What was being a teenager like for our grandmothers?

Four women attended high school together in Los Angeles. They were all born in 1943. One day, they gathered to talk about their teenage memories, including being late bloomers, kissing, and dating in high school. These are their stories.

C: “I was thirteen when I got my period, so I don’t think that had anything to do with my late blooming. My first “French kiss” was when I was nineteen and fell madly in love with my childhood friend, Raymond, in Paris, over that summer. Around that time, I remember sitting with my aunt Maggy and my cousin and being shocked that they thought pre-marital sex was OK. I distinctly remember protesting as I firmly believed that sex before marriage was a sin! We were all so naive and yet, I married when not yet 22 and became a totally responsible adult overnight, in charge of sustaining ourselves completely, economically and practically. We may have asked for advice from our parents, but never anything material. Oh and by the way, I did not lose my virginity on my wedding night!!!!”

P: “I think I was about 15 and a half. Still very little girlish and naïve. Wow. nowadays girls get it so young, as young as l2 I think. Interesting how girls mature younger. Maybe hormones get stimulated earlier and that causes faster development???”

K: “I think I got my period when I was 12. In any case, High School was not a place that I made any romantic relationships. But the camp I went to for 2 months each summer was where I had boyfriends from 12 years old on—so lots of relationships. I became a counsellor there so this continued into university. At 16 I had a relationship with Jon who was the lifeguard attending Harvard. That lasted several years and was why I originally went to study in Paris when I was 21 or 22. C, I think you introduced me to someone, but he was too knowledgeable and seemed older and not interested in me. I was the girl who did everything but the real thing. And all the boys accepted that. Until I met S, the person I married at 23, who said why stop here? And that made me think. He was the right one after all those boys and we were married 35 years until his death in 2001 from cancer. I have been in a relationship with P since 2003 and we are still together through a stroke and other medical issues.”

L: “Although not heavy sexual relationships, I did have several boyfriends during the ages you are talking about. I never had the feeling of being a little girl or being immature. I think it may be because I had so much responsibly at home. I was babysitting, alone, when I was six. I was basically raising my two younger brothers, while my parents worked. So I never actually felt like a little girl when I was one. I think the teachers saw that, because I was appointed to be the school bell ringer all through sixth grade. I had to leave class early, nutrition early, lunch early etc. so I could get to the main office and turn on the bell switch. I had to always stay alert so the school wouldn’t be off time for everything. I don’t think I was ever late. I probably never really felt just like a relaxed kid. For me, I didn’t have a serious relationship till I was 20 and a UCB senior. I didn’t get my period till I was 16 so hormones may have played a part? I wonder if that was a common experience or if we were unusual in remaining little girls for so long.”

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