Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Drinking And Diving And Best Friends

I couldn't have paid for boys' attention when I was 13 but that changed the year I strutted out in my florescent-pink bikini. It was the summer after junior high and leading to high school. I was 14 and jaws dropped.

That was also around the same time I met Roger Atwell*, 'the dream.' Roger had just graduated from high school where I would be starting in a few months as a freshman.

It also brought on my first experience with girlfriend drama. A girlfriend who happened to be older shared about me meeting Roger with her older, popular girlfriend, and I suddenly was under girl 'attack.' I was being hovered over by girls, girlfriends of girlfriends. How I dressed, who I knew, how I wore my hair and suddenly the shape of my eyebrows even was subject to girlfriend critique. It was less subtle of course, but it was an odd twist.

Roger was unquestionably the real thing. But I was accustomed to cool things occurring in life, it wasn't that big a deal.

He'd been hugely popular in high school, sang like a rock star and was president of his car club. Ummmmm . . . sexy and handsome, yeah. He was 18, much bigger than I in physique and maturity.

Our first date was to a drive-in movie and when I asked my Mother for permission to go, my Mother told me, “Yes, but be aware, older guys are going to expect more from you.”

I vividly remember thinking. What the heck? What does that mean and not mean? Aye gawd but I was naive.

When Chris the dream was on top of me kissing me at the drive in movie, I remember thinking, I need to find out how you get pregnant, cuz' maybe I've already done it. Fer' stupid!

Later still, but still in high school, with a newest wonderboy, this time boyfriend Danny Pelligrino*, we'd sit at the mansion, next door, which was now a church, on the building's rear steps and drink. Danny was the most popular, charmingly-handsome, slightly bad boy at school, we'd met at a football game, and he big time noticed me. 

Warm Southern California, Saturday afternoons, drinking whiskey out of plastic cups, on the steps of the Church.

They were sweet but confusing times for me and I'm sure frustrating times for Danny who wanted sex and all. We played around alot, but I wasn't ready.

I was kinna' annoyed that having a boyfriend and his desire for my time conflicted with swim team practice.

And friends. I lost my best friend Julie Ramey over boys. Julie had been my exciting and finally an equals friend. No girl drama, we were never into that. Frankly our brains weren't wired for girl drama.

Feminism was being explored and touted by large scale personalities such as Gloria Friedman and Bella Abzug on the television and in popular magazines. I was aware of it, had read about it.

But for a young girl in Whittier, California, in the late 60's, early 70's, having a girlfriend who matched me with brains and athletic zest was feminism at its best - so significantly previously not commonplace.

Frankly every girl should have one. There weren't a lot of other intelligent, fabulous girls out there doing stuff, being naturally strong, driving down that road. 
My Dad had taught me to dive with strong legs and
my pointed toes became part of every workout.

For Julie and I, when one of us had a new trick, like how to do an aerial flip, a cartwheel, the splits, cartwheels into doing the splits, etc., we were zealous to show it to the other. There was no competition, we were learning exponentially, creating ever better things. It was so empowering. 

For me and Julie it was intelligence and athletics in general. It was fireworks, special, for real. I know now it doesn't matter where and how the fireworks start, it's some common ground that is paramount. It's what makes the friendships wonderful.

Julie was my swimming pool friend first, before boys entered into our lives. It was Julie who came home from junior high with me at lunchtime and swam. We felt so ultra cool returning to school with wet hair.

Julie also had been annoyed about the conflict of me having boyfriends, for some time, evidently, and I'd had no clue.

I read somewhere, 'true friendship is like sound health; the value of it is seldom known until it is lost.'

She ended our friendship because she said she was tired of following me. Like I said, I was clueless to her pain.

Shame, shame on us girls, we need to learn how to value ourselves, make choices that do so and cling to real friendships. Shame on women for not reinforcing this. Statistics show that women's friendships will likely outlive our husbands. These are feminist issues.

Back to Danny Pelligrino and drinking and diving. Eventually we left those rear church steps and took our drunk bodies 150 yards into my family's swimming pool.

Aye gawd! Swimming drunk. My body was weightless.  The water enveloping me felt like broad ethereal ribbons swirling around my fluid form.

But I was still in my family's back yard, in our ever familiar swimming pool.

Pushing my limits, add then, the grandeur of diving, drunk.

I owned every inch of our diving board, this diving board.  I'd practiced diving basics here hundreds and hundreds of times. Start at the far end, make three long, distinct steps, swing your arms to your approach, bring your leg up and into a big jump to the end of the board, move your arms in a large, sweeping counter circle and PUSH the heck out of the board for great rebound. The better the rebound, the bigger and better the jump, and the dive.

Well, no big, big, big dives, when you've been drinking. You don't wanna crack your head open. But smaller versions of my diving, while drunk, were shocking to the body senses and, exotic. Yeah. Just sayin . .  (Kids, please don't do this at home.)

I was athletic, school was relatively easy. Yeah, I played around with the bad side a bit. But I'd spent too many summers swimming religiously and diving with earnest to walk too far away from what I knew brought me home safely every night.

So I had started at the high school and quickly made varsity tennis, volleyball, track and swimming and diving teams.  I got along with all of the varying weird groups at school for some reason and was basically a good kid; it had served me well so far. I was bold and energetic and that helped. Being athletic made school days effortless. Except for losing Julie my best friend. That was tough. Celebrate and love your besties, that's why they're the best.

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