My Daughter, Janicebytarkatony©
I don't know if it's true of every parent, but it's certainly true of me: I have a favourite child: Janice, the youngest. The reasons for this are three: she is our only girl; she is by far the most caring, and she is the most vulnerable.
Brad, Bob and Peter grew up in a whirlwind of baseball bats, hockey sticks and footballs — then left: to college, then into business, then into societies that rarely include us.
Janice has always been different. Where the boys sped through life, Janice kind of bumbled along, spending most of her time in her head, or between the covers of a book, or helping people. And she has never really left us: she visits often from college and returns every summer to live in her old room and work as a research assistant in a medical lab.
It is common on summer Saturdays for me to knock on her bedroom door in mid-morning with two cups of coffee so we can sit and talk for an hour or so, me on her bed, Janice in her reading chair.
"What are you reading?" I reached out and she handed me the book.
"'The Da Vinci Code' and I'm absolutely hating it."
I laughed, I knew she was a very particular, very demanding reader, "You're a bit alone in that aren't you? The guy has sold a gazillion of them."
"Doesn't make it any good. The characters have all the description and emotion of stick figures and, of course, the story is based on outrageous lies."
"Then why are you reading it?"
She laughed sardonically, "Good question. I think it's one of those traffic accident things — where you can't take your eyes off it. I want to see how bad it gets."
I had been absently thumbing through the book when I came to a photograph which she was using as a bookmark. "Who's this?"
"Who's Janie?" She looked to be about Janice's age, 23 and over-weight, like Janice, but a little more so.
"A friend," Janet responded, laconically.
"Must be a good friend for you to keep a picture of her."
Janice smiled, "These days, she's a kind of soul mate."
"Tell me about her." I put the book on the bed and gave her my full attention. She never talked about any of her friends; I wasn't sure she had any.
There was no smile on Janet's face when she said, "You may not want to know."
"What are you talking about, of course I want to know."
So she told me. They had met in the television room at the dorm a month into the school year; "and we couldn't help but meet because we were the only two there on Friday and Saturday nights, all the others were out on dates." As she continued she didn't try to hide the truth.
"So you're a lesbian?" The words came out of me through a swirl of confusions: it had never occurred to me; it scared me; I was shocked, even a little offended.
Janice shook her head and laughed, "No, no, I'm not a lesbian ... but I do get horny and so does she."
I reached for the book and quickly opened it at the bookmark. If she lost a bunch of weight she may be pretty: she has a pretty smile, very intelligent eyes ... then I caught myself: was I actually wanting my daughter's lover to be more attractive? Did that actually matter to me? "But how can you ... you know, with a woman if you aren't a lesbian?"
"Have you ever been really, really horny, mom?"
"Of course," I had never talked with Janice about sex before, except for The Talk, so I was a little surprised that I was so open with her.
"What did you do about it?"
I laughed, "Tapped your father on the shoulder."
I thought for a moment, it had been 33 years, "The usual, I guess, I mean we did that back then, too." For some reason it was starting to feel a little titillating talking about sex with my daughter; I was wondering why, in all our talks, the subject had never really come up before.
But she gave a dismissive grunt to my admission, "Well, fingers will do now and again but there comes a time when you need a little more than that, a lot more than that."
She had brought it up so I couldn't resist asking, "When was that time?"
"About our third Saturday night alone together in that room."
"What happened?" I was surprised at my boldness and I was surprised, too, that I was getting just a little turned on by the exchange.
"I asked her if she knew how to work a screw driver." When Janice laughed, I did, too.
"And she did?"
"No, but she came to my room and gave it a try and that's what I wanted and that's how it started."
But I wanted more than this, a lot more, "How what started?"
"The touching. She was down on her knees on the floor, pushing at the screw with the screw driver and I just touched her on the shoulder, gently. She looked up at me and that's how it began."
I was going to leave it at that and just let my imagination fill in the blanks but I couldn't. I persisted, "How what began?"
Janice shrugged, "Are you really sure you want to hear this?" I guess my face gave her my answer because she quickly continued, "She leaned into me, put her head on my lap; I leaned over her, kissed her on the hair, then rubbed her back. We stayed like that for a few minutes then she straightened up and said, 'should we?' That's when I kissed her."
