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I must have been somewhere between 9 and 11 years old. My family was on vacation in Canada. From the American standpoint, there was assumed to be a general wholesomeness there, so I was allowed to roam freely, all day.

I went to the beach one day and played alone, along the shore of Lake Erie. I remember being aware that I had to let go of some kind of weird internal monitor in order to have fun. I was looking out into the endless lake, bending at the horizon line, and I could feel the hugeness of the water. It went out into forever with no end in sight. This bigness was contagious and I began to sing.

I made up a song off the top of my head, something I had always loved to do but had not indulged in for a long time. I spun around and danced, kicked up sand, laughed at my own happiness. I was at one with the sunlight and my toe prints in the sand. I was in tune with the waves and feeling really RIGHT in myself.

In mid song I looked up to see two boys outlined against the ridge, watching me from thier bikes. My heart jumped in my throat, I was really scared all of a sudden. They had seen ME, the real me, the me I had not even seen yet. They started coming down the ridge, looked about 14 and seemed lecherous. Their smiles were menacing and I was alone, a word that suddenly felt bad. I was just a girl on a beach, my back to the water, thinking that if they would not let me pass them I would just jump in and ... and what? Swim away? Drown myself?

They said "Hi" and I grabbed my stuff and ran up the beach. They seemed bewildered and I heard them call out, "Hey, come back here."

A a part of me felt bad, like I should have given them the benefit of the doubt, been nice, made small talk. I cursed myself for letting my fight or flight instinct kick in and make me look stupid. I was hung up on how I must have looked to them (the monitor obviously turned back on again). Another part of me was freaked out by my realness and the need to block it out, the awareness that I had to coax myself to be real, then a stanger "caught" me and I had to hurry up and get out of there.

Being myself felt good, then suddenly unsafe, as if I had let my light shine and attracted the wrong kind of attention. As though I were a sex beacon, a fair maiden waiting for some boys to come validate me (or whatever I thought they thought they were doing). I had to shove myself back in and promise to be more careful - a girl can't be too free with herself. Being a girl made me hyper alert to the external.

It has taken a long time to overcome this feeling that I risk something by being real, that I risk losing my realness. There used to be a feeling that at any time a penis with a man attached could fall on me and I would have no choice but to take it in, stroke the ego of it's man and then absolve him of his guilt. Thanks a lot Mom.

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