Adults - F
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Adults - F
"Look," Andy said, "I'm married to you right now. I'll be an engineer Monday. I can wait a month to be independent of the old man." He was listing what he'd said were his 3 life goals. She assumed that he would get others after achieving those, although you could never tell with Andy.
Aside from her wish to keep Andy content, she could be quite happy in the house. They'd have to keep their sex silent and in the bedroom, but when they hadn't had any constraints they had seldom been noisy and had rarely had sex out of bed. Jim Trainor was welcoming and had always been gracious to her. Mrs. Bryant, the housekeeper, was generous with her time and advice. She had taught Marilyn some cheap recipes during the previous summer, and -- now that Andy would be earning actual money -- Marilyn wanted to learn some of the recipes that Mrs. Bryant actually cooked for Jim Trainor.
She was clear, however, that Andy's acceptance was only of a temporary arrangement. She wanted to keep her man content. Then, too, having one's own home, however humble, was part of what it meant to be adult.
She had other tasks which took priority over cooking lessons. Andy started as an engineer at YKL Signal on May 22. That Wednesday she accompanied him to work a little early. She told the receptionist -- Veronica Barraza, according to her name plate -- that her husband was a new engineer, and that she wanted to know what the dress code was for engineers.
"Honey, an engineer? Definitely make sure he's wearing both pants and a shirt." Well, that picture of the dress code was reassuring, but Veronica was more helpful after her joke. She identified the men passing through by position. Technicians wore khakis; engineers wore them, too, but dress pants at least as often; senior engineers often wore ties and seldom wore khakis; management usually wore sports coats or suits. Almost everyone wore white shirts, many of the ones she saw that warm spring morning were short-sleeved.
There was enough variation -- she even saw a sprinkling of jeans and two flannel shirts -- that Andy wouldn't stick out. Andy already had khakis. She would buy him some short-sleeved white shirts and some dress slacks out of his first paycheck.
She also went looking for an apartment and started thinking about furniture. The furniture would have to fit the apartment, and the apartment would need to wait on their income. YKL paid on Friday for the two weeks ending the previous Friday. That meant that Andy's paycheck on June 2 was only for one week. After deductions, it was a little over $400. They went to the Bank of Evanston that Saturday to open a checking account. Andy not only deposited that check but transferred some of the money left in their savings account. That would give them $700 when the paycheck cleared. This was enough to rent an apartment.
"Let's go see my first three choices after lunch," she said.
"Why don't I look at your first choice after lunch," he said. "I've told you, my requirement for an apartment is that you're happy in it." When she called, the landlord, Mr. Nichols, could see them and the apartment was still available. Andy looked over the place without expressing any opinion.
"Might I see your heating plant?" he finally asked the landlord, who looked blank. "The furnace?" When they went to the basement, Andy checked out the furnace. "It looks like it could keep this building warm. You want this?" That question was directed at her.
"I'll require the first month's rent and another month for the security deposit," Mr. Nichols said.
"I'll have to postdate it. We just established the account today, and the money isn't good until the deposit clears."
"Well, don't expect to do this every month."
"We won't. I'm new on the job. I got one week's pay yesterday. I'll get two week's pay the 16th. That'll clear before the first of July."
She visited Mom, too. Pete was home, and in disgrace. He'd received bad grades his entire first year. She was especially troubled by his D in "Rhetoric," which sounded like Freshman English to her.
"Let's get some fresh air," she told him. She was damned if she was ever going to load the dishwasher in this house again, which meant that they needed another way to get privacy for a conversation. The Trainor way was to go for a walk. He followed her when she began to walk around the block. "Brother, it looks like you've stepped in it."
"Well, we pledged for the entire year. I'll have more time for academics next year."
"Try your BS on Dad. One: I pledged, too. I saw four years of girls pledging. Damned few of them sank so low as you did, and we helped those. Two: This 'Rhetoric.' It's writing essays, no?"
"That and grammar. I know you like grammar."
"Actually, I don't. I have to teach grammar in order to get to teach literature. I have to teach theme-writing, too. But the rest of your school career, you're going to be writing papers. If you write papers at a D level when all you're being graded on is that you've written a paper, how low will the grade be when you're graded on content, too? Look, when my grades were low the first semester, and they weren't anywhere near as low as yours, Dad suggested something. I'm surprised he didn't suggest it to you. Consider one of the local junior colleges."
"Greenville hasn't thrown me out, hasn't even threatened to."
"Not instead of Greenville, not next year. This summer. Take two courses. The first one is Freshman English or whatever they have on writing papers. Then select one course you're going to take fall semester -- History or something. Take those in a community college. Don't even try to transfer it. Take the history course again in Greenville. You have to get more information the second time through, but your transcript won't reflect that it's your second time."
"You're generous with my time. Your precious Andy didn't do that, did he?"
"No, my precious Andy learned one course -- two his last summer -- by taking the book home over the summer and reading it without any teacher. He did this while working close to forty hours a week. And above that, I might point out, he was dating me. We were fairly serious by then, and I sometimes felt guilty about how much of his time I took. But he did learn ahead and go to class more prepared than his competitors. That's all I'm suggesting."
"Well, you're not suggesting that I merely read the book. I have the Rhetoric book."
