Pretty Girl

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You know boys. All pretty girls do. You were born with the knowledge of boys in your blood, an understanding surpassing instinct and perhaps of spiritual dimensions. You know the difference between what they want and what they will admit to wanting. You know how to give it to them. And you know how to make them fall in love.

It's really not that hard. He says something funny and you throw back your head, laughing, arching your back ever so slightly and bringing your fingertips up to the soft part of your skin where your neck meets your left ear. Then, while your body is still shaking, you lean forward, looking at him, eyes shining, lips parted in a big smile. You let him experience a second or half-second of that, just enough time to allow him to believe that a connection exists between you.

Powerful as that eye contact is, it's not the real trick; no, the real trick lies in the breaking of eye contact - suddenly, swiftly, blushing as if you are exerting physical resistance to some strong attraction. Boys love to think they are conquering you.

It's a useful, if dangerous, talent. It may get you who you want and what you want, but you get so used to doing it, you realize that you're using the same moves, the same lines, the same gleaming eyes on boys in whom you have no interest. And by the time you're aware, he's already in love with you and you have to break his heart.

When you are just 14, you and your sister spend a week with your Aunt Susan and her husband up at their lake house. You and your sister spend all day in your bathing suits, splashing in the water and working on your tans. Whenever you look up, you see your uncle watching you.

He follows you into the house one day. He compliments you on your tan and, though you haven't asked him to, he wraps a towel around your shoulders. He lets his hands pause over your small breasts, and you can feel his breath on your neck. It makes you very uncomfortable, but you are afraid that telling him so will only make it more awkward. You know if you say it out loud, it will become real.

"You're so pretty," he whispers in your ear. Then he slides his fingers beneath the towel to the soft pink of your breastbone.

When your aunt walks in looking for a towel for your sister, he jumps away. You know by the guilty look on his face that you were justified in being uncomfortable. You run to your room, leaving wet footprints in the hall, and let him deal with your stone-faced aunt.

Later, you hear the front door slam as your uncle, taking the first step in what will become a quick divorce, leaves to spend the night at a friend's house. Your aunt comes up to your room to talk to you. She sighs. "You're going to have to be more careful, honey. Pretty girls always have to be careful." You are embarrassed and upset, yet part of you is tingling with excitement. This is a power you did not know you had.

Being pretty gets you things: the best summer jobs, the occasional good grade, access into stores five minutes after they have closed, and boys, lots of boys. Their eyes are always on you. When you catch them looking, most have the decency to look away, blushing, but some just continue to stare, as if it is their right to do so.

Those are the boys you like best.

Many boys try, but you reserve your virginity for someone special. Jim is two years older and has been accepted to Georgetown on full scholarship. He dreams of revamping the UN, and you think he might actually do it. Like all the others, he tells you that he loves you and, though you don't believe him, you let yourself pretend.

You make love for the first time in his room. You lie on his bed while he is kissing you and look up at the swimsuit model poster above his bed. It hurts more than you expected and you are embarrassed and disillusioned. Still, you are glad it is over. You know the next one will be easier.

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