Some guys would just gawk or drive around the block for a second look. But others would yell a lewd remark, make suggestive ges¬tures and urge me to get in their car! It made me feel very exposed and vulnerable. "Go away!" was all I could think of to say; that, and zap them with an icy stare. After an awkward initiation period, I became accustomed and even immune to unwanted male attention. I was also flattered by the glances from other young girls who were sizing up the competition.
I didn't consider myself pretty, mainly because I didn't fit into the mold of the blonde, blue-eyed ideal. But who was I to argue? I rather liked being admired. At the same time, all the attention was distracting and interfered with the way I wanted to think of myself—as an intelli¬gent girl with artistic leanings.
I enrolled in La Jolla High School, which was only three blocks away from the famous Windansea surfing beach! From the high school's sec¬ond-story windows, my classmates could check out the coastline to see if the surf was up. Despite this siren call of the sea, once I enrolled as a freshman, I threw myself into my studies and managed to become an A student. Mr. Rosney, my all-time favorite teacher, taught American government, my best subject. I was keenly interested in Martin Luther King Jr. and his fight against racism and segregation. When it came to homework, I wasn't a fast reader, so I often had to work very late into the night to finish my assignments, sometimes until 3 AM. That didn't really bother me. I loved getting a handle on sociopolitical subjects. Whatever it took, I was ready to put forth the effort.
By now I had new idols. My parents didn't allow any movie fan magazines at our house. They were considered trash. But my best friend, Kitty Pemberton, had stacks of forbidden tabloids piled high all over her bedroom floor. We spent many an afternoon glued to the pages of those "rags." I pored over photos and stories about stars like Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh and couldn't get enough of James Dean, Na¬talie Wood, Jayne Mansfield, and Marilyn Monroe, as well as tons of starlets and teen idols.
Since the '90s, people have tended to refer to the '50s as an uptight period in our culture. I would argue with that perception. If that were true, how could this "squeaky clean" era have given rise to the world's most memorable sex symbols? Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, and Marlon Brando? They became my new idols. And they are still widely worshipped to this day.
Marilyn oozed "availability," which was how we young girls felt hor¬monally, though we had to put a lid on it. What troubled me back then was the fact that as hypnotic as Marilyn was to watch, she gave the im¬pression of someone who could be easily taken advantage of and who couldn't fight back . . . like my mother. For that reason, I didn't want to be like her at all. She was an accident waiting to happen. Later, I saw that there were some men who could be protective. That was reassuring, but then they might end up taking ownership of you. Being a girl was like walking a tightrope. You just couldn't afford to walk with a wiggle.