Diary of a Marked Woman
THU 01: In the morning I went to No’s to get my skillet and other items I had left there the night before. Diane had the little girl Hazielle give me a bunch of lily of the valley, as required by French tradition on May 1st. I was in a very good mood because I had proof that what Val and Agnes had done to me in NYC in 89 was now biting them in the ass. I asked No if he had the 5E he owed me. He didn’t have them.
Sophie called me. She was back from her Easter trip. I told her what had happened the night before and how I had stood for my right to free speech and refused to take down my website. Then I added “Anyway, just between you and me, I’ve forgotten the password so even if I wanted to take it down I wouldn’t be able to.” We agreed to meet at my place around 4PM. In the meantime I bought two of her favorite pastries, two brandy-filled chocolate pears and a bunch of lily of the valley. She brought one meringue and we sat down to talk. I don’t know why I said it but early in the conversation I told her that at the beginning of my life in the US I noticed there was a lot of social injustice but that the people accepted it, and that I had understood that the reason they accepted it was that if they had been in a place of power themselves, they would have acted exactly like their oppressors did. “Sure,” Sophie said, “Identifying with the oppressor, that’s a classic trick of psychology.”
She had told me before going on her trip that her daughter Rose Anne had separated from her husband and it had astonished me, and now she was telling me the reason of the separation: the husband had been sexually abusing the THREE children. I said “Well, if he’s a sexual abuser, he must have been sexually abused himself.” She concurred, adding that the husband’s father had abused him, and that both men together had abused the three children when they went to visit their grandparents on vacations. She said that the woman who babysat the children must have shown them pornographic movies, that the older boy (aged about six) must have been given Viagra and had been asked to sodomize his younger brother (aged 18 months), that Rose-Anne had once been given a sedative in her coffee when visiting her in-laws and that the children had been abused while she slept. The whole affair came to light when the children spoke to their teacher. The children had made a videotaped statement at the police station but there was no indication of the husband being prosecuted.
Sophie said that she had noticed the children were acting odd. The little girl had grabbed her breasts twice, the youngest boy, naked in the bathroom at bath time had squeezed his buttocks and moaned. I said I hadn’t noticed any odd behavior when I had seen them during a weekend I spent at their house last summer. Sophie said that it was because I didn’t have children myself and I didn’t know how healthy children were supposed to behave, but she, the mother of three, knew.
Last summer when I visited, the husband had been looking for a better job. He’s an engineer. Later I learned that he had found one in a distant city, then I had learned that thee couple had put up their house for sale, that Rose Anne had been searching for a new home on the internet and had found one , that the husband had started his new job and moved into the new apartment, and that at the time of moving, instead of joining her husband with the children, Rose Anne had moved to another city near her brother.
Then Sophie and I talked about our parents, how our mother made us hate our father, how an old priest with a pendulum who was a friend of Mom had taken Sophie to another room in the house and had abused her sexually. (I remember very well that he took her and that they were alone together for a while. I had found that abnormal but since it was ok with Mom who was I to protest?) She asked, for the second time in one year, if I was sure that our father had never raped me and I was positive that he never did.
I made tea, we ate the pastries, the brandy-filled chocolates, I gave her the lily of the valley, I told her that I had missed her. “Why are you saying this now?” she asked, as if I was doing her an injustice.
Then I showed her all the purses, pocket-books, backpacks and bags that I had made and she gave me compliments. I brought some from my bedroom and she asked why I didn’t want her to go to my bedroom. She asked about the prices and I told her that I hadn’t any set prices right now, it all depended on the circumstances of the sale. I showed her an Afghan hand-embroidered coat and she looked at it closely. I told her it didn’t fit me but I bought it anyway because it’s a beautiful piece. She put it on and looked at herself in the mirror, then she turned the collar down, insisting that it was the correct way to wear it although the lining didn’t match the outside and it was obviously not cut to be turned down. She paraded for a while in this manner, moving right and left in front of the mirror to see her back, as if the coat was a fashion item she was trying in a store, and she ended up making the coat look ridiculous!
She gave me back the coat, I hung it in my bedroom, and when I returned to the living room she was sitting on my chair.“What’s your strategy regarding your work?” she asked. An alarm bell rang. Why would she want to know this? Was it any of her business? When I was making berets in NYC she had once asked me a lot of nosy questions about how many people worked for me, who they were, what was the fiscal status of my business, all kinds of questions that pertained to the fundamentals of my business, and I had answered her, and soon thereafter I noticed that the people who worked for me were sabotaging the work, showing disrespect in all kinds of petty ways to such a degree that I had to stop working with them. Nevertheless I answered her question this time again: I showed her the two books that I intended to use as my basic tools, one being a round-the-world encyclopedia of the traditional techniques of textiles, the other one a book titled “the world in Paris”, and I explained that according to the technique I intended to use for my fashion accessories, I would meet in Paris the people from the relevant part of the world and through them obtain the textiles I sought. The thought that she could use this knowledge to destroy my budding business was so abhorrent that, despite the precedent, I couldn’t entertain it. That’s why I answered her question I was standing near her, showing her the books, waiting for her to give me my chair back. After a while she got up, saying something like “Ok, I’m giving you your chair back.”
