will summarize what she wrote and what she recalls from that day. Erik became determined to take things much farther with Jennifer than she was prepared for. He took her outside so that no one would hear him or stop him. He forced himself on Jennifer but he did not succeed. It was getting to be late morning and people in the condos were stirring. He gave up. Erik was a junior in high school and Jennifer was in the 7th grade. He did not want to hurt her, his thoughts were only for what he did want.

Jennifer had wished for something like this to happen in a previous diary entry. (Out of the Mouths of Babes.) She had a crush on him. She was confused by the change in his attention from affectionate to forceful. She was quite relieved when he let her go. She brushed the incident aside as a temporary lapse of reason. He was older and she assumed that what he did was normal for him. She wished she could be older for him. She did not tell her parents. She assumed Erik loved her. He didn't. She called him and he didn't call her back. She imagined they might get married. They didn't.

(Jennifer didn't blame Erik because she had once witnessed his mother beating him and berating him. She was a tiny woman with tiny hands and he was a healthy, teen aged boy. Jennifer saw him cowering from her. Jennifer has always had a soft spot for anguished people. She bears him no ill will to this day.)

However, I don't think it is a coincidence that Jennifer almost drank herself to death a few days later. She was crushed by the entire experience with Erik. He seemed to love her (even though it was not at her level) and then he abandoned her.

Anyway, she didn't accidentally get drunk. She and Joel drained a box of wine. Then Jennifer found an unopened box and drank that until her brother, Dan, hid the box from her. Then, with an uncanny physical intuition, Jennifer hunted out a bottle of vanilla extract in the kitchen and downed it. She didn't know there was alcohol in vanilla extract, but somehow her body knew it. At 98 pounds, Jennifer was soon under the effects of alcohol poisoning.

She stumbled into her parents bedroom because she was unable to unbutton her pants to use the restroom. With a house full of brothers, she retained enough judgement to seek her mother's help. (Funny what does and does not make sense to a drunk). Her mom and Jeff quickly realized she was in trouble. Jennifer blacked out and then passed out. They carried her to the car and the whole family went to the hospital.

Joel threw up in the hospital bathroom while Jennifer got her stomach pumped. The doctors let her parents know that she would have died if they had not brought her to them. Thank God for button-fly jeans!

Jennifer took care of everybody--her pets, other people's pets, other people's kids, other people's horses. She did her school work, took a bus to the barn, flew on airlines without her parents, skied by herself, made the National Honor Society, spent weekends at horse shows with no one to watch out for her. But who was taking care of Jennifer?

Jennifer didn't share anything with her parents, so they really had no idea what was going on in her life. Only her diary knew her secrets. Twenty-six years later, talkative Jennifer who will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about anything, is finally learning how to share real things about herself. She's finally learning how to ask for help even for life's more mundane problems.

Jennifer spent her life keeping her chin down and gloves up--if she fell, hey it didn't hurt, if she was betrayed, hey, it was her own fault for trusting, if she was abandoned, hey, she wasn't worthy anyway. She spent her life making other people's bad choices no problem for her, she was cool. Everything was her fault and she found it easier to attack herself than others.

Jennifer now felt abandoned and disappointed--she sought escape. She attempted to drown her sorrows in alcohol. I compared Jennifer once to a skittish horse--she's easily stressed and her response is to run, to get away. Not because she feels afraid, but because she feels helpless. She hit junior high at full speed with no real coping skills or confidence.

Jennifer began to doubt herself--to doubt her mother's love, to wonder if her father saw her as a child or as a child support payment, to doubt her own worth, to confuse lust and love, to feel isolated and all of this weakened her. In her weakened state, she became vulnerable to her own bad behavior and to the bad behavior of others.

On top of that is the practical danger of a girl on her own. I will tell you, there are cultures in the world that never take their eyes off their daughters. These girls are not left alone with boys or men until they marry one. It's not because girls or boys are "bad", it's because they are magnets! The forces at work are often stronger than the immature wills of their masters. I do understand it. It isn't practical. It isn't "modern" or "western". But again, that doesn't make it any less real. If a parent is not watching their daughter, they can pretty much rest assured that she is being watched by someone.

Who was watching Jennifer? Erik was.

Have you ever been alone with someone and things suddenly got out of hand?

Elmendorf Air Force Base
U.S. Air Force Base near Anchorage
Established in 1940
In 1957, Elmendorf earned the motto "Top Cover for North America" due to a huge build-up of air forces during the Cold War.
The base's location is strategic for world-wide deployment
It is also an alternative landing site for the Space Shuttle.


  1. Jen: Your post makes me glad I have 3 boys and no daughters. I hope none of them will ever push themselves on a girl.

    I was sexually molested when I was 13, but it was not by a teenage boy but a 35 year old man, and it was completely against my will. He told me not to tell anyone and I didn't for 20 years after he was long dead from alcoholism. I finally told my mom when I was in my 30s. She told me he was always trying to hit on her too so she was not surprised. I still carry a great deal of negative baggage from that incident. I lost my innocence and became ashamed of my developing body.

  2. Hi anonymous,

    I am sorry to hear what happened to you. I think it is more common than any of us know. Jennifer had a similar experience which I will be writing about in an upcoming post.

    What that man did to you was illegal. I know that it shapes you for the rest of your life. It's hard to explain why that is. You can't ever go back to the way you were. You are forced into maturity that you aren't ready for.

    I hope you felt better after telling your mother too.

    Thanks for sharing!


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