"In the first place, I have no reason to believe that you can learn a course simply by reading the book. You've shown no evidence of that. You should see Andy's bookshelves. He has fiction, mostly science fiction, but he has loads of nonfiction books, too. Before he'd gone to college, he'd read science that wasn't taught in the school and histories and biographies. He's a different guy, a different kind of guy, than you are.
"You keep pointing at what he didn't do to justify your not doing it. Well, I'll tell you, one thing he didn't do is get a D in any course in his college career. He didn't even get a D in Phys Ed. You got more credit hours below B last year than he got in four years. I'd have to check back on who has more credit hours below A." She suspected that Andy hadn't done quite that well, certainly not if you counted Phys Ed. His straight-A string hadn't started until he was a junior.
"Anyway, the second reason is that a book doesn't give you practice in writing papers. Even if you wrote some for the practice, you wouldn't have them graded."
"You think your guy is so perfect."
"Andy isn't perfect. He was, however, a success in school. He got the career he chose."
"Well, I'm in a fraternity. He never was."
"Technically, you're wrong. He's in Phi Bet Kappa. Didn't Mom tell you? I told her."
"That's not a real fraternity."
"Well, tell that to the world. When an employer has to choose between a Deke and a Phi Bate, whom do you think he'll choose. Y'know, Andy didn't major in English, and I didn't major in EE. We had different goals. That doesn't mean we try to put one another down. You keep trying to belittle Andy because his goals are different from yours -- though I'm not terribly clear what yours are. The point is that Andy accomplished his goals. I accomplished mine, if with less distinction. What are yours? How far along the road are you to accomplishing them?"
"Maybe I've already accomplished them."
"Pissing off Dad? That's one hell of a goal. Anyway, I accomplished that with one kiss on the front porch, and I managed to pursue my career goals, too."
"Mom doesn't think much of being a substitute teacher."
"Neither do I, but it's hardly the end of my career. When I've got some time in subbing, there'll be a full-time opening. Meanwhile, I'm a married adult who will soon have her own home. I'm three years older than you are, and if I saw your future looking like that in three years, I'd say you were on the road."
"She doesn't think much of Andy, either."
"Well, she doesn't open her eyes to his good points. Andy's a terribly nice guy."
"And nice guys finish last."
"And most women appreciate that."
"Huh?" Was Pete that dense?
"Sorry. Dirty Joke. You wouldn't get it."
"I wouldn't get a dirty joke? I bet I know more than you do." And he might well. That joke, on the other hand, had gone right over his head.
"Well, if your grades suck, what was the rest of your college life like? Are you on the intramural baseball team?"
"Yeah. And soccer, though I had to learn the game almost from scratch. It's fun. The college won't let me play in intramurals, though, until my grades come up."
"Well, then, even for your goals, your grades have to come up. Are there Zates there?" Mom would have asked him the same question.
"Greenville Zates are awful snobs."
"I said they are snobs."
"Which means you didn't date any. Y'know, Pete, even snobs date. That they didn't date you just means that you didn't meet their standards. Which means you're not only falling down academically, you're also falling down socially."
"Gee thanks, sis."
"Well, I suggested ways of changing both. Before you're going to change, you're going to have to face reality. You went away planning to be a big man on campus without putting enough time into classes. Well, you weren't a big man on campus at ETHS, and the competition is rougher in college.
"The academic competition is rougher, too. Something like 50% of high-school graduates go on to college, maybe a higher percentage from Evanston. Andy figures that the top quarter academically almost all go, and that almost none of the bottom quarter academically go on to college. That means that the top quarter of high-school graduates make up the top half of college students. The bottom quarter of high-school students, the bunch that shield the Peter Grants from failure, aren't in college."
"Now, wait a second."
"Well, he didn't mention you. Actually, he was mostly talking about sections of the top quarter. If 10% of each level get A, then 5% of high-school students get A in college. This worried him. Andy got little satisfaction from the grades he received. He thought he was on the pass-fail system and that a B was failing."
"That's weird. And how about Phys Ed?"
"Well, I think his main concern about Phys Ed was that he damn-well didn't want to repeat a Phys-Ed course. And he didn't regard a B as failure except for science, math, and engineering. Those were, however, most of the courses he took. He got two B s in those courses, and he moaned about those. He got a lot more than two A s in distribution courses; he got three in courses he studied with me."
Pete wasn't convinced. She'd really been arguing two things, that Pete should study that summer and that Andy was a great guy. She'd not convinced him of either. Maybe the reason she hadn't convinced him of either was that she was arguing two things. Actually, Andy was Pete's version of 'Mrs. Trainor, why do we have to study this?' Pete used Andy to pull her off the subject.
Knowing the apartment and its carpet, she selected the furniture. The next Saturday, Andy drove her to Chicago's north side to the store she had selected. She'd picked out a living room suite and a bedroom suite. Andy jerked the bed back and forth to make certain it was sturdy. He expressed no other interest. She had to urge him to sit down in the chairs and lie down on the couch to make sure that they weren't too low or too short for his long legs. The furniture was bought on time. When the delivery was made, she supervised the setting up of the rooms. Finally, the apartment was ready. She cooked a dinner there that she could leave in the oven while she was absent.