I had never understood what possessed her to marry our mother’s former lover. When our father had found out about the affair he had banished the man from the house and forbidden us to ever see him again. Yet when she was about nineteen and living on her own, Sophie became pregnant by him and the day I had my Baccalaureat exam in June 1971 they were married and had three children. If it was true that Mom hindered Sophie’s relationship with a young man her age, why couldn’t they bide their time? All I got from Sophie was that she thought that he was a good, decent man. I wonder if the true reason was not plain old greed, because the man was well off and liable to die a good 25 years ahead of her, but of course she would never admit to it.
“How could you become pregnant so young?” I asked. Didn’t you want to have any life before having children? Didn’t you know about contraception?” She told me about her first sexual encounter then she added “Well, anyway, women are just uteruses and men are just cannon fodder.” “But it doesn’t have to be this way, even if society is pushing you!” I said. “Believe me, I swore to myself I would never be like Mom. I started to research contraception at fifteen, several years before I had my first sexual experience. I wanted to know how my body worked. I took my temperature every morning for several months and wrote it down on a chart. “Oh, the temperature method!” she said dismissively. “Yes, and I hid myself to do it because I knew that Mom didn’t want me to know. If she had found out she would have made me feel like a whore. Remember how she told us that it was the man’s job to teach us about our body? Give us a class in female anatomy before getting down to business. Ha! So I believed that men were these knowledgeable and wise creatures that would take the time to teach me what I desperately wanted to know, and I looked up to them, and I felt small and ignorant. Remember she gave François a sex-education book but she never gave us one, and she would never give a straight answer to our questions? She would say things like “It’s your little body that’s going through changes” or “You’re in the process of transforming into a butterfly.” To me, pregnancy was a trap, motherhood a twenty-year program where you had very little leeway.
Every spring I missed a period, and when I had my first lover at age eighteen, it was spring, and for a month I didn’t know whether or not I was pregnant. Let me tell you, I had the time to do some hard thinking and I realized that if I had a child I would be stuck with the family because neither me nor my boyfriend could afford a child. I was horrified! That was the only time in my life I had a murderous thought. If I was pregnant I would get an abortion. I killed the baby in my mind and in my heart. I experienced it like a parasite that was robbing me of my future. But I wasn’t pregnant. When I had my period I looked out the window at the time my boyfriend came back and I screamed to him, delirious with relief: “It’s there! It’s there!” The next day I got a prescription for the pill and I took it for a few years but then I didn’t tolerate it anymore, so I got an IUD, and I’ve kept it ever since.
And you,” I asked Sophie, “What contraception have you been using?” “None,” she said, “I had a few abortions. You never had an abortion?” “Never.”
“We’ve been brainwashed into thinking that having a man and children was the only possible way for a woman to be fulfilled but it isn’t true.” I said. “I’ve lived alone most of my life and enjoyed it a lot. I had a few lovers, masturbated once in a while and that was it. All this business about sex, the ever-elusive female orgasm, all these how-to books, tapes, conferences, Masters-and-Johnson, give me a break. It’s all a waste of time and money. All these values we’ve been indoctrinated with were only meant to corral us into a life of slavery and consumerism. The media do the bidding of the industrialists who buy their advertising space, so the media promote the ideal of the family to give the advertisers more consumers. A childless person is no good for the bottom line.”
We talked about what happened the night before with Norbert and Val. I told Sophie again how I had claimed my right to self-expression, then I added bitterly: “Agnes wanted to be alone in my room to see if I had anything valuable that she could get her hands on after I was dead. I showed her three Inuit silkscreens that I liked a lot and she said: “But they’re not worth anything! They’re not signed. They were so sure (meaning Val and Agnes) that I would die soon that they didn’t care how they treated me. ” Sophie jumped excitedly: “So you really believe that it wasn’t an accident!” From her reaction I could tell that piece of information was one of the main reasons she was here. “Of course it wasn’t an accident. Besides, in April 1989 there was a 700,000 Swiss Francs withdrawal from the Swiss account: one of 300,000 SF and the next day one of 4000,000 SF. And on June 1st Agnes and Val were in New York, and following their coming I lost my apartment and then my job.” “How do you know about the Swiss Francs withdrawal?” Sophie asked. “Mom took me there after Dad’s death and burial.”
