Short story identification
July 23, 2014 11:28 AM   Subscribe

What is this short story I read sometime in the late 1990s? Plot involved two teenage girls in the 1960s, Beatlemania, and the terrifying truths of growing up.

I read this short story quite awhile ago-probably about 15 years ago. I was in high school when I read it, and remember being really struck by it/identifying with it/being kind of disturbed by it, and want to read it again as an adult. It was relatively contemporary when I read it 15 years ago. Author is almost certainly female. I remember reading it about the same time as I read Margaret Atwood's The Man From Mars (as the stories share some similar themes), so it's possible they were in an anthology together.

Plot as best I can recall: Narrator was a ~14/15 year old girl in the mid-1960s. Huge Beatles fan, and into a lot of the other teenybopper-type bands of the time. She has a friend who she is spending the weekend with. She and the friend aren't terribly close (although I can't remember why) and mostly what they have in common is their interest in the same bands. The majority of the story revolves around their interactions during this weekend, which I don't recall clearly.

The part I remember is during the last few pages. The girls are, for reasons I don't recall, at some kind of public place with a lot of adults (maybe a college campus?) with the friend's parents, but separated from the parents. The girls are hanging out on their own, and they end up meeting up with a group of older teen boys (or maybe even adult men). I think they are at a gym or a swimming pool. The boys are doing weird stuff to try to impress the girls. The narrator is anxious and self-conscious, but the friend seems to enjoy the attention. I can't remember what or why, but some weird act of violence takes place where one of the boys lashes out against another likely for attention. It's very shocking and the narrator is upset.

I can't remember if it's explicitly stated or just inferred, but a comparison is made between the narrator's affection for the teenybopper bands she likes (and her crushes on the men, more or less in her imagination) and the real men that she is encountering and interacting with.
posted by Ideal Impulse to Media & Arts (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This is a long shot, but could it have been from the Nick Hornby-edited anthology Speaking with the Angel? I read it quite a while ago, so my memory of it isn't the sharpest, but your description sounds vaguely like the tone of one of the stories I remember from it.
posted by augustimagination at 12:28 PM on July 23, 2014

It really sounds like something familiar by Joyce Carol Oates, but I can't place it.
Also sounds a little like Mary Gaitskill's 'Two Girls, Fat and Thin' but that was a novel - could it have been excerpted from that? The 1960's, teenyboppers, a weird disconnected friendship - that all fits...
posted by mdrew at 3:45 PM on July 23, 2014


It's called "The Friendships of Girls Unpopular Together" and is by Jeanne Schinto. Here's a review of the collection Shadow Bands that it's from that discusses that story specifically (they're on an ocean liner, not on a college campus, but there is a swimming pool--and a near-drowning--involved!)

In case you're wondering how I found it: I searched google books for anthologies that had Man From Mars in them (because I have such a clear memory of reading these stories back to back), found this book, of which the cover looked familiar, and searched reviews of it until I found the title.
posted by Ideal Impulse at 11:32 AM on July 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

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