She realized that a lot of other girls would give anything to be in her shoes. ANYTHING. And that was the problem…
Background: It’s noted that at the time of the publication of the Avon-Flare edition, this title had “Over 725,000 copies in print”, touting itself as A NOVEL OF TODAY’S SEXUAL PRESSURES AND TODAY’S YOUTH, and includes praise from the Dean of Fordham University. It is also noted that:
The characters in YOU WOULD IF YOU LOVED ME, Trudy, Malcolm, Ruth and Sid are based on characters in the play LET’S GET BASIC, produced by Plays for Living, a division of the Family Service Association of America.
The Plot: I think I went on the record in wishing for more teen social-problem books based on Public Service Announcements, and who am I to argue with 725,000 copies in print and the dean of Fordham?
Well, for what is essentially a lecture on NOT doin’ it, it has way too many characters when it basically boils down to lecturing you on how there are two kinds of girls (nice girls and skanks) and two kinds of boys (gentlemen and horndogs, although it is a waaaaaay fuzzier distinction).
Originally published in the late 1960’s, the age of McCarthy, McGovern, and Bobby Kennedy, it tries to get with the times by having The Young People working on the mayoral campaign for a reform candidate whose main issue is that there are too many damn baby boomers, so they’ve got to build some bigger schools; unfortunately way too much time is spent on the details of a running a (spoilers) losing mayoral campaign, making it even duller that when Whitford High got the whole town election-crazy.
Representing the variety of points of view on the subject of sex (by which I mean both of them) are Our Heroine, Trudy Munroe, who can’t believe her good fortune when BMOC Tom Draper gives her his inter-city track meet medal to show they’re going steady. He’s even invited her to the Bulldog Dance, held by the school’s Secret Society, with membership limited to 25 lucky seniors.
There is Mal Douglas, whose father is running challenging candidate Towsend’s campaign, and is mixed up with sexy Carol, an older girl who is attending secretarial college, and has introduced Mal to both sex and drugs over the summer.
There is Trudy’s BFF Debbie, whose mother Trudy confides in. There is her friend Ruth and Ruth’s fiancé Lonny, who making Going Steady seem like no big deal. There is Bruce and his girlfriend Liz. There is Laurie, Carol’s giggling classmate. There is noted marijuana enthusiast Joe Bell. There is class cut-up Sid, whose idea of witty repartee is asking girls “Where do you keep your magnet?” (?????)
So, once Trudy and Tom make it official, Debbie says what everyone else is thinking:
“Are you going to sleep with him?”
The question hit her like a snowball in the face. She gasped, her eyes wide on Debbie.
“Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it?”
“I don’t know,” she finally brought out “I honestly don’t know.”
“I wouldn’t dream of telling you what to do. Only you’d better start deciding, ‘cause Tom already has.”
Tom has already decided, being a firm believer in the science of the day that if guys don’t do it, their balls will explode and their dicks will turn black and fall off.
“You want it too. Only you’re like all girls, you won’t-“
“Why do boys always say, ‘you’re like all girls,’ whenever they get mad at you?”
“Because that’s the way girls act. You get us all steamed up and then expect us to, quote, behave. You’re asking too much.”
“Can’t a guy have some CONTROL, for goodness sake?”
“What do you think I’m having right now?” he shouted.
While out canvassing for their candidate, Tom and Mal get propositioned by a sexy divorcee, leading to a discussion about how the problem is women are always either having or not having sex with you:
“They use sex like dog trainers use biscuits. Making you sit up and beg- promising, teasing, holding out- and then slapping you down. It’s too much.
“I didn’t think you were having any problems.”
He shrugged again. “Hell, even if a girl does sleep with you, she still uses sex to keep you in line. Sometimes I think they’re even worse about it when they do give in.”
Back at Townsend campaign HQ, Sid tries to put the moves on the female volunteers:
“I decided my biggest contribution would be to keep all the girls happy and contented.”
“How?” asked Trudy, and at once realized her mistake.
“Well, you know my specialty,” he answered with a leer.
“Oh Sid, relax.” Ruth snapped. “You don’t have to work so hard. We all know you’re not queer.”
For a fleeting moment the grin froze on his face and it seemed to Trudy his face went a shade white.
Sadly, there is no follow up on SID DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH, and in the next paragraph he’s all:
“You can never be sure,” he lisped and, camping grotesquely, swished off down the hallway.
Lisping, camping and swishing, all in one sentence. That has to be a record.
