Cosby & effect
there is a lot of despicable in the world.
i keep reading the stuff about bill cosby, and i keep wanting to share a secret – my secret – with you. and then i get scared and think, no. it’s a bit ugly & dirty and god knows… and god knows: it’s in the details. but i talked to my husband ken about it, and he said, yeah, share it. tell it. maybe it’ll make a difference. so, i’m standing on the ledge, and i know i won’t fall. someone is gonna catch me.
i was 17.
i was 17 and had already quit high school, had already lost my virginity (at 15), had already spent some time on a commune, and i came back to new york, and the shame i had was so very deep, and so big, and honestly, it was like wearing a big old coat that just, you know, hung on me. a big coat with all kinds of shit stuffed into the pockets.
i was 17.
i needed a job.
i wanted to work in the garment district, because, i loved clothes. loved. clothes. i had a job interview with a pretty well known – okay, famous – designer, who is no longer alive, but trust me, he was a big fucking deal when i was 17. and so, i got myself all prettied up, and took the LIRR into new york city, and walked from penn station to his showroom.
i was not very confident in those days. i hid behind heavy eyeliner, mascara, and a mass of unruly curls. i waited – with a few other girls, who were seemingly all older than me – in the outer reception area. the job was for a receptionist. you didn’t need a lot of talent to be a receptionist, but you did need to know how to work a phone. and from what i gathered, was told, you needed to answer the phone with a side of perky, and polite. i watched as a few of the other girls came and went. they all went into his office with hope, and possibility, and all came out… deflated.
maybe even disgusted.
but i didn’t know that then, in that moment.
i just knew that they went in, came out, and none got the job. then it was my turn.
i went into his office. a big beautiful office. filled with samples and colors and designs and fabulous art work and a big desk and a bigger couch and he asked me a few questions that all seemed to be related to being a receptionist. yes, i can take messages, yes i can answer a phone, yes, i can type… a little…yes, i can make appointments. and then he asked me how badly i wanted the job. i said a lot. i really wanted the job. and then he got up from his chair, and walked over to me, and asked how badly. and i said, “well, very badly.” i needed the job. and he asked, “enough to give me a blow job?” and i had to think about that for a few moments, and i couldn’t say the word, so, i shook my head: yes. yes. and i gave him a blow job, and it was ugly and vile and god, i felt so fucking dirty.
and i got the receptionist job.
a swap. sort of. right then and there, i got the job.
and i never gave him another blow job, ever. not once. and he didn’t ask me to give him another blow job. i knew that he wasn’t gonna be my boyfriend, or take me out to fancy dinners, or set me up in an apartment with all the, you know, trimmings. i knew that. i knew that because a) he had a wife – i always read about her – and b) one blow job does not a girlfriend make.
i worked there for about a year. and other girls came and went for other job openings and listings, and it was kind of easy to tell who got the job, and who didn’t. did he assault me? no, he didn’t. did he take advantage of me? loaded question. or maybe not so loaded. i could have said no.
i could have said no.
he didn’t force me to blow him. he didn’t grab my head and push me down on him. i wanted the job, and i needed the money, and i sold myself way fucking short. way short. but this is the truth. i was 17. i didn’t know – or better yet, feel, i didn’t feel – i had a choice.
i didn’t know that there would be, or could be, another job somewhere else. i had so little self-esteem and self-worth. so very little. and that’s not an excuse, it’s a fact. a truth. you can fake an orgasm, but you can’t fake self-worth. i mean, how many of us could’ve asked our boyfriends to wear a condom, to not cum inside us, but didn’t, and how many of us got pregnant, and had an abortion?
and so when i read about bill cosby, i think two things, well, actually three… i think there were and are many girls like that 17-year-old me. many. many who would get on their knees, and blow someone because they wanted/needed a job, or the guy was cool, or famous, or maybe their ticket out, and they didn’t feel they had or have the power to say no.no is a hard word to say when you have no confidence.
and then there are many girls, many women – thousands upon thousands – who were, and are, sexually assaulted. raped. horribly and viciously assaulted. girls and women who are most definitely assaulted by a guy, famous or not, and felt and feel undoubtedly scared and powerless. again, no is not an easy word to say, and is often – much too often – not an easy word to be heard. it’s amazing how many times you have to scream it.
and then there’s this: when i was the receptionist at this fabulous and famous showroom, his wife would often come by, mostly at the end of the day because they would be going to events or dinners or parties, all sorts of glamorous, sexy, fabulous nights out on the town. and she would drape herself on his arm, and fall all over him. she would be head to toe in the most stunning outfits. perfect. head to fucking toe. but before she would drape herself on his arm, fall all over him, she would watch the sample models strutting around, and the dazzling salesgirls pitching his fall or spring collection, and she knew, she absolutely knew, how they got their jobs. she knew it, because no doubt she had been one of us a few years before. and i can tell you this much about her, what i remember, what really stood out, wasn’t the huge fucking rock on her left ring finger, wasn’t the perfectly coiffed hairstyle by kenneth, wasn’t the fabulous (and now politically incorrect) chinchilla coat, it was the deep sad she wore in her eyes. you can nip and tuck, and pull, and fucking tighten everything, but you can never ever hide, or run from that dull humiliated, embarrassed kinda sad.
we all – the showroom girls, the twirling models, his wife and me – shared one thing in common: none of us, not one of us, had the confidence to say no, or no more.