Books

Erika Schickel on being a Bad Girl

Erika_Buxton_1980-cropped.jpgErika Schickel, the Los Angeles author and sometime contributor to LA Observed, has an excerpt of her forthcoming memoir online at Sensitive Skin magazine. Unsupervised: My Life as a Bad Girl is revealing and personal and reflective, as memoirs ought to be. She's revealing about her family, including her film critic father, Richard Schickel, and about herself, starting with her turn into a self-described Bad Girl back when that term meant something, after her parents' "epic, toxic" divorce when she was 12. I'll omit the long, entertaining list of "bad girlery" she admits. Excerpt from the rest:

I learned that love was a shuck just as I hit willowy, blonde puberty in Manhattan in the late 1970’s. It was the summer of Taxi Driver and I was a dead ringer for Jodie Foster. I was jailbait and unsupervised and the world came on to me fast.

New York in 1976 was Ground Zero for sex. Women were freshly liberated and on the pill, the Stonewall Riots brought out the gays, no-fault divorce was sweeping the nation and people were getting it on. Nobody was worried about genital herpes or G-spots. Hang-ups were hung up, swingers swung, and platonic relationships were in retreat at Plato’s Retreat. AYDS was a diet candy. Everybody was doing it, even my parents—just not with each other.

My dad cheated on my mom in London with a chippie who worked for Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Mom called him a cab. They both wrote thinly veiled novels about it all and made me and my younger sister choose opposite sides of the split.

[skip 30+ years]

Only a bad woman would leave a perfectly good man and destroy her family for someone who refers to himself in the third person as “The Demon Dog.” I was not only condemnable by my tawdry actions and dubious choice, but by the era I lived in. A divorcee in 1976 was seen as liberated, but a divorcee in 2009 is just selfish, and an adulteress with children is that most unforgivable of creatures—a bad mother. I became, for the second time in my life, an outcast.

I felt shame, not because of the man I had chosen, but because I had gone and done the one thing I had spent two decades trying to avoid—I had recreated the exact circumstances of my own downfall, for my eldest daughter.

Previously on LA Observed:
Schickel and Ellroy, together

Cropped photo of Schickel in 1980, from the story


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