God, I just couldn't imagine my little girl doing that, bending forward and kissing another girl on the lips — that was my initial reaction but, no, a moment later I could, I could far more easily imagine her doing that then getting all tarted up up for a date, she had never been the type. But I was confused, too. "So you don't have to be a lesbian to do that?"
"She's not a lesbian and nor am I. We were just a little desperate," she laughed, "well, we were a lot desperate, and we still are, or I am, anyway." Then she hesitated for a moment while I processed the information, "Is that so hard to understand? I mean, haven't you ever been so horny that you thought of ... well," she shrugged, "playing around with a girl?"
When I took a drink of my coffee I noticed it was tepid so I got to my feet and reached for her mug, but she stopped me. She took me by the arm and her firm grip indicated she wanted me to stay so, reluctantly, I sat down, but I didn't know what to say so I didn't say anything.
"Is it so hard to understand?" She repeated.
"I don't know if it's hard to understand, Janice, I haven't thought about it — this is so ..."
"Well would you think about it?"
"Sure," I said, getting to my feet and quickly escaping the room.
"Well?" It was the next morning. I was scrubbing a pan at the sink. I didn't turn around but she continued anyway, "I thought you might come by this morning and give me your verdict. That wasn't easy for me, you know."
Now I turned around and faced her, "I'm sorry Janice, I just didn't know what to say."
"You could have lied; you could have said you understood and we could have moved on. Instead, you make me feel like some kind of pervert." She turned and left.
I didn't think of her as a pervert, not at all. What was troubling me was my reaction to her news; I didn't think I was handling it very well. I found her in her room. She was looking out her window, the sunlight was shining through her light cotton nightie. "I do understand, Jan, honest, I understand. I haven't always had a husband, you know. There have been times ..."
"When you were so horny you've thought of girls?"
"Sure, I've wondered."
"You have?" She turned around at this and faced me.
"Sure," I laughed, "there used to be some red blood coursing through my veins, ya know. I've had fantasies like everyone else."
"Do you still have them?"
This was getting a little too specific, "Do we really want to talk about this?"
I couldn't read her face, the backlighting made a shadow out of her, a perfectly formed shadow. "Yes," she said, "we do."
I didn't. But I sucked up my resolve and walked over and sat on the bed and when I did she sat in her reading chair.
"OK, Janice," I said, leaning forward with my elbows on my knees, "What do you want to know?"
"I want to know what you think of me, if you're disgusted."
I wanted to say, 'No, of course I'm not,' but I didn't. "Honestly, Jan, I don't know what to think ... I've always thought that, ... well, you know, it was kind of lesbian."
"You said you've had thoughts ..."
"Thoughts aren't action, hon."
"So it's OK to think about it, it just isn't OK to do it. Is that it?" Her eyes were boring into mine: she wanted my answer.
I laughed, uncomfortably, "Hypocritical, eh?"
"But you have thought about it?" She seemed to be fishing for an admission I didn't want to make.
"As I said, I've been curious."
"Recently, or only before dad?"
"Why are we talking about this, hon?" I didn't want to. I wanted to escape again. I wanted the safe haven of my kitchen.
"For a lot of reasons."
"Name two." I said, stupidly.
"It helps me to figure out my own sexuality. And it makes me really horny to think that my mother has the same kind of thoughts I do."
This, I didn't want to hear. I got up and left.
We spent the week more or less ignoring each other, so much so that Dan said on Friday night, "What's up with you two?"
That made me feel really silly — well, I was feeling pretty childish anyway. "It's a mother-daughter thing, sweets. It'll blow over," I turned and looked at Janice, "by tomorrow."
I was in Jan's room the next morning with the usual coffee but this time I was determined to be a lot more mature. "I'm sorry, Janice. I've acted like a dolt. I don't know why this has been so hard for me, but it must have been an awful lot harder for you. So let's talk."
She was in her chair with a book on her lap, "I don't want to make you uncomfortable, mom."
"I can be uncomfortable, hon, trust me, I can handle it." I put her coffee on the table, sat on the bed and took a sip of mine.
