Freshman Innocence, Then and Now

Mamacita says:  You lookin’ for innocence? A long time ago, in a universe far, far away, there lived a teenage girl so naive it was honestly dangerous.

She had been nowhere.  She had done nothing.  The good-night kiss, lips together, on the front porch, light on, father listening to every word and rustle because his bedroom window was also the porch window, was as far as she’d ever “gone.”

Most of her clothing was ordered from the Sears catalogue.

Most of her shoes were purchased at Jeff’s Shoe Store, a local shop that carried brand name shoes, if by “brand name” what you mean is “Keds.”

Not that that mattered to this girl’s mother, who bought saddle oxfords in winter and made the girl wait until May to get what she still refers to as “tennis shoes.”  Which the girl had to use SHOE POLISH on to keep them snow white, although she occasionally cheated with baby powder.  The point is, they had to be kept snow white.

One of the things this teen looked forward to most, about going away to college, was wearing whatever she wanted from the top of her head to the soles of her feet.

The problem was, she had no money to buy anything different from what her mother had packed for her to take up to the dorm.

So the girl had to improvise.  And by “improvise,” I mean the girl went out in public looking like a something that crawled out from under a boxcar, mated with a cartoon gypsy who had been exiled from the tribe for having no taste, tripped and fallen into the place where the art students threw out their dirty paint water, and misinterpreted the mirror as saying “You look so groovy, girl!”

The girl did do one thing right away, though.  She walked down to Target (which was then called Ayre-Way) and bought a pair of jeans.)  That’s right – the girl didn’t even own a pair of jeans.  And now she did.

And so began the freshman year.  It began a day later than it should have, because the girl couldn’t leave her hometown boyfriend who was leaving for Purdue the next day.  They went on a sentimental picnic, where the girl pressed lips, still together, in a place other than the brightly lit front porch, built a campfire the size and shape of a caterpillar tractor, sat around it until it turned to sparks and sad, sad ashes, and was taken home for another kiss, this time on the usual place, on the usual places, with the usual bright lights and fatherly commentary.

And so it begins this week for other people’s teenage daughters and sons.  Hopefully, this year’s crop won’t be as stupid and naive and stupid and naive as I was, but then, even back then, nobody else was as stupid and naive as I was.

It’s a good thing all my boyfriends were decent guys, that’s all I’m sayin’.  Because I knew nothing.  NOTHING.  I once went to a porn movie at a drive-in with FOUR GUYS.  They treated me like the gentlemen they were.

There is such a thing as being dangerously innocent.  When a girl is eighteen, she really needs to know a few things.  These days, teenage girls know maybe too much, even.  But I could probably guarantee that none of them would go to a porn movie at a drive-in with four guys.  Not all guys are gentlemen.

It would have been so easy to. .  .

But they didn’t, so everything was all right.

I was lucky, though.  Your daughter might not be so lucky.  Teach her a few things before you send her away to college.

Then again, these days, our daughters probably know more than we do now and could teach US a few things.

Not mine, though.  She was an innocent, too.

I swear.


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