Style Section of Washington Post Celebrates Summer Lovin’

Summer lovin’, had me a blast
Summer lovin’, happened so fast
Met a girl crazy for me
Met a boy cute as can be
Summer days drifting away
To, uh oh, those summer nights

Recalling Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in Grease singing this ballad of teenage heartache no doubt brings back memories for many who experienced their first infatuation with a beloved object of their youthful affection. For some, these memories are fond ones. For others, they are not so fond.

Well-a, well-a, well-a, uh!
Tell me more, tell me more
Did you get very far?
Tell me more, tell me more
Like does he have a car?

Most people, having made it to adulthood, prefer that the veil of discretion remain drawn over these days past of passion and high spirits. Unfortunately, that is not the view of the Style section of The Washington Post.

She swam by me, she got a cramp
He ran by me, got my suit damp
Saved her life, she nearly drowned
He showed off splashing around
Summer sun, something’s begun
But, uh oh, those summer nights

In “Hot Fun (or Not Fun) In the Summertime” (The Washington Post, July 22, 2006, p. C1), Laura Sessions Stepp offers what can only be described as a celebratory piece on the loss of virginity by teenage girls during the good ‘ol summertime.

Well-a, well-a, well-a, uh!
Tell me more, tell me more
Was it love at first sight?
Tell me more, tell me more
Did she put up a fight?

Stepp takes the expectant reader into the realm of memory which sometimes “comes out of nowhere.” You can be on your deck on a summer’s night after the kids went to bed, stuck in traffic, or thinking about your vacation. Then, BAM! An old song comes on the radio and your back in the summer of love. “Your 16 or 17, and there’s a boy, and you’re looking at him and thinking, ‘It’s going to happen. Not now, but soon.’”

Took her bowling in the arcade
We went strolling; drank lemonade
We made out under the dock
We stayed out till ten o’clock
Summer fling don’t mean a thing
But, uh oh, those summer nights

“And it did. He’s the one you lost your virginity to. Remembering, you may feel a small smile tug at your face. Or a touch of sadness,” writes Stepp.

Tell me more, tell me more
But you don’t gotta brag
Tell me more, tell me more
‘Cause he sounds like a drag

Stepp has even done research on this question. She claims that, according to Mississippi State University, more girls lose their virginity in the summer than at any other time of the year. She helpfully inventories many of the reasons why this is so such as the new guy you met at church camp who you would never see again.

“Maybe you were in love or maybe you weren’t, but those sticky summer nights almost demanded surrender,” says Stepp.

He got friendly holding my hand
Well, she got friendly down in the sand
He was sweet, just turned eighteen
Well, she was good, you know what I mean
Summer heat, boy and girl meet
But, uh oh, those summer nights

The article offers the reader entirely too much information on an assortment of liaisons, condoms used and unused, Planned Parenthood clinics visited, furtive couplings, and momentary ecstasies ending in heartache, abortion (procured by a helpful mom), and even a kind of proto-feminist liberation or empowerment. It seems that a Trans Am, a Camaro, and a “killer body” weigh heavily in a young girl’s decision, too. After all, “Losing your virginity, for girls, is not like losing your cellphone or your car keys,” opines Stepp. “Boys may be eager to shed the label but girls are less so, even girls who head out for a party at night wearing what would pass, in a previous decade, for underwear.”

Tell me more, tell me more
How much dough did he spend?
Tell me more, tell me more
Could she get me a friend?

Unfortunately, Stepp generally offers cases of girls who actually do view the loss of their virginity as the loss of their cellphones or car keys. Margo DeSantis lost hers at 16. She is now 45, selling real estate in Pelham, N.Y., “happily married to someone else” and the mother of two teenagers. She describes her experience thusly: “It rocked. I remember thinking this is what our bodies were made for.” Okay, she did date the guy for a whole year. Give her that.

In a curious parenthetical comment, Stepp notes, without citation (Mississippi State, maybe?), that “most ‘first times’ take place in the boy’s or girl’s house, not in car, as many people believe. Perhaps the possibility of being discovered adds to the thrill.” Obviously, this Post staff writer has made a real study of this area of human behavior.

Stepp cites a “classic” — Judy Blume’s 1975 Forever — for the proposition that “losing your virginity is closing the door on childhood and stepping into adulthood.” If you are not ready for it, and you do it anyway, you can feel “like death,” quoting one woman. After all, “you just want to put it behind you, except that you can’t,” says Stepp.

Stepp seems to avoid the question as to how adult these kinds of one-night stands really are. She does not offer judgment on the wisdom of copulating with fellows completely uninterested in anything resembling a long-term commitment. In fact, most of those appearing in these stories of love and abandonment seem to disappear after the main event. And Stepp is apparently quite forgiving of these hounds.

“What girl hasn’t been warned that no guy is going to buy the cow when he can get the milk for free? (Though sometimes true, this is terribly insulting to guys, but that’s another story),” adds Stepp. Life is that way, isn’t it?

But who are these people who would offer their life histories, their sexual behavior, even their photographs, for the inspection of the many readers of the ever so enlightened Style section of a major American daily newspaper?

It turned colder; that’s where it ends
So I told her we’d still be friends
Then we made our true love vow
Wonder what she’s doin’ now
Summer dreams ripped at the seams
But, oh, those summer nights
Tell me more, tell me more

But the last word has to go to Janet R. Clark, an astonished reader who posted the following comment on the The Washington Post’s website after reading the “Hot Fun” article:

“Are you out of your minds?!! I am the mother of two teenagers who read the Style and Sports sections of your paper most days,” wrote this irate reader. “The content of this article is really inappropriate for the section of your paper that most kids read. I will deal with this topic at a time of my choosing.”

(G. Tracy Mehan, III, is the father of five daughters, none of whom read the Style section of The Washington Post.)

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