When Andy got home that night, they loaded enough clothes and stuff into the car to keep them for a couple of days. They drove to the apartment. Andy insisted on carrying her over the threshold even though it was only the second time he'd been in the apartment and she'd been spending time there for days. He toted from the car while she put away. There being no table, they ate in the living room. Andy washed, and she dried. Afterwards, they went to her old house to pick up some of the wedding gifts.
"You're not losing a daughter, Mom, you're gaining a closet," she said. "Maybe a little late."
Saturday, they bought a kitchen table and four chairs. The rest of the day, they carried more stuff from both their old houses to the apartment. By the end of the day, they looked like they lived there.
"Y'know," Andy said while they were undressing that night, "what we should really do is make love in every single room of our home."
"I wish! I'm just sorry I didn't think of this sooner. We only got to two rooms of the U of I apartment." Well, making love in the kitchen had been fun, if a little messy. Making love in the bathroom?
"And your first place. We could have made love with one of us in the kitchen." He laughed. Actually, two people could have had sex in that kitchen -- standing up. She couldn't think of anything else two people could have done in that small space.
He picked her up and kissed her. Then he set her on her dresser standing up. Like that, she could see herself from the shins down in the mirror.
"Squat down," he said. He cupped her pussy from in front, and her ass was against his chest. That way, she didn't have to worry about her balance. She did, however, have to worry about exposure. With her legs spread, the only thing which hid her pussy from her own sight and from his was his hand. He reached his other hand around to stroke her right tit.
Soon, both hands were busy. In the mirror she could see that it was his middle finger which was buried in her cleft. He had a hardon, but her excitement was the main part of the show. She could see her nipples harden and all her muscles tense. She closed her eyes as the moment drew close.
"Yeah," he said after the lightning struck. "You are so beautiful -- always, but most beautiful like this." He held her torso easily, but her feet flew out and knocked against the base of the mirror.
"Love you," he said lifting her and turning her to face him. He walked to the living room. "Put me in." She adjusted their parts as he held her. Then he lowered her the inch required to bring his cock to her entrance. "Oh, Marilyn," he said as he entered her, spread her, filled her. Walking to the couch moved him inside her. Then all the motion came from his swaying back and driving his cock into her by the thrusting of his hips. As her arousal soared, she tightened her legs around his waist and gripped her wrist behind his neck.
Lightning struck. She gyrated in his arms. He pulsed deep within her.
When they were finished, he lowered her to the couch. He leaned over her with both arms on the couch. They stayed like that for some time before she thought of what the leaking was doing to the couch. He stood back when she started to get up. She held her pussy lips closed with her hand as she ran to the john.
Later, with a huge pile of baking soda sitting on the spot on the couch cushion, they went to bed.
"You are a sex maniac, you know."
"I may love you despite that, but you are."
"Well, I love you because of that. Does that mean that we don't make love in the kitchen and the bathroom?" Prohibiting that would be going too far.
"It means that I plan the action."
She did delay for a week her plan of inviting to Mom to visit. She aired out the cushion in front of an open window that Monday. Life as independent adults was fun, if occasionally messy.
She knocked on doors weekday evenings until she'd met the four other families in their building. She bought a low footstool she could stand on that made the kitchen work easier. Andy assumed that laundry and dishwashing were still his responsibility. She took over drying when he washed dishes. On some days it slowed down the process, but they enjoyed the closeness.
For their anniversary, Andy took her to Manfredo's. The luxury wasn't something she'd want every day, but it was a great celebration. They'd spent a year in which 'going out' had meant a walk around campus holding hands but not spending any money.
Back home, they stripped each other in the bedroom. Then Andy picked her up and carried her into the kitchen. He pulled a chair into the middle of the floor and sat in it. She sat on his lap while they made out like they had done long ago in the back seat of his car. When she'd climaxed so often and so violently that her juices were spread over his thighs, she begged him.
"Andy. Please. You, now!" He lifted her so that he could kiss her stomach. Slowly, so slowly she wriggled in anticipation, he slid her down his body. He entered her, filled her, transfixed her. She would have sworn his cock touched her heart. After he'd lifted her and lowered her two or three times more, always excruciatingly slowly, lightning struck. She convulsed in his iron arms.
"Marilyn!" He rose off the chair, he gripped her ass cruelly, and she could feel him pulsing within her own spasms. Then he dropped back into the chair. His grip relaxed without releasing her.
"Oh, Andy," she said minutes later.
"Happy anniversary, Mrs. Trainor." And it was a very happy anniversary, even if she felt like she would need the next year to store up enough energy for a repeat.
YKL Signal closed up shop for two weeks in July for everybody to take vacations at the same time. (Andy was told that engineers got a few more vacation days of their choice after the first three years.) Since Andy had far less than a full year, he wouldn't be paid for those two weeks. He got a full check on the 14th and then was off through the 30th.
They enjoyed the time. Really, if Andy hadn't been working at the company long, he'd been working somewhere, either in school or at the company, for the past 11 months. His direct supervisor had recommended some books to Andy, and he planned to read one of them during those two weeks. So, it wouldn't be a total break.
They went to the beach Monday. She bought a one-piece swim suit the Saturday before because Andy didn't think the bikini was suitable for a married woman. Maybe he didn't think it was suitable for his wife. Well, she'd caught her legal limit; maybe it was unfair to keep putting bait in the water. Under Andy's influence, she spent more time in the water than she had before.
