Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"Loose Girl"

Kerry Cohen received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Oregon and an MA in counseling psychology from Pacific University. She is a practicing psychotherapist and the author of the young adult novel Easy.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new book, Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity, and reported the following:
Open Loose Girl to page 69, and the first sentence is, "The drug is sharp inside my nostril, and immediately I feel a course of lightning through my body." If the drug I was describing there was male attention or even sex, I'd say that was a perfect representative line. But the line is, obviously, about cocaine. Cocaine was one of the few real drugs I used in my life and in the book. I much preferred boys, who had the ability to make me feel just as good as any drug might have, and just as bad afterward.

The next section describes a phone call with my mother, who by this time in the book was living halfway across the country. I lived with my father still, in northern New Jersey, which is where I'd been living since she had left a few years earlier to pursue medical school:

A Sunday. Mom calls. She's been back in the States for a few years now, living in Chicago. I sit on the leather couch in the living room and pick at a hangnail. She tells me about seeing Tyler in her new dorm room, how she thinks Tyler's thriving there. Last time Tyler called she said she had a boyfriend. A boyfriend. My withdrawn, matronly sister. I told her I was happy for her, but really I was seething with jealousy. How can she have a boyfriend when I don't? What is so wrong with me?

This paragraph speaks to my constant preoccupation with boys, how I was sure boys held the answer, how I was convinced for a long time that I was simply unlovable, and this is why I couldn't get a boyfriend. By this time, I had spent tons of mind energy trying to find the key to getting loved by boys - the way I looked, the things I did. And here my sister, who seemed to me the opposite of anything a boy would want, had gotten a boyfriend with ease.

The last paragraph on the page holds a lengthy description of my father's living room, which portrays this place where I carried out my days as a teen. It reveals mostly the passive place my father took in domesticity and parenting - outdated photos of our family, a graveyard of electronics, tons of clutter. I write:

Since hiring an interior designer when he first bought the apartment (one whom Mom claimed he was sleeping with), he has allowed the place to go to hell. Dad pays a cleaning lady from Nigeria forty bucks to come once a week, and she does our laundry, dusts and vacuums, and cooks us meals that she seals in Tupperware and puts in the fridge. Without her, I guess, we would live like bachelors, eat cereal for dinner, let laundry pile up in the hallway.

In this way, page 69 of Loose Girl is representative of the lack of parenting and structure I had in my life. It reveals some of the environment in which I found myself as a teenage girl and why perhaps I kept my sights outside my home life when looking for comfort, love, and a sense of being seen.
Read an excerpt from Loose Girl, and learn more about the book and author at Kerry Cohen's website and her blog.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue