LOOK WHO'S HAVING SEX WITH MOMMY
I WAS SEVEN years old when my sister told me she'd give me five dollars
to run upstairs into my parents' room while they were having sex and
take a picture. At that age I had heard of sex but had no idea what it
looked like. I knew for sure that my parents were sexually active. My
father had impregnated my mother on six different occasions, all of
which she decided to keep, so it was clear to my siblings and me that
there was a definite attraction. There were many times when we would
hear loud bumping and raucous laughter coming from their bedroom. My
brothers and sisters always reacted with disgust and, being the
youngest, I would follow suit, but was never sure why. Without knowing
exactly what the act of sex entailed, there wasn't any real reason to be
revolted, but it had become second nature to pretend I knew something I
I was always up for a chance to make easy money. I had been wearing
hand-me-downs since I was born, and by the age of seven was already sick
and tired of my second-string wardrobe. I may not have known what sex
was, but I did know that I needed to step up my wardrobe in order to be
taken seriously in the first grade. "No problem," I said. "Where's the
camera and how do I use it?"
I tiptoed up the stairs leading to my parents' bedroom with my sister
Sloane following close behind. Their door had a lock on it, but it was
old and didn't secure inside the doorjamb anymore. If it was locked you
weren't able to turn the handle, but if you smashed your body into it,
it would open.
I checked and saw it was locked. I would have to use physical force.
Sloane crept back toward the top of the staircase. I set up for a
"Ready?" I asked her.
"Go!" she whispered.
Seeing your mother naked is not something you easily recover from.
Seeing your mother naked and jumping from one side of a king-sized bed
to the other with a nurse's hat on while your father, who is also naked,
is chasing her with a bandanna around his neck, is reason to put
yourself up for adoption. Fortunately, I took the first picture before
anything had a chance to register. The second picture was of my father
heading toward me with a belt.
My sister was already down the stairs when I came running out of my
parents' room. I jumped all the way from the top of the stairs to the
bottom. Luckily, I had perfected this jump months earlier during three
consecutive snow days. I did not dare look behind me to see if my father
and his penis were chasing me; I just kept running. We lived in a
split-level house, so at the bottom of the big stairs, there was a
shorter set of stairs to the right and to the left. I went left and my
sister went right. I saw her head for the basement and followed her in.
Our basement doubled as the laundry room; the one room in our house my
father had never been in.
"Lock the door!" she barked, as she scrambled to hide under a pile of
"Oh, my God, Dad has a belt," I told her.
"A belt! He has a belt! I think he wants to hit us with it!"
"The one he wears with his pants?" she asked.
"Yes," I said. "I think he wants to belt us!"
We were too scared to cry. This was it for me, I was sure of it. I was
going to be murdered in my basement by my naked father, with a belt. I
had never been hit by a belt before but had heard stories about it
happening in poorer neighborhoods. Suddenly, there was the sound of
footsteps coming down the stairs and then banging on the door.
"Open the goddamn door! Now! You two are gonna get a smack and you're
gonna get it now!"
I stared at Sloane with big eyes. I wanted her to think of a way out of
this mess. She was twelve and she needed to take charge.
"Ask him if it's with the belt or his hand," Sloane said.
I looked at her to make sure she was serious, then yelled back, "With
your hand or a belt?"
I went closer to the stairs that led to the door. "Are you going to hit
us with the belt or your hand?"
He was shaking the handle now. "No one's getting hit with a belt!" he
shouted. "One ... two ..."
This was before there were time-outs, so my sister and I didn't know
what to make of his counting. I wondered if his ABCs were next. He
stopped at "three," and we braced ourselves when "four" didn't come.
Sloane was holding on to me for dear life. Her crying had turned into
heaving, and now she started to shake uncontrollably. I tried to comfort
her by rubbing her back like my mother did but was too preoccupied with
my imminent beating to be very reassuring.
Since my sister had turned into a real mess, it was up to me to devise a
plan of escape. At that moment, Sloane wouldn't have been able to lead a
horse to our swimming pool, never mind leading me to my bedroom without
getting my ass kicked.
"We have to go up and just let him hit us," my sister whispered.
"Ah, I don't think so. I don't make appointments to get hit. Plus, this
was your idea and Dad should hit you both times."
"I want to get it over with!"
"No fucking way. I am not going upstairs to get hit."