Something that bothers me with Sophie is that she spends one hour in the bathroom every morning, curling her hair with an iron or putting it up with pins, combs and doodads, adding an extraneous strand of blond hair to make a bun, spraying it to death, spending 70E every so often to get highlights not only on top but also underneath, yet she won’t wash her hair more than once every four days because if she had a shampoo more often it would “overstimulate the sebaceous glands” and make her hair greasy. But doesn’t she have greasy hair the day after the shampoo anyway? So there must be the good greasy, from not washing one’s hair, and the bad greasy, the one you never see, from washing your hair too often.
So we talked about hair. I complained that Mom was putting me down about my hair, trying to make me feel self-conscious but I didn’t care, I accepted my hair the way it was, straight and light brown, and I said that my only vanity was to have it clean and shiny every day. To hell with perms, henna and home-coloring. I had tried all this in my twenties because I felt compelled to hate what Nature had given me, brainwashed by the advertising and Mom’s stellar example of bleach-and-perm. I always hated going to the hairdresser’s. Sophie concurred, saying that she could never get the right color. The last time she went to have her hair done she wanted TWO DIFFERENT COLORS, blond and red, and the colorist didn’t do what she wanted. Colorists were extortionists who did what they wanted and disregarded the client’s requests, they made mistakes with total impunity. “So why would you put yourself at their mercy?” I asked. I told her about the wife of the son of a friend of Mom’s who was bleached to the wazoo (including the eyebrows), who told the story of coming out of the hair-salon with a carrot head, and she had to live with it but she took it in stride because that was part of the life of a bottle blonde.
I told Sophie that once, back in the 70's in my early twenties when I was wearing my hair à la Jean Seberg, I went to a fashionable spot to get a haircut, and that the young effeminate man refused to cut my hair when I requested the Jean Seberg. He wanted to impose on me a style I didn’t want, one that wasn’t short enough, to force me to come back sooner . “Yes,” Sophie said, “That’s what they do. The same cut to everybody, so that people will know what salon cut their hair, instead of adapting the cut to the client.” Me and the scissorhands were deadlocked for about ten minutes and finally an older hair-dresser cut my hair the way I wanted it. And the next day, while walking past the store, I saw a HUGE sign in the window that said “Harlow n’aime pas les emmerdeuses!”
Was this a new form of advertising or was this intended for me? I had never reflected on this although I had felt personally insulted at the time. But how could I fathom that I was being deliberately targeted? How could this be explained? How could a Paris hair salon that advertised in the feminine mags insult a customer this way? Were not the fashionable spots particularly skilled and versatile, eager to cater to every woman’s whim according to the multitude of hair types, colors and lengths? If it was advertising, what kind of woman could this sign attract? A masochist? A woman who likes to be called dirty names? I studied advertising and I never read anywhere that insulting passers-by made them come into the store. On the other hand, wasn’t it paranoid of me to take it personally? I remember I was the only customer in the store on a Saturday afternoon. How come?
In light of everything that happened to me since, I have to conclude that it was personal. Which means that someone who knew me and wished me ill was aware of such a mundane thing as a haircut appointment, by tapping my phone most probably, and mining the terrain in advance to inflict injury, or death for that matter. Let’s see. Whom did I know back in the 70's in Paris that I also knew in NYC in 1990 when a city bus tried to run me over? Totally unrelated? And the gang-rape in 72, the assaults and battery, the vandalism, the burglaries, the thefts, the extortion, the frauds, the hideous threats of disfigurement (with a broken bottle in 77, with fire in May 2003) the emotional torture, the career-destroying interferences, the work exploitation, the renegade doctors, therapists and psychiatrists, the burglar-friendly locksmiths in NYC and in Paris, the two-face lawyers, the corrupt judges, the drug-pushing friends, the infiltrated lovers, no common denominator whatsoever? Then either I’m a very unlucky woman indeed or I’m the meanest SOB this side of hell and I had it coming. The latter is unlikely because hard as I try to remember, the dirtiest thing I ever did to anyone was to have, twice, a brief affair with a married man. Total, two men, two wives harmed because of me. As for being unlucky, it is statistically impossible. A more plausible hypothesis is that I inspire hatred in some people, they’re just dying to destroy me, and they enjoy sadistically ruining every aspect of my life in the meantime.
But there’s one thing, though. One thing in common to all these crimes: the failsafe copout, the miracle formula, the ultimate get-home-free straight from the book of the CIA, this edifying grand master of the Underhanded: PLAUSIBLE DENIABILITY. Read “It was an accident.” “I was only trying to help you.” “He didn’t mean to harm you.” “You have only yourself to blame.” “You were asking for it.” “You shouldn’t have got into the car.” “The contract says I have a right to it.” “How could she destroy your work in New York? She doesn’t speak English.” etc.
