The calls started when I was a junior in high school—always in the evening, always after The Simpsons and always with an older gentleman on the other end of the line.
“Charles, there’s someone who wants to speak you,” my mother would yell from the kitchen. She showed no concern as she handed me the phone, no alarm in her eyes over all the calls she was getting from strange middle-aged men looking to chat up her vulnerable teenage son. That’s because these creepers called themselves “colonels” and “sergeants,” which lent authority to their predation. These men were military recruiters – and the bed they wanted to get me in was housed in some barracks.
A few weeks earlier, a uniformed Marine had come to my high school, set up an efficient little booth in the cafeteria and, in exchange for a stupid hat or a bumper sticker, convinced me and some other boys desperate to be men to give him our names and home phone numbers. After that, at least once a week I had to deal with a recruiter calling me “dude” or “man” while promising that military service would allow me to see the world and sleep with many of its women.