This was the very first time I said "fucking" in front of anyone and I
liked the way it sounded. I had heard my brothers and sisters use curse
words but had never dared use one myself in front of anyone. But I had
practiced alone in my room lots of times, trying out different cadences
and intonations: "Fuck, fuck, fuck you, fucknut. Shit, shitstain,
fucker! Go fuck a duck, you asswipe!" My favorite was, "What a fucking
cocksucker." The plan was to say this casually to one of my new friends
while one of our teachers walked by. No one in kindergarten ever really
got my sense of humor, so I was hell-bent on making my mark in the first
Saying the word "fucking" in front of my sister catapulted me to an
instant state of authority. Sloane stared expectantly at me. I strained
to hear what was going on upstairs. Suddenly, everything was very quiet.
I fantasized that my father had forgotten why he had wanted to hit us in
the first place. Maybe he was watching the stock market and found out
that his eight shares of Noah's Bagels had quadrupled. Maybe if we
stayed down there long enough he would forget all about what we did and
actually be excited to see us when we came out. I could lie and say I
was just looking for Q-tips and used the camera to block what I hadn't
expected to see. Or I could say I just wanted help with my homework. My
father loved when I did my homework.
We hadn't even been in the basement for a whole half hour when my sister
started to complain that she was hungry.
"Where do you think Mom is?" she asked. My mother was the nice one, and
she always protected us when my father was in one of his moods. I knew
my mother wouldn't be mad at us because she was always defending us to
our father no matter what we did. Especially since we had a lot to hold
over her head.
All I would have to do is remind her of a week earlier when She forgot
to pick me up from school and I had been accosted by a male predator on
my way home. Our house wasn't even a mile from school, but some man
slowed his car along the sidewalk I was walking on and asked if I knew
any tricks. Upon taking a good look at an overweight older man with gray
stubble, wearing a pair of coveralls, I bolted home faster than I'd
finished the fifty-yard dash earlier that day. After a good twenty
minutes of me berating my mother for not picking me up and allowing me
to possibly be abducted, she hit the roof.
"But you weren't, were you?" she said. "Luckily you were able to outrun
My mother is European and expresses her love through food and cuddling.
She wasn't the type of mother who would make it to school plays or
soccer games, but if you wanted to stay home sick, she was your girl.
Whenever you'd go up to her room to cuddle with her, she'd pull out a
KitKat or Snickers bar from her night table and look at you with dancing
eyes. She is a very sweet woman but had zero tolerance for all the
Jewish mothers in our town and wanted to avoid them at all costs. If
there was a parents' night or a teacher conference, it was understood
early on that our mother would rather set herself on fire; we were lucky
if she showed up at our bat mitzvah. Unfortunately, my father loved any
sort of school event and would usually show up hooting and hollering in
the front row, wearing snow boots and a sweater covered in dog hair.
Normally, I would have expected my mother to knock on the basement door
and explain to us how to avoid getting smacked, but who knew what kind
of high she was on after her nude pep rally upstairs.
"I heard that men fall asleep after they have sex," Sloane offered.
"Dad didn't look tired when he was chasing me with his belt," I told
"I don't know if I can wait for Mom to come for us. I'm really hungry."
I climbed up on the dryer and took a seat. "Mom was wearing a nurse's
"What?" She seemed concerned.
"When I walked in on them, she was naked and Dad was chasing her on the
bed. I saw his penis."
"Ew? Ew? You're the pervert who made me do it!"
"I didn't think you'd really do it," she said.
"You knew I would!"
This was so typical of Sloane. She always backed out of a situation once
controversy found its way into it. My brothers and sisters knew they
could get me to do anything, mostly because I wanted them to like me,
but Sloane was a different story. I wasn't sure I liked
"You are so double-faced," I told her. "I hate you."
"It's two-faced, dummy, and I am not!" she said.
"Oh, really, what about the time with the Feinstein sisters," I reminded
A year earlier when I was in kindergarten and she was in the fifth
grade, we would walk to school together in the morning. One day, two
other sisters were on their way to school with their five-foot-tall
Irish wolfhound following closely behind. They were telling their dog to
go back home but the dog wouldn't listen. Sloane was scared because the
dog was so big and kept growling at us. The girls were laughing at my
sister for being scared of their dog, but in reality, this dog was
scary. He was huge and mean and looked like he belonged in a wild animal
park. He had a large open wound on his hind leg and looked as if he was
"Stop laughing at my sister, you dumb girls," I yelled. "Your dog is
ugly and belongs in a shelter."
"Shut up," Sloane said through her teeth. "Shut up."
"Oh, look, Sloane needs her six-year-old sister to defend her," one of
the girls sneered.
"No, she doesn't," I yelled, then turned to Sloane for some backup-only
to see her running furiously in the direction of the school.
Years later I learned the word "turncoat" in history class. Had I had
this kind of ammunition against her earlier, things might have ended up
"I dropped the camera in Mom's room," I told her.
