J. Courtney Sullivan
In fifth grade, I was a member of an all-girls book club. We met by the tether-ball court during recess and read novels aloud.
Okay, just the dirty parts.
By seventh grade, the book club had disbanded. That was the year I discovered Forever.... I wasn't immediately drawn to the book. The author was Judy Blume.
It was 1993. I didn't know then that Forever... had caused an uproar when it was released in 1975, or that some people called it smut, or that it would go on to be one of the most banned books in America. Had I realized this, I would have read it much sooner.
Once I turned the first page, I was hooked. It was the narrator, Katherine's description of a boy at a party that did it:
"'My name's Fred. I live next door to Sybil. I'm a freshman at Dartmouth.'" Katherine continues: "Unfortunately, he was also a creep."
At the same party, she meets Michael, a fellow high school senior. They fall in love. There is not a hint of dot, dot, dot here. Katherine and Michael talk explicitly about their sexual desires. She goes to Planned Parenthood to get the pill. Which led me to look up the word "speculum." Which led me to realize that my parents must never see this book. The resulting bedroom scenes are as detailed as any clueless adolescent girl could hope for.
I read Forever... in a single sitting — sometime between my first crush and my first kiss. I was under the covers with a flashlight, listening for footsteps on the stairs.
There is real, awkward, friendly intimacy between the main characters in Forever.... I'm 28 now and I know couples my age who can't communicate as well about their hopes, their fears, their families and their foreplay.
What shocks me is that in the age of sexting, Bristol Palin and online porn, Forever... is still considered controversial. At its core, it's about female teenagers who make responsible birth control choices — who, when they're ready, have sex on their own terms, instead of for the gaze or approval of men. What's so shocking about that? I may have come for the scandal, but I stayed for the feminist lesson.
While rereading Forever... on the subway recently, I could feel the guy beside me skimming over my shoulder. I glanced at him. He gave me a strange look. I hardly cared.
My Guilty Pleasure is edited and produced by Ellen Silva.