"Should a Girl in Love Say No?"
Motion Picture, October 1957
Two rising Hollywood stars discuss the most challenging problem of teen-age romance: after the kiss, what then?
(First, the movie scene):
The scene is a beach late on a moonlit night. A boy and a girl walk along the sand. Except for them, the beach is deserted. They are alone – and they are desperately in love. And yet they stand a few feet apart. Even to hold hands would unleash too many frightening emotions.
"I'll build a fire," the boy, Jerry, says. His voice is too casual, as though he is holding back his real feelings. "Help me find some wood."
Silently, they gather the wood.
Then, "Pretty here, isn't it?" he says as he kneels down and lights the fire. At his feet, the ocean laps uneasily at the shore.
He is suddenly unable to keep his feelings from leaping into his throat. "You know what happens to people in the spring, Emily."
The girl turns on him, her nerve ends rubbed raw. "Why are we always arguing about the same thing, Jerry?"
"Every time you look at me, you're arguing."
"Emily . . .?"
She looks up at him and waits.
"I love you so much, I can't stand it. Don't say no . . . ."
"Don't be afraid."
His eyes plead with her.
Bewildered, confused by a hunger that she is too young to understand, she takes a half step backward. Her feet sink into the damp sand, but she is not conscious of this. When she speaks, it is as though her voice belongs to someone else.
"Jerry, please . . . please . . . not now . . . ."
He still does not touch her. But he is trembling with emotion, and there is something close to agony in his voice. "I don't . . . don't know what to do, Emily."
Her answer holds as much pain as his question. "Do you think I can stand it either?"
She presses her hand tightly against her mouth to keep from crying.
Suddenly they come together, and in a moment he is drawing her down to the sand. They are clutching at each other in desperate yearning. Then she breaks away from him and scrambles to her feet. Jerry is on his knees, looking up at her. He clings to her skirt, unable to let her go, unable to utter a sound.
"Jerry . . . Jerry . . . please . . . ." Tears and sand are mixed on Emily's cheeks.
He releases her and gets slowly to his feet. When he speaks, his voice is dead. There seems to be no emotion left in him.
"Let's go back to the car."
Slowly, they walk back to the road, not even bothering to throw sand on the fire. It is already out.
THE GIRL'S SIDE
by Natalie Trundy
What would I have done if I had been Emily that night on the beach?
I am seventeen years old, and I have never been in love. In The Careless Years I play Emily, who is seventeen years old and desperately in love.
Emily knows that she is too young to get married. Her parents have forbidden it. More than that, she realizes what marriage would mean to Jerry's dreams. To support a wife, he would have to take a job in a factory. They would live in a cheap apartment and have a baby and all of Jerry's hopes for a college education and all of his plans for their future would be destroyed.
What would I have done if I had really been Emily that moonlit night?
I think I would have behaved as she did. But I can't be absolutely sure. No girl can be until she faces this situation.
I consider myself lucky that I have not yet had to face it, that I have not yet fallen in love.
Too many of my friends have faced this problem, as Emily did, and found, as Emily found, that there is no perfect solution.
One friend married the boy she was in love with immediately, instead of waiting two or three years. She was just eighteen; the boy was twenty-one. They were divorced three months later. It seems to me that it's never wise to marry this young.
At seventeen or eighteen, you are never really sure who you are or what you are. Each day you are growing and changing, becoming a person who is a little different from the person you were the day before. In three months, or six months, you may discover that you have grown beyond the boy you married. Your interests and hopes and plans are different from his. And you have to make a choice between twenty years of unhappiness or the other unhappiness and bitterness of divorce.
Other girls may take the second way out, the way that is chosen by Harriet, Emily's best friend in The Careless Years.
Harriet, too, is in love, and she asks Emily, "Have you really settled it with Jerry that you just go along like this . . .?"
"What else can we do?"
Harriet hesitates a moment. Then, "In this world, you're in trouble if you do and you're in trouble if you don't. There's something wrong somewhere.
"Bob told me he just couldn't stand it; he'd just quit seeing me. Every time we'd go out on a date, we'd argue. So I . . . I just stopped arguing."
Emily doesn't answer.
"You think I'm wrong, don't you?" Harriet asks.
Disturbed, Emily nods. "Yes I do."
Harriet reaches over to touch her hand. "It's such a frightening thing to be in love, really and truly in love, so you don't care about anything else. I . . . I was scared to tell you. I thought you'd be so shocked."
"I guess I really am."
