In the late 1960’s to early 1970’s it was happening. I was becoming a woman. Or at least that’s when I was told I could no longer run around on a hot summer’s day bare chested in our backyard with the boys—ever again. Nope girls didn’t have that privilege. I cannot emphasize the disappointment of inequality that befell me deep to my soul, as that privilege was taken away.
Like a good Catholic and Lutheran daughter, I obeyed. I always did. I was ‘the goodie-two shoes’. To the point, before the age of nine my dad had begun to call me “The Prude”. Yes, my dad called me “The Prude”. It was added to the list of nicknames people already pegged me with.
On this particular Saturday, as my dad had finished lawn care he had his music playing. He’d been drinking beer, smoking weed, and now he’d held an unfiltered Lucky Strike in his hand—all while he danced and sang to Janis Joplin in our barn house living room.
As I’d arrived upstairs to go to my room to play alone with my set of old matchbox cars. The sun shone through the west side windows, expressing its desire to clear a sunny path through the cigarette smoked filled room. My dad saw me. He smiled. “Com’on Jode dance with me.” I had no clue how to dance, and I felt awkward from my foot issues with recurring randomly interjected hip pain. He had not a clue. I politely refused, “No daddy I’m not married. I’m only eight.” He was so stunned. “Huh?” He’d remarked. I replied, “It would be inappropriate of me to dance with you. You’re my daddy.” He shook his head with a stoned smile and said, “Well, from now on, I’m gon’na call you The Prude. You’re The Prude.” I just nodded and removed myself to play in my room with my car collection till it was time for me to set the table for dinner.
Yes, I’d never lived that down. Neither would I ever forget that whole scene well over fifty years past. I decided then that not only would I never get a tattoo. But also, I would not be a drinker, neither a smoker, nor a stoner. My fate was sealed, seemingly by that scene and those words. Too, I was ever more hell bent on being a patriot, becoming a US Marine and hopefully someday a New Jersey State Trooper. I yearned for such discipline because I saw it lacking daily in front of me. It was bothersome. Yet I was the one restricted. I’d fallen in love with discipline and responsibility early on.
That interaction had been so painful that I didn’t tell my husband about that nickname till thirty-four years into our marriage. He was stunned. Sometimes you wonder what makes a person who they are. It’s those little things that either counter who they’d became or drive them to whom they’d become. My goal was to be more noble. Instead of encouraging such nobility my dad shunned it. I countered it quietly, doing what made me happy.---Jody-Lynn Reicher