Fixated on boobs, I sketched my way through Sister Mary Francis’ fourth grade. While the rest of the class was learning how to add triple columns of numbers, I was sketching top-heavy femme fatales baring lots of cleavage.
I drew them at home, too. Evenings, sitting with the rest of the family while they were watching television, I was sketching. No one asked me why I drew women this way.
The figures in my drawings had wasp waists with bottoms in proportion to their tops. They were decked out in dangling earrings and the highest stiletto heels. They were Barbie before Barbie; glitzy before anybody knew what the word meant and I wore out my gold and silver crayons making them shine.
Sister shook her head as she handed me my report card with a note addressed to my parents right before Thanksgiving. I opened it and saw that I had received several check marks indicating bad behavior. The first, for not working up to my ability; another for not concentrating; and a third implying that I was neither playing nor working well with my fellow fourth graders.
But worst of all was that I had earned an E in arithmetic.
“You read from left to right,” my Mother said, “but you add from right to left. You received an E because you’ve been adding backwards.” Then, “Keep your mind on your studies. Pay attention.”
My mother had been a Latin scholar. No one had to tell her to pay attention. But fourth grade was so boring and it went so slow. Five hours and forty minutes every Monday through Friday. I couldn’t wait for the days to end.
When they did, as I walked home from school I looked towards the future and pictured my name in lights: New York City lights. Someday I would be famous. A model or a movie star or something. With big boobs and a tiny waist. I would wear the lowest low-cut peasant blouses and the tightest sweaters. I would wear the highest heels and lots of jewelry.
One morning during summer recess, I borrowed a pair of my mother’s high heels; pulled on my tightest short shorts and created a skimpy halter top from an elastic stretch cinch belt with brass clips in front. I walked up and down the street, passing the neighborhood bar. As I strutted by, I heard a whistle. Then another. And another.
Decades into the future—in a conversation that had nothing to do with sex or love addiction, someone would tell me, or maybe I would read—that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
At ten I had experienced a hint of my budding sexuality. My journey had begun.