It’s not demons we fear (spider-walking-down-stairways-
then-peeing-on-the-floor-like-Courtney-Love) but has more to do
with the collective unconscious’ fear of burgeoning womanhood,
women on the verge, girls with urges, hormonal surges and sex splurges—
the horror of the whore, the female body in revolt, boy-toy exploits.
I was nine when my parents took in fifteen year old foster “child” Jerry.
This was around the same time The Exorcist was first released.
My parents had gone to see it only my mother spent most of the time
in the lobby waiting for the movie to be over and for weeks after slept
with the light on. Foster “child” Jerry boasted of having seen it too
and often retold scenes that were particularly revolting and horrifying.
He wanted to terrorize my mother by rigging their dresser to slam the bedroom
door shut after she entered. He wanted me to lie in bed and spit pea soup
and speak in a nonsensical Latin sounding language. He went so far as
to paint “The Exorcist” in red paint across the side of the backyard playhouse.
I have read post-feminist critiques on movies like The Exorcist, Carrie
and The Exorcism of Emily Rose and they all seem to view the “demon”
as a symbol for female sexuality. “Demons are a girl’s best friend,”
one article surmised. The critiques point to the terror men throughout
the centuries have felt when confronted by female power. The articles
point to the Salem witch trials; honor killing; foot binding and corsets.
Not to mention infanticide, veiling, and cheerleaders.
The point I’m trying to make is that I’m haunted by unbidden images
in my mind’s eye of grotesque and possessed Regan MacNeil
floating in her pea soup stained nightgown while the priests shout
the power of Christ compels you! It has only occurred to me recently
that part of the reason for my neurotic imaginings might have something
to do with our foster “child’s” habitual haunting of my own prepubescent
burgeoning. I wasn’t in danger of being possessed by demons
but having my virginity possessed by the fifteen year old sex maniac
my parents deemed appropriate to live in our house, hours of which
went unsupervised. Not a day would go by that Jerry didn’t pin
me down and torment me, when my developing breasts
wasn’t the topic of discussion and roughhousing.
And I never told my parents about it. I don’t know why.
Maybe because it wasn’t a topic on an Afterschool Special;
maybe because it wasn’t covered on The Brady Bunch.
Families weren’t having those discussions in the seventies.
My parents could sit in a theater for two hours viewing a film
about a child raping herself with a crucifix but broaching
the topic of sex was off the table for family hour?
I was nine. I’m not outraged, although if it were my kid I would be.
Jerry stayed on at our house for the remainder of the school year
and then would disappear for long periods of time until my father
returned him to whatever puppy farm he rescued him from.
And I remained intact at least until 1981, the eve of the Mt.
Saint Helen’s eruption which is the subject for another literary
exploration of my girlhood mythologies deconstructed.
What I want to know is, will I ever make friends with the demon
who possessed Regan MacNeil? And if that is possible, how?
My parents in their neglect and ignorance inadvertently threw
my childhood innocence under the bus. And it haunts me still—
in the form of a sinister goblin wearing a nightgown. That’s a symbol
of my lost innocence! Hello Lost Innocence! What do I do, invite
Regan for a tea party with my Pomeranian and Hello Kitty dolls?
The last two nights while trying to write on this subject
I’ve slept with the light on. When I take the dog out at 2 am
I freak myself out imaging Emily Rose drifting among the mist
and the trees in her frock of lost innocence, namely her nightgown.
The advice “write the story you most don’t want to tell, or the story
that scares you the most” has become this particular story. True,
there are worse narratives and I’m probably lucky. No. I know I am.
Is it ever too late to have a happy childhood? Shall I bid farewell
to my lost girlhood by buying stock in the Disney Princesses empire?
Or push for the merchandising for the anti-princess? Take a ride
in the anti-princess theme park? Embrace the ugly stepsister?
Have Starbucks with the Wicked Witch of the West? Kick it with
the Evil Queen, try looking in her mirror?
The Disney Princess empire is a four billion dollar industry.
What’s Ariel got that an ugly stepsister does not?
Give me Pippi Longstocking bubble bath; give me
the Peppermint Patty bedding set in brown. Give me the Regan
lunchbox replete with demon head twist-off cap thermos.
Merchandise Carrie White for tampons and maxi-pads,
training bras for those “dirty pillows.”
Give me the underbelly of disenchantment,
the un-glittered, un-pink, un-speckled. Make me over
like Courtney Love, like Medusa, like Linda Blair.
Author Discusses Poems