Emily’s last entry was about what is happening in the pauses in this story, but I feel like in June, Jessica never pauses to catch her breath. And who can blame her – a lot happens to our Miss Darling, and this eventful month focuses on three guys: one old, one new, and one strange, unpredictable presence that is slowly starting to shift into a distinct force in her life.
This chapter, more than any other so far, is about sex, which isn’t surprising. High schoolers are constantly thinking about sex and talking about sex and speculating about who is having it and bragging and lying and being nervous and scared and excited. I think sex shapes people’s personas and perceptions in high school more than at any other point in their lives. Looking back, I knew when so many people starting having sex. I knew what kind of sex they were having, who their previous partners were, and where they were having sex. A Person Who Has Sex is a person of note in high school, whether you attend Pineville or Derry Area (my alma mater). The chapter focuses on the infamous Dannon yogurt cup scene with Marcus, where he’s testing her boundaries and pushing her and being magnetic and strange and irresistible. In fact, she immediately has a sex dream about the experience. Scotty is using trying to use his sexual experience as a bargaining chip. Cal’s end game is sex.
Sex is discussed here in two different ways: in the personal appearances and perceptions that people create for or because of sex and in the feelings related to sex. It’s aesthetics and affect. It’s looks and posturing compared to strong visceral reactions. It’s the mind against the body. Jess makes herself appear drunk because women who are giggly and drunk at weddings have a better chance at kissing men they’ve just met. As Emily mentioned before, she’s playing at this woman, well aware that it is a performance. Her attraction to Cal is based on this type of performance and posturing. He has carefully crafted their conversations and interactions. His mentioning of the condom felt so staged. Everything stayed on the surface. Scotty, similarly, uses his new persona as “a man who has sex” as power that he can laud over Jess. Sex becomes commerce and he tries to appeal to her by suggesting it that he gave this away to, in return, get her affections. Scotty is a Person Who Has Sex, and he thinks that a compromise of this powerful image is worth a genuine emotion response.
But the responses, the ones full of emotions and physical reactions are saved for Marcus, whose initial interaction with Jess in the chapter is the furthest from sex: pee in this cup for me. But the way she discusses it, he might have asked her to take off her clothes and let him have his way with her. The hand on the knee. The small of the back. The choice to describe the origami as a mouth. The sex dream. These interactions are all body and they leave her with strong, powerful emotions. Unlike with Cal and Soctty, where Jess understand clearly what was going on and how to react to the situation, Jess cannot understand Marcus. But she can feel him. His effect is powerful and makes the novel exciting.
Things in this chapter that I would text Emily about if we weren’t writing this blog:
Out of all of Jessica’s sex dreams: this one is my favorite. “Now that’s what I call a mindfuck.”
Cal sounds like the worst. Maybe he charmed me on my earlier reads, but I can’t even with him. Especially the way he wants to seriously say the words to “Celebration.” Go to bed, Cal.
Ten inches of New Jersey Whitesnake! Why that expression never caught on, I’ll never know.
The introduction of Gladdie! She’s the best, from her first mention.
If you liked that, try this:
Although I don’t have many other pieces of pop culture that discuss peeing in yogurt cups, I think a few of the ideas from this chapter – the constant presence of sex in high school and the allure of someone who wants to challenge your boundaries, especially if your best interests aren’t always at heart – are expressed really well in two episodes of Freaks and Geeks, the greatest season of television ever produced. I won’t recommend the whole series right now, in case I want to highlight a few other episodes later, but for now, I’ll recommend episode 5 “Tests and Breasts” and episode 8 “Girlfriends and Boyfriends.” Both episodes can be seen on Netflix, which houses the whole series.