all of the selves we Have ever been
Do you remember your first time?
The passion of youth? Awakening to new feelings, a new type of energy?
I was born in the late 1950s during a very proper time when girls who got pregnant disappeared without a trace.
My youth was stained by tears following the assassination of a president. Later, everyone cried again as a man walked on the moon just as the slain, young president had predicted.
As I grew into my teen years, propriety descended into chaos as the country became further embroiled in the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. Some people gathered at peace rallies while others set fire to the streets. Love was free but people weren’t. Protesters shouted, “Down with the establishment!” It was an angry and contentious time.
The women’s movement was picking up steam, and young women like me were reading Our Bodies Ourselves. Some of us were planning to marry right after high school graduation, but, for the first time, more of us were taking the SATs and thinking of college.
As we tried to understand Watergate and the impeachment of a president, we also lived our high school years trying to understand a new lottery game in which there were no winners. I carried my transistor radio to school so my friends and I could hear the birth dates picked in the draft lottery. First prize was an all-expense-paid trip to Vietnam.
The boys I knew were thinking of their futures. Many hoped it would not include Vietnam but maybe a union job at the steel mill where their fathers worked, or college—maybe even Ivy League. They grew their hair long. “Mercy,” grown-ups said. “What’s this world coming to?”
I don’t recall adults really talking to us about issues of sex, self-protection, or any of the other important issues of the day. Children were seen and not heard. You went straight from that silent abyss into marriage, college, work, or war.
There was a long list of don’ts,” but not much on “how to.” Some words were never uttered out loud, words like pregnant and cancer. Long before text messaging, adults described these conditions using acronyms like PG and CA. We had to learn from what we overheard and try to decipher the code.
Despite all that, as teenagers do, we thought we knew everything, and we were passionate about what we did know. Prior to social media, we teens carried an invisible audience around in our heads, always seeking approval from those critical voices.
And so that was the setting for my very first time. I faced it excited, passionate and involved even if a bit naïve. I tried to read up on it and get to know the person I chose. I was open about it and discussed it endlessly with my friends who were doing it, too.
And so, on a pre-determined day, I looked into the eyes of my chosen one, and I saw myself reflected there which was just as it should be. And then, I did it. I voted. For the first time, I elected a president. The entire process was exhilarating.
Perhaps you have lost that lovin’ feeling since the very first time you voted. If so, I would recommend some love sonnets to get you back in the mood. Read The American Spirit by David McCullough. You will fall in love with America and democracy all over again.
This time, when you decide to go for it, use protection—educate yourself. You’ll know he or she is the one if you can see yourself reflected in those eyes.