Tuesday, they slept late. They shared their usual shower, but Andy wasn't in the hurry he was on work mornings.
"After all," he said, "we're not stealing anyone's hot water. We're at the top of the building, and all the working stiffs have left already." He patted her dry with the care that he had first shown. Then he rubbed himself down in seconds. They went naked into the bedroom. Privacy was wonderful. Andy held her shoulder when she started for her clothes.
"Why do I think you have nefarious intentions?" she asked. She stared at his hard on. "Males are so obvious."
"Yeah?" He stroked her left nipple. Well, she was less obvious. Both of her betrayingly hard nipples would fill less space than the head of his cock.
"I need to fix breakfast." She didn't, however, make any motions toward getting dressed. "Aren't you hungry?"
"Ravenous." At that, he picked her up and bit her shoulder very gently. He laid her on the bed and started kissing her ankles. "These have been just washed. May I nibble your toes?" He was seriously weird, but the very idea made her feel sexy. Taking her silence for assent, he began sucking on one toe after another. Her arousal soared. How could toes be an erogenous zone? She was afraid she'd have a climax before Andy got to her knees if he continued upwards at the speed he was using.
She didn't, although she was feeling awfully hot before he kissed her pussy. His second lick across her clit drew the lightning. He didn't stop, and she couldn't stop for the longest time. Finally, having absolutely lost count, she grabbed his hair and pushed him away by it.
"Want a break?" he asked. She nodded. She was gasping too hard to speak. "Until after breakfast?" He had to wait for her answer until she got her breath back.
"Until after dinner."
"Okay." He watched her dress, though. He had a hardon for the entire time. Well, whose fault was that? She'd been open to him for the entire session except for the times she'd been so far gone that she was squirming all over the bed. They had cereal for breakfast, since she hadn't the energy to cook anything. She would have pointed out to him that this was his fault, too, if she hadn't known that he was quite happy with cereal for breakfast.
She'd been planning to teach him how to cook, and she started with sloppy joes. They had those for lunch. Afterwards, they went out to pick out a TV.
Andy expressed the need for bookshelves. He wasn't planning to move his collection from his old home, but he expected to buy more books.
"I was thinking of building some bookcases. Would you mind?" Why should she mind? They both read, and they would need some place to put the books. Maybe they wouldn't need as much space as he had in his old room, but they would have more books than they could pile on the coffee table. What she hadn't asked was how big a bookcase he was planning to build.
Andy went off Thursday and came back with several tools and a lot of boards. She was surprised at how much lumber a bookcase required. Then he shut himself in the bedroom and she heard him working. When he called her in to see the results, she almost gasped. There were two cases -- open rectangles four feet by four feet with four internal shelves besides the top.
"One for you," Andy said, "and one for me." She couldn't imagine filling one shelf unless she brought her old books from home.
"In here?" she asked.
"I thought so. I measured the space."
"Why don't we put one in the living room?"
"Okay, but the paint won't match." He picked up the case with one hand and carried it into the living room. She went over to lift the other. It wasn't that heavy, empty.
Between her eye and his muscles, they rearranged the living room furniture to welcome the book case. Andy painted the two cases the same colors as the walls, white for the living room, and light blue for the bedroom, Saturday. He did the painting down in the parking lot.
They'd gone to the beach Wednesday, and they went again Friday. The second week, his sisters were in town visiting his father. She invited Molly and April to dinner Wednesday night. They explored the apartment, fascinated by how she and their brother lived. It was too bad the table was too small to hold Jim Trainor, too, but he had his daughters for most of the time.
"Do you want the apartment to be dry?" Andy asked one Saturday. Dry? When it rained? Her puzzlement must have been obvious, because he went on. "Or should we serve drinks?" Oh. She was a Methodist, but not that much of a Methodist. For that matter, he'd seen her drink -- and she'd seen him drink -- at Zate parties. They drank when his dad served wine.
"Want me to buy the stuff?"
"Go ahead." She certainly didn't consider herself any connoisseur of booze. Andy had reported getting drunk, but she'd never seen him look even slightly tipsy. He brought back what seemed like a lot of bottles.
"Can I put these in the kitchen?" he asked. "We don't have a place in the living room."
"Sure. Use the top shelf of that cabinet, would you." He could reach that easily. Top shelves weren't much use to her.
At his father's urging, Andy got life insurance. He had the medical exam that week and chose a $40,000 whole life policy which would be paid up in 40 years. She would need a car of her own for substitute teaching, and she bought a used Toyota in August. It was on a monthly payment plan over 2 years, but some charges were immediate.
She would also need some clothes that were appropriate for a teacher, and she bought four fall outfits. When she balanced her checkbook that night, she saw that the balance was less than Andy's last paycheck -- which hadn't cleared yet. She went to the bank the next morning, withdrew all but $50 from the savings account, and deposited it in the checking account. The teller assured her that this deposit was "checkable" immediately.
It was weird. Andy was making more than he'd ever made before. They weren't living luxuriously. Yet, they had the smallest level of savings of their marriage. They had, she was certain, less money in the savings account than he had had at the beginning of his second summer working as a teenager. Some of that wasn't really a deficit. They had a deposit on the apartment and other deposits on the utilities. The life insurance wouldn't need to be paid again for another year. There was money in the checking account which hadn't cleared yet and Andy's employer owed him for work already done. They had a lot of food on their shelves, if not much of the most expensive groceries that they bought. Still, it felt weird. After three months of working, they were going under.
