When I was five years old, my mother remarried. The man was respectable. He adopted me and legally became my father. The government even changed my birth certificate to erase the existence of my biological father, but my brother and I still say we are ‘half bastard’. My mother is a graceful athlete, a talented musician, a learned scientist, a good housewife, and a lot of other things. She believed that every middle-class girl must take ballet lessons. My mom loves ballet and she hoped that it might help me to not be such a clutz. My new step-father would pick me up from school in his white sportscar, a Datsun 240-Z, that he would soon have to trade in for a family car. It was a 2-door car with a tiny backseat. He would drive me to McDonald’s to eat and then drive me to ballet. My mom was a stickler for family dinners. Every day she cooked healthy food for us and we all ate together at the kitchen table as a family. I think this is one of my mother’s greatest strengths. So I only ate at McDonald’s once a week before ballet class. I usually bought a small burger, fries, and a coke. I think this was before they had Happy Meals, 1972. I ate in the McPlayground. Then it was time for my weekly ordeal.
The uniform for ballet class was a black leotard, pink tights, and ballet flats. My father made me change clothes in the backseat of the car. I had to undress myself to just my cotton undies and then wriggle into those darn tights in the backseat of the car. Now I was a painfully shy child. I was being traumatized by my first grade teacher. Once a week, every week, she made me stand in front of the whole class and be questioned because I had a genius IQ. I hated the scrutiny and the pressure. Whenever my dad came to a stoplight, I worried that the pedestrians could look in the car and see me undressing. I worried that I would get into trouble with the police for being naked in public. And then there was my dad… He was watching me so intently in the rearview mirror. I wanted him to look where he was driving. It was so creepy how excited he got while I was forced to change into my leotard and tights in the backseat. I would argue with him the whole time. “Why do I have to get changed in the car? We were just in McDonald’s. Why can’t I change my clothes in the bathroom in McDonald’s? This is stupid and I don’t like it. I don’t understand. Why can’t I get changed in the restaurant?” I asked pretty smart questions for a 5 year old, but I still had no authority to protect myself from my step-father. Sometimes he used to lick his lips while he watched me undress in the car. It was so creepy.
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