Jim represented the handsome young prince I had fantasized would rescue me. He was the antidote to my harsh father. Here was a young man who didn't ask anything much of me but showered me with the affection I was hungry for. But I couldn't cross the line and be in¬timate with him. I couldn't break the taboo.
I wasn't a Miss Goody Two-Shoes. None of the girls were "easy" back then. That's just the way it was among the girls in my school, who made up the class of 1958. Most of us were virgins, and I was no exception. Sex just wasn't discussed, and drugs were not in the picture. Porn was nowhere to be seen. The Outlaw, starring Jane Russell, was considered a very risqué movie, and no one under the age of twenty-one was allowed to see it. Eleven o'clock was the curfew. Daddy would be waiting up with the lights on when we pulled up. And Jim had better walk me to the door, or else!
Repressive? Maybe. But most girls respected the rules. The rules kept us in line, even though they would inevitably be broken. If you have no rules, you have no standards. Somehow, we all managed to get through high school without acting out the scenarios that were going on inside our heads. I feel that I was lucky that things were not more per¬missive. Looking back, I'm glad that I was reined in enough to take it slow in those formative years, if you call what happened in my life "slow." But it moved at a snail's pace by today's standards.
Although there was a lot of swooning and moaning, Jim and I weren't very sophisticated about sex. We were just all hot and bothered around each other. But during our third year of courtship, there were signs that we were also very different people. We kept breaking up and getting back together again. By our senior year, Jim, who never took much interest in his classes, dropped out of high school altogether. I was devastated! I had just become an honors student when he bailed and went off on a tuna clipper to Peru! I thought I'd never see him again. I knew that he'd been brooding about something, but it had never occurred to me that he would make such a drastic move. I didn't understand. Once he was gone, all I felt was hurt and confusion. I later realized that he needed to find himself and that academia was not his path. My father said, "Good riddance," and predicted that he'd never amount to anything. But I was brokenhearted and cried myself to sleep on many nights. Still, life went on.
High Heels and Bathing Suits
Only a year earlier, my life had taken an unexpected turn. It was one of those nonsensical things that happens and somehow changes every¬thing. One day, out of the blue, I got talked into joining a beauty contest. My home economics teacher recruited all the girls in her class to participate as models at a photography convention. As part of this "field trip," we would also compete in a contest for the title "Miss Photogenic."
Huh? It had come out of left field, and I balked. We were being asked to wear one-piece bathing suits and high heels, of all things. I really didn't want to go. High heels and bathing suits sounded kind of cheesy to me, and I said so. But all the other girls thought I was trying to wriggle out of it and sort of shamed me into going along for the ride. So despite my grumbling, about a dozen of us ended up in Balboa Park one Sunday afternoon as models and rather unwilling contestants.