Saturday, May 21, 2022

Manguso's VERY COLD PEOPLE: New England Incest, Nude Teens & Student-Teacher Sex

In Sarah Manguso's Very Cold People, which is set in a New England town, Ruthie's mother "glared" at Ruthie for not being boy crazy like Amber - Ruthie's elementary school classmate. (Amber's older brother liked to tickle Amber: "[...] until she dropped her towel.") And Ruthie's mother was "furious", because Ruthie wouldn't make herself: "[...] sexy for people to look at, to convince them I was already grown up." However, after a cashier told Ruthie, "I like your body. It’s slim and trim, like I like." Ruthie's mother smiled at her and said, "Mmmm."

At a party that Bee, who still took showers with her father, held for Ruthie and Charlie: "Bee's towel slipped [in the hot tub], and everyone saw the tiny creased dumpling of her vulva." Subsequently, the (very) young party goers watched a "little dirty" movie about two girls whom: "[...] raced to lose their virginity by the end of the summer."

Ruthie wore T-shirts over her swimsuits, which made it appear that she might be "naked underneath". Consequently, her grandfather told her that she had: "[...] to stop walking about like that."

Amber's niece, a fellow 6th grader, shared with Bee that she looked older than her age (i.e., 13), but the way she said it gave Ruthie the impression that Amber's niece had been told by a number of men that she looked mature. 
“Amber’s niece went to school with us for part of that year. When she introduced herself to Bee she said, I’m still thirteen. I know, I don’t look it, and the way she said it told us that she’d heard it so many times from so many men that it seemed as deeply a part of her as her own name.”

Ruthie, still in middle school and a budding teleiophile, related that she was "in love with Amber's older brother" and that she: “[...] was lit from the inside with a desire that fastened itself to any boy in the vicinity of my body.” And Ruthie “[...] imagined that Winifred’s husband was handsome, dark in a way that none of the boarding school boys were.”

In (high school) study hall, Bee shared with Ruthie, via a note, that she had gone to a boy's house and "bit the big one" but that "milkshake came out instead of pee!" Subsequently, Bee got pregnant, but it was bittersweet, because: "[...] her father wouldn't want to go near her anymore."

Ruthie's middle school gym teacher put his hand on her: [...] ass, moved it around as if trying to get the dimensions of it, to quickly memorize its shape in the full light of the gym [...]" 

Ruthie found her gym teacher's carassing "old-fashioned" and "almost tender". She referred to his feeling as a "so-called molestation" that she admitted was "wrong". But her first thought was that it was "sweet", and she shared:  "I knew that, on some level, he liked me.”

In 9th grade, Charlie, Ruthie's wealthy friend, was: "[...] picked up by a cop. She had been running through the field at school, screaming. And she was naked. Just screaming.” By high school, the nymphet exhibitionist, had a student-teacher affair with her tennis coach. After practice, Charlie and her coach would have sex in his car. Interestingly, Charlie liked to keep him inside her after. But, like Ben Kalmen (Michael Douglas) in Solitary Man, the coach became needy

In high school Charlie joined the tennis team and almost immediately started sleeping with the coach. Charlie’s mother often chatted on the phone with me if I called when Charlie was at an imaginary tennis practice, having sex with the coach in his car, down by the brook.

Charlie had said that she liked to keep the tennis coach inside her for as long as possible afterward so that she could still feel him. 

Charlie despised the tennis coach for being in love with her. She told me that she’d stopped sleeping with the tennis coach long before she actually stopped, if she ever had stopped.

And in another example of the shadowy side of nympholepsy, Uncle Roger raped Debbie, his daughter,: "[...] for fourteen years, starting when she was two." And Ruthie observed Uncle Roger seducing Brett - his granddaughter:

At the other end of the table Uncle Roger tickled Brett, [his granddaughter] his fingers in her ear like a lover’s. Wrapping her hair around his fingers, kissing her neck, whispering in her ear. She beamed. She was eight or nine years old, in hair ribbons.

Alexandra Jacobs' wrote in her New York Times review of Very Cold People, that Manguso: 
"[...] shows how feminine identity in America can be built up with material objects — dolls, Girl Scout insignia, barrettes, makeup [...] — and then torn down by violation, sexual and otherwise. A gym teacher’s inappropriate touch; a shoe salesman’s remark; a friend’s creepy dad; frottage on the commuter rail. All these things happen, in an era when such events were often considered not reportable offenses but just a part of growing up — character-building, even."

Very Cold People and Jacobs' "just a part of growing up" reminds me of a colleague whom shared with me in Manhattan that incest slash sexual abuse was rampant back in her suburban middle class neighborhood near Chicago. And it's safe to surmise that due to the allure of nymphets, but the disregard for even legal age gap relationships, incest slash sexual abuse is still rampant in my old colleague's neighborhood and in neighborhoods around the world. 

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