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COLUMN NINETY-EIGHT, OCTOBER 1, 2003
(Copyright 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist)

 JILLIAN AND HER MOM

(Copyright " 1987 Al Aronowitz and Dakota Lane)

[I met the young and beautiful Dakota Lane after I was exiled from journalism to a Devil's Island of the mind in Upstate New York's fabled artists?, writers? and musicians? colony of Woodstock. There I was the guest of that legendary  music business eminence, Albert Grossman, who'd single-handedly rearranged the music business as the manager of the super-legendary Bob Dylan. Although many years my junior, Dakota---like me---burned with the talent, the ambition and the fire necessary to dazzle readers, but---also like me---she found herself thwarted by the ignorant and arrogant devils who so zealously guard the gates of print. Still fogged by the smoke of the cocaine freebase in which I'd once sought comfort but from which I 'd thankfully so recently escaped, I decided to lend my experience to Dakota's youth and I joined her in an assault on those gates with a series of collaborations. Following is one of the vignettes with which we made our valiant but  unsuccessful assault on the guardians of those gates]

Jillian's mother could do worse.

She's got a just-turned-17-year-old-daughter who's never had sex, isn't on the pill and smokes only one or two cigarettes a week in the school bathroom to be companionable. 

Jillian doesn't look like Meryl Streep, but there's something about her that makes one think of Meryl Streep looks, the kind of thing that got her teased in junior high school (too tall, hair too red, too many freckles, too snub-nosed).  And that are now getting her chased in high school.

Jillian's no genius.  But all the reading and math problems she had while her parents were getting divorced are pretty much behind her now.  She's got one more year of school to go and her grades are fair---mostly Bs and Cs and an occasional A in art because she loves to draw.

Jillian looks like she's in her 20s.  When she goes out with her mom to bars on weekends, people always think they're sisters.  Jillian's mom wears tight jeans and tight sweaters and Jillian wears tight jeans, too, but she wears big, baggy sweaters to keep her figure concealed.  She's got a great figure, like her mom, and it makes her feel weird to have people notice it.  At the same time, she's pleased when an especially cute guy gives her a compliment, like, "Great ass!"  She's still expecting guys to call her "firehead" or "Howdy Doody," like they did when she was 12, so it's kind of hard to accept honeyed words.

She's always telling her best friend, Lynn, about what happens in the bars, asking Lynn:

"Do you think he really meant it or was he making fun of me?"

Lynn tells her she's insecure and too sensitive.  People have always told her she was too sensitive.  She's getting better about being sensitive but when her mother puts her down, she still cries. 

"You're being a drip!" her mother says.  "I can't deal with you.  Quit asking me if this guy likes you.  How do I know?"

So Jillian sees a counselor at school, a nice guy called Roger.  Roger mostly listens as Jillian tells of her problems in her classes, the boys who throw things at her, the girls who snub her, the teachers who tease her.  Sometimes she likes to play class clown and make the kids laugh with a loud comment.  Sometimes the comment backfires.  The kids don't laugh and the teacher says something to embarrass her further, like:

"Since you're acting like a baby, Jillian, why don't you wear pampers?"

So Jillian tells Roger about these things and feels a little better because he's only on her side.  And sometimes she talks a little about her mother and stepfather.  Not too often, because she


Jillian's mother
could do
worse


feels guilty, like she's telling on them, which she's actually doing, but sometimes she just has to tell someone. 

So she tells Roger sometimes about how her stepfather and mother are always fighting, screaming their heads off, calling each other "bitch" and worse.  And sometimes her stepfather hits her mother and sometimes they do drugs, a little cocaine, maybe, and whatever else.  Jillian's not exactly sure.  But once on New Year's Eve over a year ago, they let her have some coke and she loved it.  She wished they'd let her do it all the time, which they don't.  But she doesn't tell all of this to Roger.  She doesn't even say, "coke," because she's afraid Roger will bust her parents.  Instead she says they're always smoking pot, because that's pretty acceptable.

There's this girl at school who gives Jillian the creeps because she's nine months pregnant and she won't talk to Jillian.  This girl used to be pretty good friends with Jillian and one day she even showed Jillian her stomach in the bathroom.  She seemed pretty proud of the fact none of the other kids knew she was pregnant.  You couldn't tell because she wore tight pants and big shirts over the pants.  Her parents didn't even know.  Jillian kept asking what she was going to do and the girl couldn't really answer.  At first the girl thought she'd get an abortion but then she guessed it was too late for that.  The girl made Jillian feel weird from the start because the girl wasn't even 16, while Jillian was 17 and she'd never had sex.

Jillian had gotten her very first kiss only a week before her 17th birthday.  She was at a bar with her mother and stepfather and this really cute guy with really nice eyes who looked like Bruce Willis but who happened to be a coke dealer asked Jillian if she'd ever been kissed.  She said no and then the guy put his tongue in her mouth and she found it gross.  Nothing like she'd imagined, because everybody always told her that kissing gave you warm feelings.  Jillian's mother was watching when this happened, but all she said to Jillian was:

"Please don't do that in front of me."

Jillian told Lynn about the guy and Lynn was really upset.

"Don't you know you can get AIDS from kissing?" Lynn said.

"You can't get it from kissing," Jillian answered.

"They mean you can't get it from kissing on the cheek," Lynn said.  "You can get it from spit, you know.  How do you know the guy wasn't gay or a dug addict?  You're really crazy, you know."

And then Jillian had her first date just after her birthday with a guy she met hanging out at the pinball palace across from the school.  He was even cuter than the guy who kissed her and he seemed nicer.  They went to a movie and then back to his place, where they watched Max Headroom until 11 p.m.  Then he drove her home, kissed her on the cheek, told her, "Goodnight, sweetie," and then added:

"Give me a call sometimes."

That was really weird.  Jillian couldn't figure out what it meant.  How come he didn't say he'd call her?  She asked her mother about it.

"How am I supposed to know?" her mother answered.

"Do you think he liked me?  Do you think he sounds like a nice guy?"

"I'm not thrilled about this 'Give me a call' business.  If he calls you, great!  If he doesn't---off the list!"

"Off the list!" was a favorite expression of her mother's.

Jillian would've loved to talk to Roger or someone about this problem but she didn't exactly trust Roger any more.  She had been so worried about the pregnant girl that she'd finally told Roger.  He promised not to tell but the next thing she knew, the girl wasn't talking to her any more.  And the girl's parents found out she was pregnant.

Jillian couldn't really talk to Lynn about her date, either, because Lynn was starting to act weird.  Lynn was hanging out with a guy but she wouldn't tell Jillian much about him.  Jillian started thinking maybe it was the same guy she'd gone out with.  She could go crazy wondering if the guy she went out with was the guy Lynn was going out with.  Or if Roger had told the pregnant girl on her.  Or if she was going to get AIDS from kissing that cute coke dealer in the bar.  Or who she was going to talk to about all these things.  She kept asking her mother just one more time if her mother thought the guy who told her to call him sometime liked Jillian.

"I can't stand that look on you face!" her mother says.  "I can't deal with this!"

Jillian's not one of the million American adolescents who got pregnant before finishing high school last year.  She's not one of the countless numbers of kids hooked on drugs or alcohol.  She hardly ever even smokes a cigarette.  

So Jillian's mother could do worse.  But she probably could do a lot better if she cared.  ##

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