"Oh, that's just great." She stood up with her hands on her hips. "I
have pictures on there of Marsha's sleepover party. We all took our
pajamas off and took pictures while playing Truth or Dare."
"Why?" I asked.
"Because. We felt like it."
"I'm telling," I told her.
"Who cares?" she said. "It was only girls."
"Lesbian!" I yelled.
I knew what a lesbian was because my father's best friend from high
school's wife left him for another woman and my father referred to her
only as "the lesbian."
"I am not a lesbian. Shut up!"
"Yes you are. I knew it."
"If anyone's a lesbian, it's you," she said. That shut me up.
"It's better for us just to go upstairs and get it over with," she said.
"At least then we can eat something. I want a sandwich."
"How can you think about food at a time like this?" I asked her. "Do you
think people at the Battle of Gettysburg had time for peanut butter and
Switching tactics, she reminded me that it was a Thursday night and we
would be missing The Cosby Show if we stayed in the basement.
That would have been enough to drive any level-headed seven-year-old
Even so, I was ready to stay in the basement as long as it took for my
dad to forget about what had happened. I had seen his penis and did not
think I would be able to look him in the eye anytime soon.
I thought about escaping through our one basement window, but then I
would only be outside and it was cold. Winter was not a good time to run
away from home, especially without an overnight bag.
I wondered if my mother was actually mad at me too. I told my sister I
would need more than the five dollars we had originally agreed on.
"No way! You got caught. That was not part of the deal! I'm not even
sure I'm going to give you the five dollars!"
I smacked her on the back of the head. She tried to hit me, but I
ducked. Then she ran toward the stairs.
"No! Don't go!!!" I yelled, but she was already up the stairs and out
the door when I ran up after her to try and pull her back down.
I locked the door just as I heard her get another smack, but this one
sounded like it was on her face. I listened as she started wailing. This
upset me deeply. I wanted her to be a strong gladiator type, the kind of
girl I envisioned myself at thirteen. A weight lifter with a steadfast
disposition and a designer wardrobe. But she was a sissy, and I could
not follow suit.
It was becoming clear to me that the only way out of this was to turn
the tables on my father. Instead of running, I would never leave the
basement. Not even if he begged me. I would tell him how sickened I was
by what I saw and that I now had reservations about going out into the
real world without a psychiatrist by my side. I would insist on therapy
two to three times a week and also insist that it take place during
school hours. I would demand an entirely new wardrobe and that they
allow me to move into the master bedroom, while my parents took my room.
I would make them beg for my forgiveness while threatening them with
lawsuits: unfit parenting, involving a minor in sexual activities,
pornographic exposure to a minor, the list would go on and on. I saw
Irreconcilable Differences. I was no dummy.
My father knocked on the door for the last time that night. "Are you
ready to come out and get your smack?"
"I want Mom," I said. There was no response from the other side of the
door. I wondered how Sloane's sandwich tasted with her bloody lip. I
wondered if the Huxtable children had ever walked in on their parents
having sex. It was important to occupy my mind with other thoughts, so I
decided to do some laundry. Maybe when my mother came and saw that all
the laundry had been done she would tell my father, who would come to
the conclusion that I wasn't such a bad kid after all. I took one look
at the laundry machine with all its buttons and dials and decided sleep
was more appealing.
I woke up sometime in the middle of the night after feeling something
crawl over my foot. I jumped up and ran to the top of the stairs.
Slowly, I opened the door. Ali the lights were out. No one was in sight.
I went straight to bed and fell asleep.
My father came in my room at seven A.M. to wake me up. "It's time to get
up, love." Then he walked downstairs.
I was ecstatic. Sloane should have listened to me the whole time! I got
dressed for school, had a bowl of Lucky Charms in celebration of my
personal victory, and brushed my teeth.
My father said he'd be outside warming up the car. You never knew which
car this was because we had about ten in our driveway. My father fancied
himself a used car dealer, but as I understood it, "dealing" meant
buying and then selling. Cars would pile up in our driveway for years at
a time, and on most mornings my father would have to jumpstart one or
more to get us to school. Each car was more embarrassing than the next
and none were made in the decade in which we lived.
I went outside and jumped into the car that was smoking, which was a
fluorescent turquoise Plymouth something or other with vinyl interior. I
was flying so high from my victory, I decided to compliment him on the
"I love this color, Dad."
My firm yet supple seven-year-old ass had hardly touched the vinyl when
my own father sucker-slapped me. Right on my nose. I was in pure,
titillated horror. I couldn't even respond with words. I thought for
sure my nose was broken, but then the tingling sensation died-just when
I was starting to enjoy it.
Excerpted from "My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands" by Chelsea Handler. Copyright © 0 by Chelsea Handler. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.