Monday, June 21, 2010

Good girls

A little later this summer, a hundred or so alumni from my high school will gather in the bar of the restaurant where many of us drank dinner before the prom, and marvel at how old and fat everyone else has gotten. I was discussing the event a few days ago with an old classmate who won't be able to attend.

I mentioned our senior banquet, which was one of the only times our class was together as a group, without dates from other classes or schools. The theme was the Roaring Twenties, so all the boys dressed as gangsters, and the girls mostly went as flappers. My steady girl was a year younger*, so I went to the banquet with my friend Sharon. I was half hoping that she might throw me some "we're never going to see each other again, anyway" action, but Sharon had other plans. She had hatched some sort of Lucy and Ethel scheme with our mutual friend Vi. I was apparently on Vi's high school bucket list or something, and after a short string of shenanigans, Sharon informed me that I would be taking Vi home after the banquet.

Good wholesome fun, pretending to be bootleggers and whores.

It turned out that I wasn't taking her straight home. We went skinny dipping in the Arkansas River with about a dozen other people, and I forget what happened after that. I walked in the door at 7:00 am, wearing different clothes than the night before and carrying the newspaper. My mother was walking into the kitchen and assumed I had just gotten out of bed and gone outside to fetch the paper. This was another of the incredible strokes of luck that I enjoyed during those years.

It was the mention of the skinny dipping that apparently blew my friend's mind, and led to a flurry of e-mail messages that continue still. She has always believed herself to be a borderline bad girl in high school, mostly because she drank a couple of beers and may have given up some over the sweater action to a long time boyfriend. The fact that her friends and classmates were carousing naked in groups seems to have turned her world upside down, and I think she may have felt like the only virgin in the class.

The truth is that probably half of the girls in my class graduated with their virtues intact, or only slightly dinged. That figure went down quickly during freshman year of college.** We grew up in the middle of the sexual revolution, and our generation was trying to reconcile the Puritan morals we were taught with the obviously changing reality. Girls who did it usually kept it quiet, often not even telling their closest friends. Boys were boys, but the ones who were smart knew to keep their mouths shut if they wanted to do it again.

The decisions were as individual as the people making them, but the narrative was much less diverse.  Girls who weren't sexual enough were fish.  Girls who gave it up were sluts. There was an exemption for long-term relationships, but only if no one spilled details or got pregnant. I still remember listening to one douche canoe telling the entire football team how his girlfriend of over a year had come across with a bj, and the whole group spent several minutes talking about how gross it was, and what a ho-bag she must be.  I resolved never to hang out with any of them, and made a mental note to call her if they ever broke up.

Apparently, this inhibition is hard to shake. My friend spent the weekend with some of her sorority sisters, and since she is now obsessed with this topic, she apparently interrogated each of them. Only about half were willing to talk about their high school experiences even now, all these years later. My impression is that girls today are much more open with their friends, and that perhaps there is a little more freedom to make your own decisions. But I could be wrong. I get all of my information on modern culture from watching Glee.***

So how about it, girls? Any stories you care to share?

* Steady was a fluid concept for me in those days. Hey, don't judge. It was the 70's. I was up front about it. And I was a seventeen year old boy.

** Like your mom.

*** Just kidding. I would rather stick a needle in my eye than watch Glee.


  1. Uhm, hum, yeah, still not gonna touch that topic...I will say 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High' was on the other day and I watched the end and marveled at how times had changed just 7 years after we graduated....we seem quaint today but still had it goen' on....I have not watched Glee either...add that to the long list of Skinny dipping in that skanky river? Yuck. Went waterskiing in the river and got back in the boat covered in a film of gasoline...

  2. Where I grew up was more relaxed. Sleeping around was fine. Obviously, I don't know what the boys said in private, but there was never any overtly nasty judgement. Sadly, it worked the other way: any one who didn't (boy or girl) was judged a freak by boys and girls alike. It was fine, I enjoyed it although we weren't exactly the last word in finesse. All the same, although I've spent most of my life in monogomous relationships (by choice), some of my best sexual experiences have been casual (in the interstices).

  3. I definitely didn't fuck around in high school. I was too busy hating everyone and being "misunderstood." Never got asked out or anything.

    I found out after high school that some of the guys used to call me The Real McCoy. Said I was this untouchable thing, because I never showed anyone how to care for me, or hinted that I wanted care in the first place.

    It made me cry, and then I pushed it away and pretended I didn't care.

  4. Wonder: Swimming in the river was probably not the most unwise thing that happened that night.

    Pueblo: It was two years after this before I even realized that there was any finesse involved. Things improved pretty rapidly after that.

    Rassles: All of this talking to old classmates has taught me how many of us shared the sense of alienation and insecurity you describe. People just coped in different ways. Some punched people. Others became cheerleaders.