"I know, I know." Then the words burst out bitterly. "But they give you feelings and then you're not supposed to have them!"
[End of scene from movie]
Most of the girls I know who faced this problem did what Emily did. Emily did not find it necessary to give in to Jerry. It is something that is never NECESSARY, no matter what Harriet thinks. If a boy really likes you – just LIKES; not even LOVES you – it isn't necessary. And if you love him, you want more than this, because love is more than physical attraction.
But physical attraction IS an important part of love.
As Jerry says to Emily, "Going to bed is part of being married, a beautiful part." Emily realized this before she made her decision. She also realized that it could so easily be spoiled and made tawdry and cheap outside of marriage.
Emily's decision was right – but it was not easy, or pleasant, or completely happy. She settled her problem – but she did not solve it. She was still in love with Jerry. She still had her feelings. They couldn't be ignored. She couldn't pretend that she didn't have them just because she wasn't supposed to have them. She had to learn to live with them and control them. She had faced one test of maturity and character that comes sooner or later to every girl, and she had passed the test. In passing it, she grew up a little more.
THE BOY'S SIDE
by Dean Stockwell
That scene comes from a movie, but it will be played in earnest a hundred times this summer by high school kids who are neither wild nor delinquent.
Most of the time, the scene will end the way it does in The Careless Years, the picture in which I play Jerry. Sometimes it will end another way. Are Jerry and Emily "bad" because they play this scene and face this problem? Are the others – the kids who give in to moonlight and their own emotions – "bad?"
Most adults refuse to understand the problem in which Jerry and Emily – and possibly their own sons or daughters – find themselves involved. Like ostriches, most adults refuse to believe that there is a problem.
Jerry and Emily are nice kids from nice homes. They have B-plus averages in high school. They love their parents. They have never been in trouble with the police. And NICE KIDS aren't supposed to have uncontrollable emotions. Nice kids aren't supposed to have problems concerning sex. Nice kids fall in love and wait for years until they are old enough for marriage. They feel no passions – no physical desires – until their wedding night.
The people who pretend to believe this are hypocrites. Love is neither a toy nor a game. It is an extraordinarily powerful emotion. It can keep men alive when logic says they ought to be dead. It can make them walk again after doctors have listed them as hopelessly crippled. It's got the explosive force of dynamite, and sometimes it is too powerful an emotion to be kept under perfect control by teen-agers.
Fifty years ago, teen-agers didn't have much of a chance to fall in love. There were no school dances, no studying together at the library, no coffee dates, no night football games, or beach parties, or moonlight swims. Any father who let his fourteen-year-old daughter date a young man would have been considered fit for horsewhipping. It was easier for teen-agers then. By the time a girl and boy fell in love, they were usually old enough to get married.
Today teen-agers date early, fall in love early – sometimes years before they are considered ready for marriage. And when two people are in love, their companionship can't all be going to movies and dances. There are physical problems involved that extend beyond these things. Two people in love want to be near each other, kiss each other and make love.
There is nothing abnormal or unnatural about making love. It is the authorized method for continuing the human race. But for teen-agers in love, the fulfillment of this natural desire is forbidden.
It has to be forbidden. Teen-agers, for the most part, are not wise enough or old enough to handle their emotions in a constructive way. To become entangled too deeply could be irreparably harmful to them. I think most teen-agers realize this. But realizing it doesn't stop them from feeling the needs and desires other people in love feel. So what can Jerry and Emily – and others with the same problem – do?
I don't think that any parent has the right to pretend – as the parents of so many of my friends pretend – there is no problem. Merely stating that "of course all good boys and girls are chaste until marriage" does not help to solve anything. Denying that desire exists is not the way to help teen-agers handle desire.
The problem has to be looked at and talked about. I have been reading up on the 'twenties, the period when many of our parents were in high school. It was a pretty wild era. There were speakeasies and bootleggers, backstage necking and bathtub gin and parties that lasted for days at a time. Our parents must have faced some of the problems then that the Jerrys and Emilys face today. The experiences they had then should enable them to give us the understanding we need today. They should be able to sit down and talk honestly and tell us that "in 1929, this is how your mother and I felt . . . ." They should be able to admit to us that they had the same problems.
Understanding will help. But – even with understanding – there is no easy solution to the problem of young love. The problem is too complicated to be solved by a rule that "all kisses may last only two and a half sceonds." Each young couple must face the problem honestly and solve it as well as they can, remembering always that they are completely in a stage of growth and that abandoning principles for enjoyment of the moment will stunt that growth.