This node will make little sense unless you first read its predecessor, The Life Cycle Library for Young People, Volumes 1-2.
Ah, those tumultuous growing years! The first two volumes of The Life Cycle Library have introduced us to our sexual selves, discussed values, and taken us down the long path from conception until early childhood. But now, assisted by our artists, we come to the tough questions, the ones our parents will not always be able to help us with.
Our final two volumes, then:
16. You and Your Family
17. How to Keep a Conversation Going
18. Dating for Girls
19. Dating for Boys
20. Necking, Petting, and Sexual Feelings
21. Parents Watch the Clock
22. How Do You Know When It's Love
23. What about Marriage
Glossary and Index
An average family with 2.5 children (.5 is partially hidden, and we can only see his face) pack the station wagon, and we leave on the long, strange trip that is maturation in this 1969 guide to the the Facts of Life.
The third volume begins slowly, with family life and tips for conversation. Before long, however, we're in deep, with dating and sexual feelings. The Poor Man's Rockwell guides us through much of this book, decorating the text with adolescent girls imagining knights on horseback in their boudoir mirrors, lively double-dates at the hamburg stand, and the obligatory bespectacled, tie-wearing dad looking up over his paper as he chats up the dwarvish make-out man arriving for his daughter.
Daughters, of course, must "chase" the boy until he notices them, but are cautioned against going along with the "too-eager beaver who thinks that every girl he dates owes him the chance to improve his kissing technique," lest she "end up with a not-so-nice name" (291-192). Our artist is quick to illustrate proper technique; our girl and boy examine pop records in a well- lit room while dad tools around in the next room, fixing a generic appliance.
We are deep into an older set of social rules at this point. For example, should a girl phone a boy? Well,
In one high school poll, the majority of boys said they did not like girls to call them. They felt it made the girls seem "pushy...." There are times, however, when a girl really has to call a boy. She may have to, for example, invite him to a party she is giving, or she may want to check on an important class assignment due the next day. Most boys do not mind receiving a necessary call from a girl.
The boys' chapter covers similar material, but lacks the emphasis on reputation, preferring instead to take the high ground and give boys a step-by-step guide to gentlemanly behaviour. Our artist, as always, helps out, with a wholesome dating montage. We also get tie-dad again and, elsewhere, a hip turtleneck dude playing guitar while a mini-skirted Marcia Brady type rests an affectionate arm on his shoulder, which has got to make it difficult to strum. We see the dark side of dating, too, as a girl flirts on her date with a passing, baseball-handlng bad boy. In another composite illustration, we see a happy couple dwarfed by a giant burger, monstrous tickets, and a massive floating box of chocolates. Clearly in love or at least deep affection, they remain unalarmed by their bizarre surroundings-- but we recognize the ominous signs of things to come.
In "Necking, Petting, and Sexual Feelings," Poor Man's Rockwell takes a backseat to Mr. Psychedelic. As that chapter progresses, it's often difficult to discern what, if anything, is being illustrated. Technicolor ghosts enjoy a picnic, a stylized couple make out beneath a kaleidoscope mushroom tree, and a "Slow Reduce Speed" sign grows from uncertain terrain which sprouts plants shaped like butterflies.
The writers remain as sober as ever, despite the artwork. Consider:
Just about every boy masturbates at some time or other while he is growing up. Many girls also masturbate.... While masturbation brings a certain amount of pleasure and relief, it may also cause conflict in the mind of the person who does it. Masturbation causes no physical harm. But because many people consider it wrong, a person who masturbates may feel guilty. While it may bring relief, masturbation is never completely satisfying. Even a person who masturbates frequently eventually recognizes that daydreams and fantasies are no substitutes for real life.
With the next chapter, the Poor Man's Rockwell returns, but he's in his Look magazine phase. Mom looks with distress out a rain-splattered window while dad, still in his tie, phones the emergency services. A sordid group of kids look slightly demented on a darkened big-city street corner as they smoke.... something. The changing world of motion pictures also gets covered, as the world's youngest couple pass a theatre running The Girl Upstairs-- Rated X! We also learn that sex involves two-way responsibility, though the image shows mom bringing her teary-eyed, heavily pregnant daughter to see the white-haired Marcus Welbyesque physician. Seems a little late to be crying.
Finally, a couple against a soft streetlamp in an image worthy of a romance novel ask the magical question, How Do You Know When it's Love? The chapter gives plausible advice, discusses infatuation, and lets us know that we have to work at relationships. And if they work, they can accept the responsibilities of life together. "Among those responsibilities, will, of course," they note, anticipating no controversy, "be the birth of your own children. It is then that you will see for yourself the beginning stages of the love development that you went through as a baby and child"(349).
Yes, we're full circle, as the last chapter takes us into the world of marriage, wherein two individuals become "a two-person team."
With that, we could return to volumes 1-2-- but we have the glossary to consider first.
Throughout the other three volumes, certain "life-cycle" related words-- buttocks, lesbian, pituitary gland, and the like-- are highlighted whereever they appear. Volume 4 functions like a hardcopy version of hypertext; instead of clicking on the term, the reader must turn to this final volume for a detailed definition.
Nearly every page features a line drawing on a blue backdrop, illustrating some term. Which term matches which illustration, however, is not always immediately apparent. Sure, the kindly, stethoscope-necklaced doctor handing a vague device to a seated, presumably married woman on the same page as "contraceptive" likely goes with that definition. Ditto the science-slide wonder near "chromosome." But the slightly perverted looking doctor approaching the nervous, prostrate woman on page 481? It might go with "Wasserman Test," but it's hard not to connect it with "voyeurism," which definition appears immediately beside the illustration. And I have to ask what the artistic editor was thinking when they illustrated, presumably, "environment" with a crowd of friendly Sunday-service-goers standing in front of a terribly phallic church-tower, given that "erection" shares the same page.
The final line drawing appears before the necessarily staid, but useful, index. A puzzler it is; a woman with her baby appears, surrounded by two pregnant women, a smoking man, a baseball-batting boy, a vaguely stylish female, and some elephants.
And our tour through the human life cycle has finished. We close the final volume, wiser than we were, on the ways of the human body, Western civilization, and the middle class morality of 1969