Read Excerpt: 'Beyond the Cleavage' by Raquel Welch

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.

And then came Elvis! It's amazing what his presence did to stim¬ulate my teenage libido. Holy shit, he was something! I managed to get tickets to see him live at his first concert in the San Diego area. I sat ea¬gerly waiting among thousands of screaming teenage girls when Elvis hit that stage. He was like a sexual hurricane, a force of nature. In re¬ality, I didn't know the first thing about sex. But all of us sensed that Elvis had an irresistible grip on that subject. I can assure you that he had this fourteen-year-old girl "all shook up"!

Who could compete with Elvis? I had a record player stacked with 45s of "Heartbreak Hotel," "Jailhouse Rock," "Blue Suede Shoes," "Love Me Tender," and "Hound Dog." From that point on, something clicked in my head, and a new era was born. After that, I thought in terms of B.E. and A.E.: Before Elvis and After Elvis. He was a milestone. Until I met Jim Welch.

My First Love
James Wesley Welch was gorgeous. He had wavy black hair, green eyes, and a cool demeanor. I'll never forget the day I came running up the steps to my American government class and there he was. Whoa! Who's that? He looked at me and smiled his crooked grin. It was instant attraction. We were both fifteen. From the first minute I saw him, I se¬cretly knew that I was destined to have his babies. In my emotionally charged, romantic young mind, I fixated on Jim as "my one and only."

He seemed to feel a magnetic pull toward me as well. Before long he asked if I wanted a ride to school, since he was one of the guys who had a car. He started picking me up in the morning and we'd drive to school together. I was in heaven. Jim would be my first true love, with all that it implies. He'd be the unforgettable, always present love, against whom all others would be judged. I couldn't even imagine that I would ever be in love with anyone else but him. That kind of stinkin' thinkin' would affect my personal life for years to come.

Love distracted me from my studies. I was always elated to see him and would chatter away nonsensically, out of sheer excitement. He, on the other hand, hardly said a thing! If he had, I might have discovered how little we had in common . . . but my schoolgirl crush on Jim lulled me into believing that he was the man of my dreams. And in some ways he was. And yet, I realized years later that I was needy and that it caused me to project certain qualities onto Jim that he didn't have.

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