Sunday, July 20, 2014

Tiger, Tiger A Memoir by Margaux Fragoso

This sad and disturbing memoir tells the story of the author’s fourteen year relationship with a pedophile. In 1985 when Margaux was seven years old, living with a mentally ill stay-at-home mother and a tyrannical, belittling father with a temper like a bomb that could go off at any time at the least little touch, she met Peter at a public swimming pool. He was fifty-one, with aqua eyes and sandy-silver hair worn in a Beatles cut, he lived in a home that was a wonderland of animals, including a variety of birds, black-whiskered catfish, iguanas, dogs, rabbits, and turtles, guinea pigs and hamsters, goldfish, and even a small alligator. He was kind and sympathetic and immediately charmed Margaux and her mother, who came to think of Peter as the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. But to Margaux, he was the perfect friend. His home became paradise to them and they would visit every week.

But Peter was a pedophile. The games and stories soon lost their innocence. Tickling advanced to fondling and kissing and then games of hide-and-seek first in underpants and then, upon his dare, in the nude. He manipulated Margaux. He convinced her that theirs was a very special relationship that outsiders could not understand. That they were in love and would one day marry.

After a lifeguard at the pool reported seeing Peter kissing Margaux on the mouth she was forbidden to see him. First came tantrums, then she sank into a deep depression, accompanied by insomnia. She stopped eating and her grades dropped. Margaux’s mother persuaded her husband that the kiss was entirely innocent and had been blown all out of proportion and soon the weekly visits resumed.

But Margaux was growing up. Childish pastimes were now firmly in the past as Peter introduced Margaux to French kissing and oral sex. Violence began to creep into their relationship. But fueled by books such as Lolita and the works of V.C. Andrews, about younger girls seduced by older men, Margaux bought into the fantasy. To please Peter she shaved her pubic hair and hoped her breasts wouldn’t grow larger, she tried to stay a little girl instead of becoming a woman. She created a fantasy alter ego, naughty girl Nina, who was everything Peter desired and even studied porn in order to please him.

When Peter’s health worsened, Margaux found herself assuming the role of his caregiver when she was still in her mid-teens. She was convinced he was the only one who truly loved her. Even after the sex stopped, due to his health problems and her growing up, Peter continued to manipulate Margaux. When she was twenty-two Peter committed suicide and left Margaux devastated. Her life had been so entwined with Peter’s she scarcely knew where one ended and the other began. She didn’t even know what she really liked and which desires had been cultivated in order to please him. It was a long, hard struggle to reach the point where she could see the truth and write this very frank and unflinchingly honest book.

This book gripped me from the start and would not let me go until I had finished it. Reading it was a real experience for me, as some of the men in Margaux’s life resembled men I have known, though I never encountered a pedophile in my own personal life, I am no stranger to manipulative, verbally abusive men with tempers like time bombs, and pretenders who are not really what they seem, and this memoir affected me like no other I have ever read. I wish the author well and hope she has found happiness and peace of mind.

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