Excerpt from Girl Intrepid

Chapter 4: Sexed

September 1953

“Girls don’t think about sex as much as boys.”

If that were true, then I was an anomaly even before reaching puberty. Starting at age ten, I had one crush after another on various boys. For a whole year of weekends, when I was about twelve, Tracy Coudert and I would crawl into his bed in the morning. We would wrap our arms around each other and we would gently and silently rub against one another, fully clothed, for close to an hour. There was no climax. It just felt warm and cozy. After we felt rubbed out, without a word, I would return to my room, which opened onto his, and shut the door. We would dress for the day and meet again downstairs for breakfast without the slightest acknowledgment of our earlier meeting.

In seventh grade, Camilla Cahill brought in an erotic poem, “This is My Beloved,” which she had filched from the bedroom of her sexy twenty-five-year-old half-brother. Although explicit and titillating, the poem was tender and lyrical—a sweet introduction to the joys of romantic love and sex, which were years away.

Introduction to Girl Intrepid

by Emily Arnold McCully

One spring weekend four years ago, Lale and the friends she calls the Andrews Sisters gathered on the Brown campus for the 55th reunion of the Class of 1961, of which she is an honorary member.

When the formal festivities were over, four of us set out for the Diggs/McCully home in eastern New York State, a three-hour drive across Massachusetts. Lale had the latest of her zippy little cars, this one a spirited Mini convertible. I admired it, and Lale, always willing to share the treasures of a beautifully curated life, said, “Don’t you want to drive it?”

Turned out she meant drive it all the way home. I was tickled, but nervous. Lale wasn’t at all concerned about her baby. She settled into the passenger seat and launched into the story of her young life, much of it new to me. Much of it sounded painful, if highly entertaining, thanks to Lale’s astringent wit and a familiar cool distance that both insulates and frees her. When, at the end of the three hours, she said she was making it all into a book, I was enthusiastic. If she could write the way she talked, there was no limit to its appeal.