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The three trials of the teenager

Without a doubt, one of the flip-sides to growing old is that, as one's memory of where you left your car keys or your false teeth grows dimmer, memories of your youth become brighter. As functionally rewarding as it would be to be able to remember what you had for breakfast or whether you were just leaving the bathroom or arriving, those old memories are pretty fun.

Lately, a lot of my memories seem to involve birth control, as it applied to those of us who arrived at puberty back in the very early 1950s. My 16th birthday arrived in 1960, just for reference, and at that time, cars and girls took up what little mental space there seemed to be at that age.

Cars were important, but really, they were only important as an avenue to get to girls. The goal: get them away from everyone. Having a special car -- lake pipes, bright paint, big tires, etc. -- was really aimed at having a special girl, that you might get into that special car, and then whisk away from whomever didn't want you to whisk her away. That would be parents, both yours and hers.

"No dates until you're 16." That was what we heard. Really! Like at 16 we had enough brains that if they were dynamite, you'd have enough explosion to blow your nose. (That's what I remember dad saying. It is only this far removed from those years that I realize how correct he was.)

Now we have to think about what the first and foremost goal here, for both boys and girls was: MAKING OUT! MAKING OUT was important: it was THE GOAL. Drive-in movies weren't invented when there were horses and buggies; they were invented when there were cars, at a time when life was short on excuses to go somewhere to MAKE OUT. Drive-in movies probably contributed more to pregnancy than any other part of life back then.

So every one of us out there wanted to get to the drive-in movie, and find out what was playing, and I'm not talking about what Hollywood was putting up there on the screen. Now it becomes proper to equate MAKING OUT with baseball. First Base? First Base was necking. Getting to First Base might have involved a bit of minor kissing, but nothing Darwin would have ever recognized as contributing to the survival of the gene pool.

First Base was recognized by what one's lips looked like the next day, and it wasn't a really good First Base unless the next day ones lips looked like that had been sandpapered with a horseshoe rasp, and felt like they'd been staked in the sun for a month.

That was First Base. Eventually, by the time most of us had become seniors in high school, it seemed like both sexes liked First Base. It was time, then, to begin laying out a plan to steal Second Base, Second being the Mount Everest of all times. Maybe two Mount Everests, to be blunt. Second Base was a problem. I don't think bra catches had been invented all that much before it began to dawn on my male generation that, unless one had developed some focused mechanical ingenuity along with some manual dexterity, these bra catches were going to limit us to First Base in baseball, but nothing more.

You have to realize that it hadn't been all that many years prior to this that we youth had even learned how to ride a bike. Now there's this infernal bra clasping device, and it's under tension. It was A PROBLEM, let me tell you. Finally, to make many months of MAKING OUT a shorter story, this problem was solved, usually with some help from both participants. Yeah. Second Base.

Now we come to the greatest method of birth control in human history: the girdle. Girls liked to wear nylons, and back then, before panty hose had been invented, the only way to hold nylons up, as far as we boys could determine, was with a girdle.

It was made of some vulcanized blend of rhinoceros hide and Goodyear rubber, and, in retrospect, it explains why women had to go to the bathroom in pairs: it probably took two or more people to get them out of them just so they could pee.

It also in retrospect would have let me feel a lot better about my daughters going on their first dates if those girdles had still been popular. Alas, they weren't. Which explains why teenage pregnancy figures went way up when we got into the seventies. Maybe.

Therefore, First Base was a wonderful geographical place to visit, as long as you didn't run out of chapstick to salve your fried lips. Second Base was more of a mechanical achievement, getting past little hooks with clumsy fingers, like we ever thought we'd unsnap the darned things and the girl wouldn't notice. (Yes, guys did think that was possible.)

Third Base seemed to be a geographical location surrounded by insurmountable barriers. Even had the young lady wanted to get out of that girdle, doing so in the front seat of a car at the drive in was a physical absurdity, and would have required a level of gymnastic achievement well beyond our abilities.

Girls were safer back then.

Both women and men welcomed panty hose.

Just probably not for the same reason.