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I love the girl next door

We love the girl next door, that wonderful combination of the familiar and unapproachable, writes Armand Whyte.

I can't be precise about when it happens, but sometime in our teenage years we stop hero-worshipping our parents and see them instead as dull wage slaves whose lives are not worth living.

That's the time we dip into European and alternative literature, flirt with agnosticism or paganism, decide suburban living is emotional slavery, and develop a taste for quirky arthouse movies.

Modernist poetry

We read poetry, not the soppy, easy stuff by Mary Oliver but serious work by Rimbaud, Baudelaire, and Verlaine. Some of us even dive full-thrust into Modernism, allowing T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and Marianne Moore to change our lives.

Keri Russell

Keri Russell. Crossed legs beauties

Michael Cera and Portia Doubleday

Portia Doubleday. Crossed legs beauties

Elisha Cuthbert

Elisha Cuthbert. Crossed legs beauties

Ellen Page

Ellen Page. Crossed legs beauties

Tiffani Amber Thiessen

Tiffani Amber Thiessen. Crossed legs beauties

Julia Stiles

Julia Stiles. Crossed legs beauties

Tina Fey

Tina Fey. Crossed legs beauties

Lindsey Lohan

Lindsey Lohan. Crossed legs beauties

Knowing nothing about the hell of salaried employment, and still dependent on our parents' financial backing, we mock and sneer at their careers, their small lives, the way they collapse into the sofa after a long day at the office.

We think they would be happier if they read Nietzsche instead of watching ESPN. The radical among us might even be saddened and confused by the fact that our parents take no interest in the writings of Marx, Adorno, Habermas, and de Beauvoir.

Being seen in public with our parents is an abyss of shame. They dress wrong. They're loud and embarrassing. They say stupid things. Our peers laugh at us as we traipse round the mall with mom and dad.

Film festivals

Our rightful place, so we believe, is at film festivals, poetry readings, and protest marches. We gravitate toward ethnic areas, ethnic food and festivals. We begin to identify with the developing world. We want to participate in the struggles of poor and underprivileged people.

We consider our parents racists and fascists. We laugh them when they tell us not to join Greenpeace because it will jeopardize our career prospects.

Some of us even go so far as to join progressive, far-left groups, which has our parents tearing their hair out. They know stuff we don't. They know that the corporate types and government keep tabs on membership of radical organizations.

The chickens come home to roost, of course. Years later, when we are applying for officer training in the armed forces or an internship at the White House, we are shaken by the question: Tell us about your time in the Animal Liberation Front? Oh sh-t!

Progressive mind

But I am getting ahead of myself... The young progressive mind wants to stick it to the man. He, or she, wants to upset the status quo and be noticed for taking a stand, especially one that drives our parents crazy.

It's about this time that we begin to think of beloved traditions as a stinking pile of bs. We hate prom, we hate the idea of cheerleading (though we lust after cheerleaders). We think jocks, especially the high school quarterback, are a sack of dumb, grinning patriotic horse manure.

We refuse to take part in the July 4th parade, instead joining a local action group protesting changes in immigration law.

July 4 Parade

Who in their right mind wants to watch the police and volunteer fire department chugging through our suburban streets tossing Tootsie Rolls at the crowds? The thought sickens us. Much better to be waving a placard and demanding the resignation of the Homeland Security Secretary.

It's about this time that we want to escape the prison that is Sunday worship. We have tolerated the abuse of being dragged to church for all our lives.

We've sat through more than our fair share of unbearably dull sermons, inept Sunday school instruction, syrupy vacation Bible school, and increasingly feeble attempts to manage our raging hormones.

At some point we tell our parents, I am not going anymore and I don't care if I go to hell!

Our parents try to get us to meet with the pastor; they want us to seek counseling; they think we require medication, but we are joyfully happy to be making our own way in the world, a way that is 180 degrees opposed to everything our parents and their suburban lifestyle represent.

Raging hormones

If we are male, any sight of half-decent female flesh between the ages of 15 and 30 sets our minds and bodies into desperate longing.

If there's a hot girl working at the mall, we stake out the place, parking on a bench waiting for a glimpse of her.

Older woman

It is a common male teen fantasy to approach an older woman and tell herI'm a nice guy, I'm not weird. All I want is be your friend.

Surely there is some older woman who will help with our passage from boy to man?

Friends tell us barely-believed stories of their encounters with older women, who might be their mom's hot sister, the high school French teacher, or the scout master's wife (very far fetched that one because the scout master and his wife usually weigh in at 250 pounds each).

Girl next door

Enter the girl next door, who is usually our age or maybe a year or two older.

We might have known her for years, might even have played with her when we were little kids. It's not impossible that we pecked her on the cheek when she was 5 or 6. We were just good friends who did everything together.

As the girl next door approaches womanhood, her body takes on a woman's shape, which she flaunts in tiny skirts and tight tops, making our imaginations run riot.

Although the girl, is no doubt very much like ourselves, trapped in the suburbs, trapped by her parents' demands and a lifeline to her parents' money, we see her as an escape, a dream and possibility of a different, exciting, stimulating life not run and ruined by routine.

The fantasy of who the girl is and what she can do for us is more exciting than the reality of knowing her.

Kerouac and Ginsberg

It would dishearten us to find out she doesn't share our love of arthouse cinema or the works of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Spivak.

It would destroy us to find out that we girl we long for listens to Elton John, is planning to study business administration, and is a member of the church praise band.

Chabrol and Haneke

We want her to be sociable and well-liked but not attracted to jocks, in-groups, evangelicals, and sensible guys in suits. We need her to rise above all that, to cultivate an air of sophisticated indifference, like Isabelle Huppert in a movie by Chabrol or Haneke.

Cultural stereotype

The girl next door is a fantasy figure and, dare I say it, a cultural stereotype. By the time you go to college, you've forgotten about her and have progressed to far more interesting women, who have not only ready the books you've read but understood them.

Some years later, when you've been through college and stayed true to your ideals, you visit your parents' place and meet the girl next door.

It satisfies your culturally elite smugness to see she's 15 pounds heavier, married to a heavy, harmless banker called Brad, has 2.3 kids, drives a mid-sized sedan, and spends her free time watching kiddy's baseball games.

New York publisher

You, meanwhile, have moved to New York, work in publishing, are on your second book, have lived in Spain and Italy, have been in and out of love a half-dozen times, and have just reached the point where life's struggle has ended and the money is flowing in without their being any sense of toil. It's a very guilty but satisfying sense of undeserved reward.

And yet ... as you talk to the girl next door -- you met her while walking your parents' dog -- you can't avoid the feeling of What if? as you see the spark in her eye and sense the smouldering, unfulfilled sexiness beneath her soft suburban exterior.

By Armand Whyte