She closed the book on her lap, put it on the table and when she shifted to more easily speak to me, her cotton nightie rose up to mid-thigh and a breast strained against the light cotton. "I'm struggling a little with this. I mean, what's normal and what isn't? You said you've had similar thoughts to mine, right?"
"So if both of us have had these thoughts probably most women have, I mean, it's probably normal."
"Sure, I think it is, to wonder about it."
"But you've never acted on those thoughts."
I shrugged, "I've had a husband for the past 30+ years for one."
"And that stops all thoughts?"
I laughed nervously, this conversation was going places I've never been before, "No, but it certainly stops the actions, I have him and if you were married the same would be true of you. In fact, if you had a steady boy friend you would have been out on a Saturday night and not home alone with ..."
Janice shifted again to more easily look at me. It seemed she was getting increasingly interested, "Do you ever, I mean, now, these days, do you ever have ... thoughts?"
"It's different now." And it is.
"Well, I think when you're older your thoughts are a little different." I had no intention of admitting this but the words just came out, "Your dad and I don't have much sex any more, so maybe these days I'm doing a lot more thinking about sex than having it." She was about to say something so I hurriedly added with a laugh, "Maybe it's because the end is getting near, the sexual end that is, so I'm thinking not so much of what is, or even what has been, but more like what MIGHT have been."
"With other men?"
"Well, ya, and types of sex and places and ... well, you know, everything."
I shrugged awkwardly, "Them, too, maybe, yes, you know, sex in general. I'm not entirely dead yet."
She laughed at this, "That's what you meant when you said you were curious?"
"The brain can take you to some amazing places, hon, particularly if you've never been to those places before." I laughed nervously, it seemed I was full of nervous laughter, "It's called imagination and it's fun to use it."
"So your curiosity comes from imagining what might have been?"
I knew she was pushing me, I just didn't know why. "Well, an idle brain's the devil's playground." When I said this, it immediately sounded stupid and wrong, so I laughed nervously, yet again and corrected myself. "No, what I meant, I guess, is that, well, sex doesn't just go away as you get older. When you're not having it, it doesn't mean you aren't thinking about it ..."
"And when you're thinking about it, it's always more interesting than the sex you've had."
I laughed, "Probably, I guess it depends on how good your imagination is."
"And yours has been good?"
I shrugged stupidly, "I've been to places I'd never dream of actually going to."
"So you've been curious but you haven't acted on your curiosity. Why?"
I didn't like the direction this talk was taking: I was making way too many admissions and I was so off balance my logic sounded stupid. And then I got more stupid, "If real estate is location, location, location, sex is often opportunity, opportunity, opportunity." Then I compounded my stupidity, "I guess if you were really, really curious, you'd put yourself in the location to have the opportunity."
"And you haven't."
"No. I'd never cheat on your father." I was proud of this admission; it was absolutely true.
"Would having sex with a woman be cheating on dad ... or would it be something else?"
God, I felt like she was grilling me and I was spilling too many of the beans. "I don't know, hon." And I didn't.
"Well, think about it. If you had sex with a woman would you feel like you had cheated on dad, or do you think you'd just be acting on a curiosity you've always had?"
I thought about this for a full minute, "Honestly? I couldn't imagine myself having sex with a woman but that aside, if I did I ..., well, as I said, your dad and I don't have sex much any more so I don't think it would bother me now, but it would have bothered me before, I think it would have been cheating then because I would have, sort of ... been replacing him. I'd never do that."
"But not now, it wouldn't be cheating now because you aren't having much sex anyway."
I shrugged stupidly again but said nothing, I didn't think I needed to.
"So now, what if you did have the opportunity?"
"I might. Doubt it, but I might. I guess it would depend on ..."
"How horny you were?"
"Ya, that and other things ..."
"Are you horny now?"
"It's been a long time since I've talked about sex, so ya, I guess I kind of am."
"And no dad to bail you out."
I laughed because I thought she wanted me to, "No."
Her eyes seemed to be looking right into my soul, "Do you know now to work a screw driver, mom?"
I didn't know what she meant, not at first. When I figured it out it hit me hard in the stomach, "Janice!"
