Today I would be labeled a sexually abused child

The psychologist Martin Seligman tells of an event from his childhood when he exchanged kisses with a “bum”.

Source: What You Can Change and What You Can’t, by Martin E. P. Seligman, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1994

Today I would be labeled a sexually abused child. Myron “molested” me every weekday for about a year when I was nine. I walked four blocks to School 16. On the corner, Myron sold the Times Union for a nickel. He dressed in dun-colored rags, was unshaven, and stammered badly. Today my colleagues would label him “a retarded adult with cerebral palsy.” In the early 1950s, people in Albany, New York, labeled him a “bum” and a “dummy.” But he and I had a special friendship. He kissed me and we hugged for a few minutes. He told me his troubles and I told him mine. Then I went off to fourth grade.

One day, Myron disappeared from his corner. I looked for him frantically, and a policeman on the beat nearby told me that Myron had “gone away.” I was heartbroken. He hadn’t even said good-bye.

Five years later, I saw Myron as I got off a bus to go to the Palace Theatre way downtown. “Myron!” I shouted joyously. He took one look at me and ran away as fast as his limp allowed. A pile of unsold newspapers, flapping in the cold winter wind, remained.

Today, of course, I can fill in the gaps. A passing neighbor must have seen Myron “molesting” (i.e., hugging and kissing) me. She told my parents. My parents told the police. The police told Myron that if they ever saw him with me again, they would send him to prison—or worse (Albany was not a gentle place in the 1950s). No one told me any of this.