Sex and the Small Town, or the Importance of Listening to Girlfriends

May 26, 2010

Although I will not be going to see the new Sex and the City movie this week, I admit there was a time I had more than a passing interest in the show and not just because I had so much in common with Carrie Bradshaw. . . . we’re girls, we’re writers, and we sometimes write about sex. (I do admit that Carrie tends to write about having sex while I tend to write more about not having sex, but is this really an important distinction?) And yes, I know that Carrie is not a real person or a real writer, but I often feel that way too. . .

While I got tired of the show’s obsession with conspicuous consumption—clothes, shoes, drinks, men—I did enjoy the girlfriend camaraderie and the way they shared stories and advice. It made me think back to how much I learned from my girlfriends at Gilford Middle High School . . . and though my girlfriends and I never discussed sexual exploits over Sunday brunch or overpriced frothy mixed drinks, and in fact never discussed sexual exploits period (either because we hadn’t had any or because, as girls from northern New England, we preferred to keep most of our exploits private not only from our girlfriends but sometimes even private from ourselves), below is some of what I learned at Gilford Middle High School way back when. And yes, this list will prove at least one sure truth: that in high school I was incredibly ignorant, but at least I knew how to listen.

Thanks to:

–Jenny, who told me in sixth grade gym class I would need to shave the backs of my legs as well as the front because “It’s still part of your leg.” I had yet to begin this thankless task so I probably would have figured it out eventually, but I appreciated the heads up. Senior year Jenny and I also briefly flirted with forgoing shaving altogether when we befriended Heike Jonen, a German girl who went to Gilford that year while she was an apprentice to the crystal artist Pepi Hermann. Unlike me, both Heike and Jenny were beautiful enough that they could have had thick pelts covering their entire bodies and still looked like super models, but either way, we all were smart enough to give up this short-lived experiment with going native and grab our razors around late spring when shorts season began in earnest.

–Becky who said, with all her Becky bluntness, “You’d be a better dancer if you moved your hands a little bit.” I would never be as good as Becky (she was terrific and not just because she constantly practiced her steps even while sitting in English class or standing at the Bunsen burners in chem lab, which, like so many things we did in high school, only seems dangerous in retrospect), but learning to move my hands still helps me avoid feeling like a George Romero Dawn of the Dead zombie whenever I am caught in the frantic fray of a concert or club, or, to be honest, my living room or my kitchen, which is pretty much the only place I dance anymore.

–Robin who taught me two all-important skills in the ‘80s. . . first, that while it might seem counter-intuitive, the layered flip hairstyle is best achieved by first curling each section of hair under and then flipping it up all at once. Second, that sparkly blue eyeshadow is best complemented by eyeliner applied to the inside of your bottom eyelid rather than the outside. Especially if it is also sparkly and blue.

–Holly, who introduced me to the delights of hair gel. “You leave it in, fix your hair, and then let it dry. Your hair will stay the way you fixed it all day long.” And it’s true that all through four years of high school Holly’s bangs never moved once, whether she was playing full court press on the basketball team, riding on the back of her boyfriend’s motorcycle going sixty miles an hour, or sweating behind the counter of Dairy Queen handing out softserve after softserve during an early evening August rush. Her bangs, circa 1982-1986, were a true testament to the marvels of modern haircare.

–Nancy who taught me the art of buying an iced Coke at McDonald’s and then taking the top off to add rum so you can drink almost anywhere without detection (though the smell would probably give us away eventually). She will deny teaching me this, but it’s absolutely true. Nancy also taught me the value of always telling the truth, however flustered it might make you. This was how she talked her way out of getting thrown in a squad car (or even getting a ticket), when, at seventeen, she was pulled over for speeding while carrying a backseat full of empty wine cooler bottles. (I guess this is also where she taught me the value of being the designated driver. She was as sober as she said she was, even though she was having a panic attack at the time—and I can only hope she will share here how to pass a roadside sobriety test while having a panic attack.)

–and Laurie who introduced me to fashion on a budget, specifically the $1 bag day at Salvation Army. (This was when the Salvation Army in Laconia pretty much just piled the garbage bags full of donations onto various tables in the “store.” I don’t think they had a single clothes rack in that place.) Laurie is still my fashion icon, and not just because she now accessorizes her fabulous outfits with tasteful, pretty cocktails (cocktails that are slightly more sophisticated than lifting the top to a McDonald’s cup and adding a cheap shot of rum) . . . check out her website (shameless plug alert!) and become a believer.

Finally, I just read that Candace Bushnell has come out with a new Sex and the City novel, this one about Carrie Bradshaw’s senior year in high school. While I’m sure Carrie’s senior year was nothing at all like mine–did she mistakenly get a buzz cut at the hair salon? Did she gain twenty pounds after quitting basketball?–doubt it, but I may have to check it out just for the girlfriend factor alone. . .

The end of my senior year in high school. Nancy, Holly (with perfect bangs), Robin (with blue eyeshadow), and me. I may have been the Carrie, but I won't tell you who everyone else is. . . and oh, yes, that is my brother in the background, still doing the bunny ears thing at nineteen.


4 Responses to “Sex and the Small Town, or the Importance of Listening to Girlfriends”

  1. Kirsti said

    Laurie did wear the greatest clothes–but Meredith was a close second. And it was so hard to look good in the 80s; I marvel at anyone who managed it. Also, I second your point about Holly’s bangs. Even after the DQ rush, her hair looked the same as it had when she’d arrived that morning, while I looked like a wet dog.

  2. Oh maybe the wet dog business had to do with too much gel? I don’t know. And yes I agree about the Laurie/Meredith connection. I remember Meredith saying that some people thought they were sisters–connected by the cool factor I’m sure, not just by their shared last name. And I wanted to put you in there too–you introduced me to Jane Austen and Emily Bronte and I remember we cried a great deal whenever we watched Helena Bonham Carter in ANY MOVIE EVER, but it didn’t exactly match the vibe I was going for this time around. I will have to have a whole nother post just on Helena Bonham Carter. And maybe Prince. We’ll see.You can help me with that one. You and Betty.

  3. Laurie said

    Um, wow. A fashion icon? That’s bananas. Although I do still have my dad’s Army dress uniform that I would wear to school on occasion, eliciting a raised eyebrow from Mr. Sargent. Nice pics in this piece (and nice text, too) — thanks for not including one of me and my Duran Duran hair.

  4. Yeah, I might have to do one just on hair alone. That and your Boy George impersonation.

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