Meanwhile, Mal’s parents have left him in the undignified position of babysitting for his younger brother and sister while they go to a Townsend campaign event, but soon after their departure Carol, Bruce and Laurie roll up in the car for a night of cruising… Oh, and have you met Joe Bell?
“He graduated from Tech Hi a couple of years ago. He has his own apartment and everything. I thought maybe we could get some pot from him.”
Oh, these teens are smooth. Arriving at Casa del Joe Bell, Carol immediately inquires
“We wondered how your pot supply was.”
He’s fresh out, but Mal is punished nonetheless, arriving home to find his younger sister and brother have trashed the house, including unwinding a bunch of his father’s reel-to-reel tapes, which Mal hastily hides in his closet.
Trudy has a bright idea (well, for a girl) (SIGH) at the next Townsend volunteers meeting, noting that when she and Ruth were canvassing on the poor side of town, they had a number of complaints from residents about the air pollution from the mayor’s brother rubber factory. Is that um, an issue they could maybe think about?
This somehow leads to Trudy begging her parents’ permission to ride on Townsend’s float in a local parade while wearing a bikini. In November.
Tom reached up and patted her knee. “She’s not just pretty, she’s smart too.”
Shut up Tom.
Trudy has an extremely expository heart-to-heart with Debbie’s mother on The New Morality (she had to write a term paper on “youth and sex, all that jazz”) Mrs. Russell is of the opinion that the choice The Pill offers is really no choice:
“When I was a girl and the chances of getting pregnant were high, you didn’t have two balanced choices. That made it much easier to be moralistic about things. What do you think, Trudy?”
“Oh, I think that’s true. I Mean, there are girls who take advantage of the pill to be real swingers. But they’re probably the ones that would be swingers anyway, even with all the risks.”
Tom invites her over to watch the student film that the local TV station is airing about the campaign, and then throws her out of the house when she won’t put out:
“I’m not sure I want this. Don’t try to force me, Tom.”
“Force you!” His voice, which had been low and caressing, began to sharpen with impatience.
“Oh Tom, please try to understand.”
“Damn it!” he shouted “Now I’ve got to ‘understand. You’re acting like a baby, Trudy, teasing and then turning prude. What he hell did you come hear tonight for? You knew what I wanted.”
Shaking, Trudy started to cry. “I shouldn’t have come.”
“Damn right you shouldn’t have. And so now it’s tears.”
“Take me home,” Trudy sobbed.
“Take yourself home.”
They break up, obvs, but what lesson does Trudy take away from the experience?
Next time she’d handle it differently. She hated to admit it, but the fact was she had been a tease.
Also, it turns out that the tapes Mal’s baby brother unwound were the radio commercials for the Townsend campaign, which are now due at the station for the 7 am broadcast. Carol breaks up with him in favor of poorly-stocked drug dealer Joe when he insists that it’s his duty to fix the tapes and get them to the station on time.
Candidate Townsend loses, but the future seems bright for Mal and Trudy, because a boy can totally sleep with a girl from the local secretarial college and still be a gentleman, but a girl is a skank forever. The end.
Sign It Was Written In 1969 Department:
“No wonder some parents decide to give their daughters The Pill on a regular schedule. Of course, we’ll soon have a pill that men can take.”
Trudy groaned. “That will make life really ducky.”
All I can think is that my middle school gym teacher was Tom Draper, complete with those polyester SansaBelt pants, but he would have been about this character’s age. Hmmm. His worst transgression was apparently hitting boys with shoes, though. Whew.
Two weeks in a row of Important Books In My Life! I have a very vivid memory of my friend Louise (who was basically Nancy Wheeler from Are You There God It’s Me Margaret) bringing this book to school in 5th grade, having pilfered it from her 8th grade sister. It was the cream colored cover with the line drawing and the review “As honest as its title.” We all passed it around and read it, but after checking it out of archive.org last year, I realized I had retained not word one of it.
Oh man, I feel like everyone had a Nancy Wheeler in their lives at that age!
Just musing, but I wonder when was the last time, outside a production of the musical “Chicago” that anyone used the expression “All that jazz” in casual conversation?
I read this book in junior high in the early 70s, with the cover Sheesh described. I also had forgotten most of the plot, but you brought it all back — more complicated than I remembered!
Yeah, I feel like I should have said something about those Junior Yuppies on the cover. So 80s! And yes, super-complicated plot!
Is that Demi Moore on the cover?
I wonder! Courtney Cox was the model for a bunch of covers, and there a few with Meg Ryan as well.