For almost five years I’ve been writing a story about the friendship between two girls who meet at 15. It ends when they’re 28. The major themes are growing up different from others and struggling with sexuality. I can handle the growing up without much hair pulling. It’s the sex that sends me around the bend.
So far, there are two full sex scenes, one when they are 16 and 17; the other at 22 years old. There are others that are less graphic, a few implied, and a relatively important one told by one of the girls’ friends.
I’ve written perfectly fine about sex before but what I’m struggling with here is the uneasy nature the role sex plays in the development of teenage girls. On the surface, it should be all about choreography (who does what to whom in what kind of setting that affects what really can be done), sandwiched between cause and effect. For all intense and purposes, that should do it. Easy.
My teenage memory of when I started to have sex, though, includes a lot of thinking going on at the same time the physical action was taking place. It went something like this: Am I doing this right; why am I doing this; I hate my flat chest, bony hips, my hair’s in my eyes; what is my partner doing now; yikes, I don’t know about that one; how about if I try–wait no–maybe, okay, okay, that’s a keeper; where’s that going, oh, no, I don’t….; wait, wait, wait; oh; that’s…what?; we’re done? oh. I understand this just may have been me but when one of your major themes is the sexual development of two teenage girls, you need to keep everything about them alert, in the moment. Sex is beyond strange when it’s new. It’s hyped up by friends and the media. It’s manipulated by parents and teachers. These girls, in particular, take many of their cues from books, movies, and art which colors their response to sex even more. All of these influences eventually come to bear on how they will live their lives.
In writing the story that they are telling me to write, I have to help the girls through such a thicket. I wish they were older. I wish they would become confident women, fully in command of their sexuality. But that’s not who they are. And that, to be true to my girls, is what I am struggling to portray.