A memory from my childhood: We’re at the beach. A bunch of older, cool kids are there, too. Something is going on. Two older, cool girls are huddled together, and one of them is crying. One girl puts her hand on the other girl's elbow, trying to calm her. It’s clear they are having a serious conversation; it appears something’s at stake. Two older, cool boys are also huddled together. “Alright. Great idea. Let's mix it up,” one of the boys says. “We’re good?” They shake hands. One of the friends I’m there with is the little sister of one of the girls in the cool group, though her sister isn’t one of the girls huddled together. Whatever has happened, it’s dramatic, and all us younger kids want to know what it is, so my friend asks her sister, once things have calmed down. “The boys decided to swap girlfriends,” she says. “At first Jen wasn’t cool with it, but finally she agreed.” I look over to where the cool kids are sitting on a blanket. Jen's cheeks are red from crying. Her new boyfriend is putting suntan lotion on her back. She looks like she might throw up.
A Portrait of Cookie Mueller