Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Slow Progress

Went to art class yesterday. Painted for two hours. Prepared to paint today. Painted for 40 minutes. Just got bored. Hope it was merely boredom. It could have been my schizoaffective disorder or depression playing with my focus, but I don't think so. Have the option of going to class tomorrow or painting again at home. Strangely nervous going to class. All the strangers energize me but make me fearful. Know that if I go to class I will definitely make progress on the painting. But won't go to class if it is forecast to rain. When it rains I turn the painting to the ground and carry it flat. Don't want to get raindrops on the wet oil paint. They don't mix with the oil, they bead up on top, but there is no way to wipe them off without smearing the paint. The car is parked a way away from the entrance to the art school. Enough distance for the rain to make bad mischief.

Had our monthly dinner date with Jennifer. I sat in the car while we drove to the restaurant with pent up emotions. I was silent but the silence was obvious and foreboding. Jennifer and her father chatted but I was the elephant in the room. I was trying not to be angry, I was trying not to bring up the fact that I did not believe she was making large amounts of money stripping rather than bar tending, I was trying not to label her a liar, I was trying not to add to the stress of Mike's life, I was trying to remind myself that I am not a parent, just an onlooker, I was trying to lay low, but oh, was I failing. As I sat silent emotion poured out of me. Human beings do that, we can communicate without saying anything.

At the restaurant I sat facing Jennifer and tried not to let my gaze brush her. There was a small window behind her and little else to see. We were situated in a corner of the room. Finally she said, "What's going on guys?" And Mike gently explained our dilemma. Her response was maddeningly elusive. I guess I hoped for some righteous indignation. "I'm not stripping! How dare you think so!" But since she obviously sees nothing wrong with stripping, or even, strangely, with us questioning her word, that is not what I got.

"If this is how you guys would act then of course I would not want to tell you that I was stripping."

"I don't want to strip if my parents get this upset."

"You know, there is a high class strip club nearby where I could work."

I think Mike and I did our best to assure her that if she was stripping we still supported her and loved her. I said, like a dork, "If you strip and go to school that would be o.k." She replied, "I'm planning on going back to school." Now, did I inadvertently give her my blessing?

I hope that I said something that got at the root of the problem, which is for me, I don't want to be lied to. Lying drives me nuts. I believe that I have tendencies toward paranoia, and justified paranoia is a situation that lying creates. I do believe that I have read Jennifer's body language and that I can see the signs that she is lying. I do believe that I've got some smarts, and that logically the things that Jennifer is telling don't add up. If there are 60 minutes in an hour and she gets one dollar every minute, without rest, that is $60 made in one hour. She works for 5 hours, no rest, no break at that rate and she gets $300. How can she have made $550 on a Saturday night? She explained that if she brings 6 beers to a table she gets $6 tip. Yeah right. Do people tip that much? The bar closes, they say on their door, at 1am on a Saturday night, all other nights at midnight. She told us that on Saturdays she works until 3 or 4 am stocking the bar after closing. Do I believe this? No. It sounded, as she was saying it, like something she was making up on the spot.

And yet, I'm getting tired of wondering and worrying. Dinner proved one thing; if she is stripping it isn't having an obvious effect on her. She is the same as she's always been. Youthful enthusiasm, happily effervescent, a joy to be with. The big news that she was excited about is she is going to Ireland in May with her new boyfriend. I volunteered to help walk her dog while her roommate is at work. It doesn't seem to bother her that she has no legitimate job and no thought out plans to go back to school. Certain things about her two week old boyfriend bother her, his physical imperfections and the tendency to want public displays of affection while they are in in the mall, and she seemed a bit taken back that we gave no protective act about her plans to go with him to a foreign country. He at least wants her to meet his family before they fly away. But we assured her, we don't care who you sleep with or how you choose them. That's your business. And you get stuck on your own in a foreign country we trust that you will figure out how to survive. Mike suggested she take camping gear with her. Like should she get ditched she will spend her time in Ireland camping in a field. I'm going to advise her to bring as much as she can manage in traveler's checks.

It is odd. Her father and I are united in our confidence that Jennifer is old enough to make her own mistakes, and that it is inevitable and hopeful that she will learn from them, but the one mistake of stripping, seems to signal alarm. And for us, in all the soap opera of her life, alarm is usually lacking. I suppose I figure that there is healthy sexual activity, and unhealthy sexual activity, and that stripping falls into the category of unhealthy sexual activity. Her last three boyfriends all turned out to be losers and nothing lasted very long. She found out their flaws in due good time and dumped them all. I don't think that in the beginning she is very discriminating. She is easily seduced and impressed. The men are always portrayed as so wonderful and so special when she first introduces them to us. But to her credit, she has a temper and doesn't put up with poor behavior for very long. Nobody is going to make a victim out of her, and that is, in my book, healthy sexual behavior. So what if she is a little promiscuous. I see her as a bit of a hopeless romantic. She always hopes, that with each one, things will work out in the long run. They all seem to be at one time a candidate for marriage and babies. If she is indeed lying to us about her current job, then she lies with as much ease to herself as well. She shares traits with her father - they both love to be immersed in fantasy.

But if she is stripping, I fear, that makes a victim out of her. She is forced into role playing sexual arousal and interest in men that she really has no interest in. And her body is no longer a secret sacred thing, it is marketed, on display, an object. I don't doubt for a second that Jennifer believes that a stripper is in total control, and that this makes her the antithesis of a victim. But I think it is an occupation that insidiously gets to you, corrupts and mars the psyche. Jennifer having private, consensual sex is healthy, Jennifer making herself into a sex object for men in a bar is unhealthy.

After dinner as we were saying our good-byes, Jennifer promised to call me the next time she is working at the bar so I can come visit. I said yes please, I would like to order a diet coke and give her a dollar tip while she had her clothes on. And then as way of apology, I said "You know, paranoia is a symptom of schizophrenia." Just to cover things if in fact Jennifer has been telling the truth all along. Let her think, if she is legitimate, that her step-mom is a bit nuts. I can take it.

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