They received pledge cards in the mail. She'd received them and thrown them away all the time they'd been in school. She'd thrown Andy's away the last year and supposed that he'd thrown his away the previous years. She'd handled the budget during their first year of marriage, and she knew very well that nothing had gone to Aldersgate from them while they were together in Champaign. Very little had gone to Urbana First, and she was a little ashamed of that. Back when she'd been in high school, she had tithed on her allowance; she'd not approached tithing -- or even 1% -- while she'd been an adult. That wasn't how she pictured adulthood. With their present situation, though, she didn't see any possibilities.
"Really, Andy," she said, "I think we should pledge $2 a week for the next year. We're tight."
"We are?" Andy looked surprised. "Well, okay then."
She cut back the food budget. They'd eaten cheaply in Champaign, and she used some of those recipes again. Andy's only comment was that he'd missed grits.
On Labor Day, they went to a barbecue held by Andy's immediate supervisor for his crew. Gary Davis, the lead engineer of Andy's group, was apparently one of the senior engineers. The Davis place was a ramshackle house on a large lot a few miles north of the plant. She and Andy were overdressed for the occasion, but not conspicuously so. Andy introduced her to Gary and went to fill a couple of plates.
"Yeah, smart husband of yours. Hard worker, too." Gary seemed to have an aversion to complete sentences. "Kids these days all seem to think that they should stop learning when they get out of school. Not him."
"Andy has always been willing -- eager -- to learn."
"And you're not 'Oh honey, that nasty book, we're supposed to go out tonight.'"
She smiled. "When we were first married, we were still students. He studied every night. For that matter, I studied, too. We're used to it."
"Well, a bright guy with the right attitude... Any kids?"
"No." They weren't ready yet, and it was only a year and a half after the wedding. Anyway their plans were more than she was ready to share with Gary. Oh, yeah! They had got married in school, so she must have been pregnant. She gave him a sweet smile, all the sweeter for its utter insincerity.
Later, though, she forgave him. If his mind had jumped to the wrong conclusion, he'd been polite enough to ask indirectly. He might, though, have been thinking of something else entirely. Before long, he'd shared his wallet-full of pictures of his two kids with her. That brought a woman over.
"They might be fascinating, Gary, but they don't fascinate absolutely everybody.
"Sorry," she said to Marilyn. "Gary is as proud of those kids as though he'd contributed something more than a teaspoon of sperm. I'm Sue Davis, his wife. Somewhere buried in that wallet is one photo of me, not that he'd show it to a pretty woman."
"Well, I'd have recognized you. You're in several of the snapshots. Marilyn Trainor." Gary Davis didn't look about to make introductions. "I'm married to Andy Trainor, one of Gary's group."
"Yeah. I managed those photos so he'd remember me." Well, the kids, whom she had seen running around, were about two years apart. So Gary had remembered Sue at least once after the first was born. But Sue was pleasant. Her cynicism was all joking.
Their financial situation didn't get much better in September. She had two days substituting, but she wouldn't be paid until early in the October. Those days cost her gas and lunch money, though.
Then, suddenly, it was all right. She got paid for the first teaching assignments, not much but paid. She also taught some other days in October. September had been one of the rare three-pay-day months. That meant that when bills became due November 1, they had three, not two, of Andy's paychecks which had cleared in time to pay them. They had talked about putting her paychecks in savings, but she would rather have a little padding in the checking account now. She brought the change up with Andy.
"Sure. I didn't know you were worried. I could have done something."
"Well, there was nothing that needed to be done, really." After all, she could have gone to Jim Trainor in an emergency. For that matter, she could have opened a charge account for any purchases but groceries. There were two families willing to feed them. If she had accepted Jim Trainor's open invitation too many times, Mom would have been jealous that they weren't eating with her parents often enough. She had, despite all that, felt pressed. "It wasn't that we were overdrawn or anything. It was that I felt nervous about the cushion." She didn't want to go to their parents, not without a real emergency. They were adults, and should be managing their own finances.
"Sure. It's your money, after all, put it where you want."
"It's our money, Andy. If the money you bring in is jointly ours, then so is the money that I bring in." Andy had never gone macho about her working. He tended, though, to regard the money resulting from that work as something different from family money.
"Well, it's a joint account. They're both joint accounts."
Mom asked her to talk to the Martha circle. Mom had organized it for mothers with kids in high school. That was long enough ago that most of them now had kids in college. They wanted a report from the front lines. The interest wasn't in curriculum; it was in the relation between the sexes. The women were worried about what they had heard.
"Are you going to be there?"
"Yes. Indeed, I'm hostess this month."
"No way. No way on God's green earth." They compromised. The meeting was held in one of the rooms of the church, and Mom stayed away.
It was a small group for the room, and they all sat in a circle. Mrs. Ingalls, the chairman, introduced her, ending with: "And if Judy Grant hears one word of this, Marilyn will blacklist the circle with our kids and anyone else who'll listen to her. We'll never get another speaker younger than ourselves. Marilyn?"