When money talks, there’s no language barrier.
So when Sophie said that the fashionable hair salons impose the same cut to everybody she was covering-up, and when she asked me if I was sure that Dad hadn’t raped me she was covering-up too: back in 2001 when I was at Rockland Psychiatric Center, NY, we had started a correspondence at her initiative and in one letter I told her that I had been raped by four men, and in her next letter she didn’t make any mention of it. Not a single comment!
Same thing back in 86 when I wrote my parents about the purse-snatching incident where I had taken a cab and pursued the robbers on the West Side highway and caught them with the help of a cruising police patrol. Such a movie-worthy adventure! I was so proud of myself that I expected a congratulation from my folks yet in her next letter Mom didn’t make a single reference to it!
Sophie’s formulation of the question about Dad raping me (“Are you sure...”) implied that she knew something that I didn’t, and that it did indeed happen. Had I repressed the memory so deep that I had no memory of it? I don’t think so. Why was she insisting on Dad raping me but never bringing up the gang-rape I wrote her about? So in fact Dad did rape me, only he didn’t do it in person, he couldn’t gang-rape me all by himself, and anyway you have to preserve a minimum of decency: incest is wrong and it might have a negative impact on his money-making and his reputation as an upstanding citizen. But paying a woman-hating homosexual artist to seduce me and set me up left my father smelling like a rose. (When I say “my father” I have no doubt that some women in the family were also relishing the prospect of their daughter/sister being subjected to this ignominy and brainstorming together to come up with a smooth scenario.) By using my mother-induced admiration for painters and my native inclination for poetry, it was easy for the painter to take me to a movie about the life of Arthur Rimbaud that finished after the last subway.
So by forcing me to state TWICE in good faith the opposite of the truth, Sophie was in fact making an admission. Because a lie about a deception is the truth!
Oh, well... Back to tea and antipathy.
“Did you notice,” I asked Sophie, “that the only times our parents were in agreement was when they punished me?” (A sure way of turning a child into a masochist.)
(Think think think)
Could it be that our parents were only pretending to hate each other’s guts? That the scenes, screams, slammed doors and broken dishes were all for show? To traumatize us children and make us docile to their unstated goal of turning us into brainwashed criminals, as “payment” to the Dark Forces for worldly riches and unlimited access to the high spheres of influence worldwide? And that they had to eliminate the only one of their children who called them up on their mind-warping inconsistencies because she might spoil the whole plan?
Could it be that, to assuage their children’s unhappiness and frustration, and hatred towards them my parents implicitly encouraged my siblings to act out their anti-social tendencies against me (safe) and away from themselves (unsafe)?
.“It’s a well-known technique of disinformation for two people to pretend to be enemies.” I said. “Aren’t you on good terms with Mom behind my back?” “How can you say this?” Sophie said. “Haven’t you read the letters I’ve sent her? How can you doubt that I’m on your side after I fought for you to have your rights in the inheritance? If I hadn’t fought for you, you’d be under Mom’s tutelage. You’re the one betraying me. You repeat to her everything I tell you. (How does she know?) No wonder, since you’re dependent on her financially. You can’t be trusted.” “I tell her a few things,” I said, “but nothing really confidential.”
It was getting late and I was hungry. “I’m going to see what I have to eat.” I said, getting up. “Oh, don’t worry about me, I’m leaving,” she said. She got up and put her jacket on. We were standing next to each other and then we hugged closely. She said “So you’re not a double agent? I didn’t know if I could trust you or if you were betraying me to Mom.” “At least we have each other,” I said. She pulled back suddenly. “You’re hurting my breast!” Then she hugged me again for a few seconds and we came apart. She walked to the front door. I was ready to see her go but she wasn’t quite finished yet. She talked about the little girl. She said that the psychologist who had interviewed her had put her fingers in the little girl’s vagina and asked “Now, it doesn’t hurt, does it?” That Rose Anne’s lawyer was probably being paid under the table by the husband because he had obtained child support but no alimony, saying that Rose Anne should just get a job. That the judge didn’t allow any evidence of child abuse into the record because he was corrupt. I sighed. “Well,” I said, “it’s horrible but it doesn’t surprise me because I’ve been through a similar experience myself.” She stood by the door another five minutes elaborating on the subject, then she asked me: “By the way, do you know who was spying on you at RPC?” “I haven’t thought about it,” I said. Then we kissed and she left, promising to talk on the phone soon.
[cont'd: May 2/4 ] [to ToC] [Home]