"Well you said it! Opportunity, opportunity, opportunity ... we're both here, we're both horny and we both want to do it ..."
"I never said I wanted to do it, and I certainly wouldn't do it with my daughter!"
My daughter seemed to shrink into her chair, it was something she often did: she retreated from most confrontations and all conflicts. "What's the matter? Don't you find me attractive? Am I too fat?"
"It's not about that and you know it." I got up and left.
But I felt like a dolt again: rather than stand up to her I had run away ... again.
She found me at my safe haven, in front of the kitchen sink. "You know you're never going to know what it's like until you just do it."
My instinct was to turn around and demand that she drop the subject — for good. If she wanted to fool around with women fine: she's an adult, she can make her own decisions, just leave me out of it. But, God, I really was curious and even the tantalizing talk was really getting to me, I mean, I was just so curious and the more we talked about it the more curious I was becoming; I barely got any sleep last night and for the first time in years I got up and masturbated, and when I did I was appalled that she crept into my thoughts and I ... oh, God. "Some things are better left to the imagination, Janice, can we just leave it at that?" That's all I could think of to say and I said it to the sink.
"I'm not imagining I'm horny, mom. I am and so are you."
"Drop it, Janice, just drop it."
"I'm not going to drop it, I can't." When she spoke again I was sure she deliberately put on her injured voice, "It's that I'm fat, isn't it? You don't find me attractive."
This annoyed me, as she knew it would and I did the predictable, I turned around to face her. "That's just so much nonsense and you know it." Then I tried to be flippant but the moment my words left me, I knew they would backfire. "Try a different tact, Jan, that one isn't ever going to work."
"OK, I'll try this one. I'm horny, mom, I'm really, really horny. So don't come into my room again. OK. Never."
She was pouting like a child and I would have laughed if there wasn't so much tension in the air, "Come on Jan, why are we doing this?"
"I didn't know you were so gutless."
At this I did laugh, "Gutless ... that I won't let my daughter seduce me?"
"Gutless that you're as horny as I am, you're curious and you won't do anything about it, even though I want to. I'm an adult, mom and so are you. Act like one."
I turned back to the sink. She was right, of course, about the curiousness and about the gutlessness, too I guess and I would have left it at that — I had every reason to be gutless — but she took my arm and turned me around.
"Come on, mom, let's do it. If it gets too weird we'll stop."
"God, Janice, how can you be serious about this?" With her closeness, her contact, I could feel my resolve start to slip away and it was scaring the hell out of me.
She took my hand now, "Come on, we're both adults. You're curious and I want to be curious with you. We'll go slow, we'll just fool around. We won't do anything you don't want to do, honest."
When I felt myself move with her my knees seemed to buckle and I caught myself on the table. This isn't the way it had happened in my mastubatory fantasy, I was bolder then, as bold and excited as she was. "God, Jan I can't do this."
She had me by the arm now, like I was an invalid and she was laughing and there was real joy in her voice, as if what she wanted was destined to happen, "A journey begins with a single step, mom, one foot in front of the other, you can make it; we'll worry about what happens when we get there."
For some reason being laughed at seemed to weaken the drama and I felt myself moving again, her hand pulling at me but if a trip to the gallows tends to focus the concentration, a trip to your daughter's bed makes you a scatter brain: a billion thoughts were bombarding me, mostly having to do with guilt — but I'm ashamed to say some of them had me very, very excited.
And then we were there and I was staring at her bed, the one I had made so many times over the years. "I've never been so terrified in my entire life. God, Jan, what are we going to do?"
She bounced onto the bed not bothering to hide her excitement and kneeling in the centre she held her hand out to me. "We'll start with just a little touching, come on." Her hand was only a few feet away. When I took it, she gently pulled me towards her and I kneeled on the bed in front of her and when I did, she moved into me and put her lips lightly on mine and when she spoke I could feel her breath, "Just let it happen, mom."
"Let what happen?" I mumbled the words against her lips; I was as rigid as a statue.
"Whatever you want. Just let it happen, just go for it." With her lips barely touching mine I tried to relax and I guess she felt that because she was stroking my shoulders soothingly. "I'm loving this, mom. I'm loving your smell, your breath, I'm loving having you here."