"Okay. I'm billed as a report from the front lines. The front lines of one war, maybe. I'm also bringing a report from the other side of another war. I was -- recently enough that I can remember it vividly -- the kid who rebelled against my parents' rules. I can remember promising to get back from my dates before breakfast. Dad was not pleased, though Mom pointed out that Andy, the guy I was going out with, needed to be at work the next morning. I never stayed out anywhere near that late, but I definitely didn't want a curfew at home after having lived on campus for a year.
"What you have to understand is that you have rules, and your kids have rules. Every so often, they are quite different rules. It's less often than it seems like, because the ones everybody agrees on are invisible. Fish don't see water." There was an objection. Mrs. Davis expressed it, but Marilyn could see that it was nearly the consensus.
"You're saying that these are only our rules, but they aren't."
"We've all seen National Geographicss, right? Other cultures have other rules. Some cultures think women should go bare-breasted. I'm told that Israeli couples -- maybe only kibbutz couples -- don't get married until they're expecting a child. We're not talking a white shotgun here. It's 'I'm committed to you, and I hope to bear your kid soon so we can get married.'
"It's not just your particular rule, though maybe it is. But if it's not your particular rule, or this group's rule, it's the culture's rule. And, if it's one generation's rule in the culture and not another generations's rule, then your kid is going to follow her generation's rule."
"But I want my children to think for themselves. They follow the pack."
"Sure. But they aren't the only ones following the pack. Look around you. You're not all dressed alike in the sense that any two are wearing the same dress. You are, on the other hand, all dressed alike in the sense that your clothes are all pretty much alike. I should have come to talk to you wearing jeans and a sweatshirt."
"That's fine. I can remember screaming at Deb for what she'd wear to church, but I lost that fight. Morality is fundamental."
"Look, you give your kids rules. They rebel against your rules. You say 'Here are the rules against which you may rebel. There are the rules which you should still keep.' That's fine for the rules you're there to enforce. 'No, you may not invite your boyfriend over to spend the night in your room.' It doesn't work when you're a long way away. How many buttons on the blouse are buttoned when she leaves the house is your decision. If she has brain one, she won't even fight about that. How many are buttoned when she walks into class is her decision. The teacher may have something to say about that, but you don't. It's still rules."
"Aren't some things fundamental?"
"Very few." If she'd said 'damned few,' she'd have lost this audience. "Look, I learned a huge amount of things from my husband. Andy hasn't internalized anything. He was taught some rules. If he wants to get along, he follows those rules. If it's something you don't have to be taught, he doesn't know it. Before we were married, he picked me up at my sorority house. The girls joked that Andy could give boyfriend lessons. Really, though, he didn't do anything that parents don't teach their sons is polite on a date. I was carrying some bags. We were going to go home on the train together. He took my bags, as any of you would teach your son to do. As we went out the door, he opened the door for me, as any of you would teach your son to do. Now, would any other guy have opened the door for a woman when he had two hands full with her stuff? No. And you wouldn't have expected him to. But that wasn't covered in the rules he'd been taught.
"We have a deal. He follows the rules that make me comfortable. But the reason he eats off a plate sitting down instead of out of a can standing up is that this is Marilyn's rule. And, when we have kids, I'll realize that the reason they have to wear pants even in July is not that this is common sense, but that this is Mommy's rule. Same goes for you. You have rules. Your kids have internalized some of those rules. I lived in a sorority house for three years, had half a dozen roommates in that time. Every one of them wore a nightgown to bed every night, even though they'd been naked in front of their roommates to put on that nightgown.
"Your problem comes because we don't teach sex rules -- we have no possibility of teaching sex rules -- before the age when kids are rebelling against rules. So none of them gets internalized. They are all your rules; none of them are my rules. And, however much you complain about following the pack, the only thing keeping your daughters from sleeping with boys are the rules of their girlfriends. And, however slutty you think the rules of the girl pack are, those rules are quite effective during high school. Maybe not 100%, but there are things you don't do when you're a sophomore, and there are things you do only with a significant other who is committed to you when you're a senior. There are college rules, too. I've heard enough condemnation of behavior and of girls to assure you of that. Unfortunately for you, the college rules -- and there are various groups in college with different rules -- aren't always your rules."
"Marilyn, speaking for myself. I've given up. The first time Charlotte came back with her blouse buttoned wrong, I was horrified. By senior year, I learned to stay in my room and speak through the door." Now, that sounded familiar. Had Mom been that accepting, secretly. "What worries us is the rate of college pregnancy. It scares me to death."
"And, if it doesn't scare your daughter, she's not looking ahead. Most of you have kids already in college, but you can pass this along. If you want a daughter to go to college and come back in four years without a baby, you have a simple way to almost guarantee it. The summer before, tell her: "Daughter mine, you're going away to make your own decisions. The most important decision will be about your body. I hope you don't share it with any man, but that will be your decision. What both of us agree on is that we don't want that decision to result in any consequences. So, I'll make an appointment with my gynecologist. He'll prescribe you some pills. Taking them doesn't mean that you have to say yes to some lout of a boy, but taking them means that saying yes won't have the consequence of pregnancy.' That will work, at least if she takes you up on it."
There was a storm of protest over that suggestion. She was glad that Mom hadn't come along. Finally, she pointed to Mrs. Douglas. "Marilyn, that's -- however you tried to say it -- giving our permission to have sex."
"Well, that's two points. In the first place, your kids aren't interested in your permission. Isn't that why you asked me to give this talk.
