As if to rub salt in my pre-pubescent wounds, early adolescence was not kind. The unfortunate emergence of the Greek uni-brow on my forehead, coupled with a Dorothy Hamill wedge cut gone terribly wrong, made me a shoo-in for … Greg Brady.
I still recall a favorite teacher giving me and another class helper little necklaces that “looked like us” to her. Blond-haired, blue-eyed “Muffy” got the cute ladybug necklace. I, with my frizzy mop and matching eyebrow got the owl. I resigned myself to my fate. Whip smart but not cute. I had a growing realization that cute was better. A lot better.
Then it happened. One magic night the boob fairy came and touched my 14 year-old chest. Go directly to 36-24-36. Do not pass GO. Do not collect a training bra. The tomboy of old was evolving into a young woman, like it or not.
While I continued to have a reputation for wit and intelligence, it was becoming increasingly apparent that my most potent features lay elsewhere. It was as if an alien had taken over my life, leaving me on the sidelines to watch in awe and try to figure it out.
I still recall the night of my first dance party. All of a sudden boys I had known my whole life wanted to dance with me. A lot. Especially the slow dances. Suddenly I was the ladybug! Confused, I asked my good pal, Joey, why he thought I was suddenly so popular. His response?
“Don’t worry. It has nothing to do with you.”
Joey, I’m afraid, was more right than he realized. Somehow, when I wasn’t paying attention, all my assets seemed to become liabilities. My quickly developing body was becoming a force in its own right and soon eclipsed everything that I had come to think of as me. My powers of strength, wit, and intelligence would have to be cleverly disguised if I was going to fit properly in the social order. The powers of attractiveness and seduction were going to be far more important in making my way in the world.
My mother, caught off-guard by sexual revolution herself, seemed every bit as confused as I. That women could be powerful, let alone sexually awakened beings, was simply not an accepted concept in her family. A young woman’s coming of age was something to downplay and cover up, yet it was to be the most potent force shaping my life for many years to come. No one, least of all me, seemed to know how to handle it.
In an odd twist of fate, my mother appeared to develop a heightened level of sexual awareness about the time I turned 16 and was given permission to date. Or perhaps my coming of age simply gave her the opening she desired for a little “girl talk.” Caught up in the spirit of freedom and openness characteristic of the time, my mom talked about sex with annoying frankness and regularity. I knew about her sex life…and my grandmother’s. I knew more than any teenage daughter would ever want to know.
I don’t want to vilify my mother here. Having turned down a college scholarship, she was married with children before the sexual revolution was in full swing and I truly believe she regretted being married a virgin. Regretted it so much, in fact, that she became something of a champion for pre-marital sex.
You might think it would have been pretty cool to have such a progressive mom. Cool, until you walk into the kitchen and overhear your mother telling your date, “Oh, yes, I think having sex before marriage is very important. It’s a very big part of a relationship and you should know what it will be like just like you would want to know anything else about the person you are going to marry.” I think my date thought he had just won the lotto, but did his best to maintain a cool, sophisticated demeanor. Nodding wisely he considers, “Yes, yes, quite right. It’s a very natural part of life.”
So, with my mother’s apparent blessing, I went off to explore the many mysteries of male-female relationships.
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