My memory of this is vague. I must have been pretty young, still. My parents had moved to the big city for my dad's work. They bought a small one-story, two-bedroom house in a tidy neighborhood development that had sprung up in the 60s. This was now the early 80s. I remember our house had wall-to-wall shag carpet, even in the bathroom. It had wood paneling in the kitchen. We had an ugly plaid couch. Directly across from our house was an almost identical house, but this one had a pool.
The couple that lived their had a daughter, probably five years older than me. Five years is hardly an age gap as adults, but if you're ten, say, and your mom packs your lunch, and the girl next door is 15, and in high school, and has already french kissed.... To me, the next door neighbor, Marissa, was already an adult, fully developed, fully mature. She could list cool music she liked, and knew exactly which brands of clothes were becoming popular, and which ones were on their way out.
Growing up in that generation, especially for Marissa, meant absent parents. In fact, I can't even recall her parents' names. They were like Carl and Carol, and seemed to always be doing some activity, but never with their daughter. I don't know if they were swingers, or AA regulars, or were part of a bowling or softball league, or what. Basically, they "did their thing" and it left Marissa at home pretty much every afternoon after school, and weekends. Maybe my mom sensed that Marissa was alone and bored most of the time, so she hired her to baby sit me, every day after school when the bus would let me off two blocks from my house, until dinner time.
I absolutely loved it. Marissa let me watch TV. She even let me stay up and watch Bandstand with her, and told me about new groups she liked. And I loved to swim. Since we didn't have a pool, I hardly needed an excuse to walk over to our neighbor's and let myself in the back gate.
If I didn't have my suit, or didn't feel like running up to my house to fetch it, I'd just swim nude. It's funny now, because by today's standards, that might be some sort of scandal. But for the generation I'd grown up in, it was pretty much considered perfectly normal. My parents, although not classic "hippies" would still do fairly hippie things, like garden, and hike and camp. We'd go to hot springs and no one wore clothes. We'd do chores at home, and if it was hot, no one wore clothes. I just grew up with the site of my parent's bodies. It wasn't sexual; it was considered natural and normal. I learned the words breasts and penis without snickers or red-faced embarrassment. They were just body parts like elbows, knees, and belly buttons.
Since we'd always gone skinny dipping in nature, it didn't seem unusual to swim in the pool nude, either. Marissa didn't mind. She'd been raised the same and felt perfectly comfortable swimming without her suit. In fact, for her it was more a question of avoiding tanlines, for some reason.
Today's parents are called helicopters. They plan and program each minute of their children's lives. They read articles and search books and websites for better tips on parenting and raising kids without any trace of social problems. It is the complete opposite of what we had growing up. I'm sure the structure and guidance are well intentioned and probably effective. I know that the idea of two kids basically just hanging out, watching TV and swimming in the afternoons would be looked down on today as careless parenting at best, and a downright sexual scandal at worse.
The truth is, nothing ever happened. Marissa told me about boys she liked, but I don't know if she really dated. She told me she'd been wearing a bra for a year, and had moved from training bra to A cup. A real A cup and if she did exercises, she could be a B cup, and that was better, even though it was better to get an A than a B in school. She told me about games the older kids play like truth or dare. She told me about french kissing, and even kissed me once to demonstrate. This wasn't sexy or romantic. It was both of us sticking out our tongues and leaning together until they touched. It thought it felt gross. Like kissing an eel. We laughed. That was it. No other sexual things happened. We mostly listened to music, watched bad TV, and swam without swimsuits in the privacy, and security of her backyard pool.
Maybe it was misspent youth. But at the time, it was just fun. I don't regret it at all.