"In the second place, most of you were at my wedding. How many of you thought I was a virgin then?" No hands went up, and there were no shocked expressions, either. "Look, I was a good girl. I didn't sleep around. I only had sex with the man I was going to marry. I spoke about internalizing your standards. Well, congratulations, the girls on campus -- the girls in my sorority, at least -- have internalized your standards. If a girl goes off to college to meet lots of new men, and takes the Pill just in case she'll get real interested in one of them, she's a slut. We wouldn't have talked with her, let alone pledged her. (If we'd known, of course.) On the other hand, if the girl who really likes a guy is alone with him making out, and she loses control, we accept that. The problem is that the second girl is risking pregnancy.
"By the way, I reemphasize what we said at the beginning. I'm being honest with you, and I don't want any personal comments being repeated outside this meeting. Not even to anyone who is here now." She had to say this above a hubbub.
"Look Marilyn, we couldn't."
"The point is, that a virgin getting married can get the Pill in preparation. Even a month in advance of the wedding. (Has any virgin gotten married since the invention of the Pill?) But a girl who cares for a boy, cares very much for that boy, doesn't say that she'll sleep with him after a month's wait. That isn't how it goes. They care for each other; they get more and more intimate; finally, they get carried away. With any luck, the guy is carrying a condom. With greater luck, when she gets carried away, he doesn't get carried away so far as to forget it. But the rules, their rules and -- really -- your rules, are that it has to be something spontaneous, something that they don't anticipate. So the college pregnancy rate, which is way lower than the college risk-of-pregnancy rate, isn't a consequence of coed immorality. It's a consequence of coed morality."
"Is there any morality on campus at all? I mean Northwestern used to be a Methodist college, and..."
"Well, the word has two meanings. Are there rules? Are those the rules I think are universal? Well, the U of I is too big for there to be generally-accepted rules. The administration had rules, and we flouted them every chance we got. What happens is that every group has real rules. Even in high school, you get different cliques with different rules. I used to think ETHS was weird that way, but we were much more together than other high schools I've heard of.
"What we did at the sorority, is girls came from all over, and there was a good deal of selection in just applying and getting in. If you wanted to live some sorts of life, you probably didn't try to get that at Zeta. You'd be an idiot to try. Anyway, there we were from all over with background in all sorts of rules. We sort of put them together. And, when we joined, there was already a set of rules. I'm not talking about the sort of rules that get written down; I'm talking about rules about how you behave so we respected you. Maybe some Zate was sleeping with everyone on the football team. If so, she was keeping damn quiet about it in the house.
"I heard a lot of confessions and a lot of gossip. Aside from house dates -- we'd invite a fraternity over, or one would invite us over; each girl would have one specific guy as her date that night -- most girls went with one guy at a time. And you'd need to be a genius to have sex on a house date. Well, theoretically, a girl could be dating only George but sleeping with Ted, Joe, and Ralph, but I really doubt that any did. If you went with a guy long enough, we all suspected that you were sleeping with him. Was she? Unless she told, you didn't know. But there were rules all the same.
"You didn't seriously make out with a guy unless you were serious about him and in an exclusive relationship. You could go from one serious relationship to another, but if the new one involved sex fairly soon, he was exploiting you, you were a slut, or both. You could share what you'd done with your sisters, but if the word got back that you were sleeping with a guy through his friends and their girlfriends, he had betrayed you. I never told Andy what I'd heard; I don't know whether all my sisters were that reticent."
"You're talking about rules, not morality, certainly not biblical morality."
"I'm talking about moral rules. What you do, or else keep secret, so people will respect you. If you want biblical morality, part of Old-Testament morality is that a childless widow should sleep with her late husband's brothers to get a child."
"That's what I'm trying to get across to you. There are agreed rules. Don't try to pound me with the Bible. Get Reverend Lawrence in here to tell you about the Bible. You have agreed rules; your kids have agreed rules. They aren't always the same rules. And, sometimes, they are nearly the same rules. Part of the problem is that Susy goes out with George, and she thinks he's her one and only. You don't think so; you pray that he isn't. But Susy is going to treat George as the guy she is going to marry when she graduates. Whatever you've told Susy -- and if I have a daughter, I'll probably tell her the exact same thing as you told Susy -- your real standards say that some things are acceptable with the man you are going to marry which aren't acceptable with a casual date."
"So what is the answer?"
"Pray hard! And those prayers aren't always answered. Ask Mom what she thought of Andy. Don't ask her if she still thinks that, 'cause you don't want to make her lie."
"Now, Marilyn, I've heard your mother talk about Andy. She's not like that."
"Well, personal matters aside, you'll dislike some of your daughters' choices -- some of your sons' choices too. I've been talking about daughters 'cause I'm one of them. What you worry about with sons is something I don't know much about, except that sorority girls think that fraternity boys are terribly gross."
"But they still go out with them."
