by Caitlin Boos
Change - an unforgiving phenomenon worshipped by some and absolutely abhorred by others. As the new decade continues to seethe with momentous events, the electric pulse of change seems to hang in the balance of our everyday reality. Similar to the start of the 2020s, the beginning of the 1960s teemed with revolution, as the newer generations fought to replace the outdated systems they had come to despise. At the precipice of this social upheaval was the youth- a viewpoint that author Jerome Gold explores in his newest novel, 'Sex, A Love Story". Bob and Jen are teenagers with the world at their feet; a world, that's seemingly starting to spin on a completely unheard-of axis.
California Dreamin’ – What’s Next
Due to the economic prosperity of post-World War II America, Bob and Jen are ushered into the middle class without necessarily knowing how to navigate such a social position. As they hinge on the cusp of high school, both characters are utterly dumbfounded as to what direction they are going to take their lives following graduation. Like many their age, Bob and Jen are burdened with expectations of greatness, but, are void of the kinds of funds and resources that their wealthier classmates are privy to. This leads to a burgeoning sense of self-doubt that the teenagers have to grapple with; an inner turmoil that most of us can probably relate to when looking back on our adolescences.
A Change is Gonna Come – Sex as Maturity
In an attempt to make sense of their impending launch into adulthood, Bob and Jen opt to embark on a raucous sexual relationship. They believe intimacy is the epitome of maturity and thus, that engaging in intercourse is the most definitive way they can assure their society of their readiness and ability to transition into the real world. However, in channeling all of their vigor and blithe solely into the relationship, the couple fails to craft any independent identity outside of each another. Gold describes this alarming emergence as, “At first a powerful antidote to their frustration and normal teen angst, sex between Jen and Bob takes on a life of its own.”
Just Like a Woman – Jen’s Identity
Jen becomes enamored by the concept of sex, and seeks to define herself in relation to her willingness for it, and experiences with it, the further the novel progresses. She wields her sexual prowess and eagerness for experimentation like they’re symbols of maturity, much like many girls her age did around that time in history. Chief amongst the changes in the early 60s was the sexual revolution, and the newfound power it subsequently gave women’s bodies: for the first time they could choose whether to be chaste or to be freed. Gold says of Jen’s identity, “I regard this book as a ‘pre-feminist’ novel, in that many of the issues that feminists were beginning to be concerned with during the period of this story are addressed”.
Born to Be Wild – The New Way
Empowered by the era’s social movements, Bob and Jen fall into reckless abandon: their sex becomes risqué, their ambitions wane in purpose and their interest in adulthood distorts into disdain. No longer is intercourse an attempt at finding direction or discovering a passion, but rather, a haven to which they can retreat entirely from life’s everyday demands and external pressures. As Gold describes it, “If, for these kids, sex is at first a way of exploring the adult world, later it becomes a way to defy it”. Their angst morphs into complete disregard for what’s expected, effectively making them symbols of a revolution and, further discouraging them from crafting any real identities of their own.
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – Bob’s Ambition
Eventually Bob grows tired of his frivolous trysts with Jen and seeks something more concrete than the explicit affairs the young couple have been evading their responsibilities with. His scholastic, studious core contends with Jen’s genuine disinterest in staunch professionalism and thus, the high school graduate is forced to make the ultimate choice: his lover, or his career. Her ardent defiance of ‘the rules’, is simply not in line with his wanting to learn ‘the rules’, and likewise his ‘bowing to the norm’ is a thorn in her ‘protesting the norm’ side. As the novel draws to a close, the two fledgling beings have actually accidentally forged out individual paths for themselves but the thing is, the two will never converge again.
As someone identical in age to the couple, too, maturing in an era ubiquitous with social upheaval and cultural unrest, there is indeed something so tempting about abandoning all reality for the thrill of instantaneous gratification. For many millennials and fellow Gen Z’ers, 2020 has been incredibly befuddling to navigate, what, without perceptions on life, understandings of society and faith, in supposedly trusted authority figures changing from day-to-day. Despite the chaos that coiled around the early 60s, wide-eyed wanderers like Bob and Jen eventually matured into admirable individuals with passions and purposes who immeasurably impacted the world around them and rest assured, I bet we all will too.