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Review: Good Girls Don’t by Patti Hawn

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If you are female, and older than, say sixty, I’ll wager you instantly ‘get’ the title.  Good Girls Don’t . . . have sex before they marry.  It’s a line used to control us wanton women when our hormones began to itch.  That line solidified the implicit message that It’s the girls’ duty to control the male.   In those lively days before The Pill and Roe v Wade, we girls accepted that line, and the social controls that lead us blindly down the path of convention.  A pregnant girl in the late 50s and early 60s conformed by allowing themselves to be herded off to a maternity home, to place the ‘unwanted love child’ for adoption. 

 What hooked me was the author’s recall of the intensity of love at 16 and the convention of the day.   Feeling responsible for ruining her boyfriend’s life and her family’s reputation, Patti Hawn acquiesced to the expectation to do ‘the right thing.’ When her body revealed her secret, off she went to a maternity home until the birth of her baby.  Patti had her baby, then found work rather than return to school.  It’s the way things were done. 

 Patti was pregnant again within a year.  With the help of her mother, she finessed a marriage to the father of her second child just before the baby’s birth.  A divorce followed, and Patti kept this baby and resumed her life.  Nevertheless Patti was unhappy.  She floundered in one meaningless job after another.  She struggled as a single parent.  Finally Patti followed her younger sister Goldie to California where she established herself in a career on the  fringes of the film industry.  Patti had fun; she lived the Hollywood lifestyle of successful yet detached female who dared not let herself love again.  When she did let a man inside her protected world, death took him suddenly and unexpectedly.

 Finally, on a journey of self-discovery Patti traveled to Tibet to ponder mountain climbing.  Her epiphany was to decide to reclaim the part of herself she gave away at 16; she needed to find her son.  What and who she found forty years after relinquishment tested her mettle in a new way.  Dealing with the reality of her son’s life caused her to realize she still has no control except to accept what is. 

 This book came into my life at the same time as the news that my first love had lost his life in a car accident in our home state;  I read this book to escape from the reality of that death.   How much of my personal journey was wrapped around reading this book is difficult to parse.  I can only say that this book gave me permission to recall my own first love, and reading this book allowed me to mourn his loss.  Thank you, Patti Hawn, for helping me recall those days and to celebrate that we, as females of the 60s, have earned our strength to accept que sera sera, whatever will be will be.

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Written by bethkoz

August 27, 2011 at 7:07 am

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