"What's the choice? And, then too, most girls make an exception for the one boy, although their sisters don't see it that way. Look, I'll bet none of you want your daughters to grow up to be spinsters. I won't say the same about your husbands." There were some chuckles. "That means dating. That means falling in love. Now, ideally, you only fall in love once in your life and you marry that one and stay in love for the rest of your life. But how many people really live that sort of fairy-tale existance? So you have to bite your tongue while your kid falls in love with one person after another. And you never know whether that person will, after all, end up as the life choice. Even if he isn't, your kid may go further along the path than is absolutely wise. Soon after Andy and I were married, Jim Trainor said something like: 'Most marriages happen earlier than is wise.' He'd tried to persuade us to delay, but we had already made our decision. After that, he was all cooperation and generosity. Well, understanding that you don't really have a choice, would you rather your daughter go to bed with a guy she's going to outgrow, or marry him first?" She looked at Mrs. Ingalls.
"Well, thank you, Marilyn. We got what we asked for, a view from campus. I'm not sure we got what we wanted."
"Thank you, Mrs. Ingalls, and thanks to all of you. I'm sure it wasn't what you wanted. As I said, I may well be in your shoes twenty years from now, and I'll be equally dissatisfied. I just don't think there is any satisfactory answer."
She didn't hear anything from Mom about the talk. She put it aside, and turned her attention to the Christmas season.
She was nervous enough about the cash situation to limit her and Andy to $150 apiece for Christmas presents. Andy couldn't spend more than $25 on her. She would buy him two SF books that he didn't have in his extensive collection. In preparation for that gift, she went to his house and checked out the books in his room one day when she didn't have a sub job. Andy's bookshelves were compulsively neat. The science fiction was together, almost all in hardback, and arranged by author. When Mrs. Bryant came to ask if she were staying for lunch, she explained what she was doing.
"And please don't tell Andy I was here. It's a Christmas surprise."
"It's our secret, Ms. Marilyn. Are you going to check the basement after lunch?" Basement? There were huge brick and board bookshelves in the basement, and there were the paperbacks -- several times as many SF books as he had upstairs.
He looked pleased when he opened her present Christmas evening, although Andy looked pleased at almost anything she did.
Over the Christmas break, of course, there had been no substitute jobs. In mid-January, though, she got called to sub for a teacher who might be out for a while. Mrs. Piekarz had been rushed to the hospital and the school wasn't notified until that morning. Marilyn got Mrs. Piekarz's lesson plans and started on her second class for Wednesday. Nobody would blame her for missing the first; the first class had already begun before she had been called. She scrambled to catch up with the lesson plan that day as she went on. By Friday, though, she was on top of the courses and on top of the students. It helped that they liked Mrs. Piekarz and were concerned about the reports on her illness. That she only had seniors and juniors was even more help. She stopped in the office Friday evening to ask whether she should prepare her own plans for the next week.
"Go right ahead, dear," the secretary told her. "We don't know when she'll be back, but it won't be next week." She graded everything and planned two weeks ahead that weekend. Andy went out for pizza and accepted her concentration.
"One climax," she told him when he started to caress her Sunday night. She held up one finger for emphasis. "And it would be nice if you participated. School tomorrow." He kissed her and stroked her until she was close, but then he entered her. His climax came before hers was over. When he rolled off, he scooped her into the spoon.
"Lovely woman. You'll be a great teacher tomorrow, too."
She continued teaching those classes for several more weeks. Luckily, Mrs. Piekarz not only had 11th and 12th graders exclusively, but had rather the best-behaved of them. When Marilyn finally met her, she still looked too sick to teach. She went back to the classes, though, and Marilyn stayed home most days.
When she was called in again, Mrs. Piekarz had been getting worse. This time, Marilyn had enough warning to prepare adequately. After trying to get her strength back, Mrs. Piekarz finally retired. For the 4th marking period, the school hired Marilyn full time and gave her those same classes.
At first, she was pushed. Would teaching really be this demanding all the time? A full-time job, sure, but she was spending more than 40 hours a week outside of class preparing and grading. Gradually, she found her feet. She even took to inviting family, either her parents or Jim Trainor, to dinner every Wednesday night.
The high-school English department, or some members of it, ate out together every Friday night. She made sure that there was a dinner waiting at home for Andy and limited herself to one drink, but she participated as often as not. She needed those friends.
While the money situation never got as easy as they had first expected, she took to depositing every other school paycheck into the savings account. Andy's extra paycheck for March and the tax refund went there, too. One budget problem was that the cheap meals she had learned to cook required a lot of time if not a lot of money. With her time constraints, these tended to go by the board. She did make grits -- although she served them with butter, which tasted much better on grits than margarine did -- for breakfast most Saturdays.
She was still working at teaching, and she expected to be a hard worker as long as she taught. It was
getting under control, though, and she had time for family, friends, and the husband who was both.
Andy had been a rock throughout this time of struggle. He now knew all the household tasks but
dusting and cooking. He would do any of them when she told him that it was necessary, and he never
balked at any of those tasks. He could cook a few meals, too, and he never blinked at being asked to
get take-out. His original demand had been that she would sleep in his arms every night. She'd never
believed that this could be all that he would expect from their marriage, but -- if it wasn't -- he never
mentioned any other expectations. He never even sulked when something which would be a reasonable
expectation hadn't been met.
The End Adults - F Uther Pendragon email@example.com 2012/05/14 These same events from Andy's perspective, can be read in: Andy's Experience The first adventures of Marilyn with Andy: "The Meeting - F" Another story about another woman's trying to integrate her work with her marriage: "Well - F" The index to the entire Gjt series is: God Joined Together The index to almost all my stories is: Index to Uther Pendragon's website