Confused about whether someone’s really into you? Look for these three signs: Verbal bullying, shaming and physical intimidation. As the Young Romance #193 (1973) gem “Miss Peeping Tom!” teaches us, cruelty is simply misguided passion. All it takes is a little nudge to get that man on the right track!
Tina, a lonely teen shutterbug, is bold enough to take photos of unsuspecting couples in broad daylight while they’re making out, but too timid to talk to boys. Her best friend, Wendy, tries to school her with sage observations about the opposite sex: “Any girl can cut (guys) down to half their size by making them bend over to kiss her! And the only way to do that is to get real close to them!”
Sassy Wendy inspires Tina to join the high school camera club so she can use her photography not as a means of artistic expression, but a ruse to get a man. The club is full of delightful chaps who think women are only good “for knittin’ and neckin’. ” They tell Tina her camera sucks, too. The mascot for this high school must be the Braying Ass.
Having endured this supreme dickery, Tina must get the principal’s blessing AND the green light from the faculty advisor just to try out for the club. The pissed off advisor, probably still reeling from being forced to grant admission to the club’s lone African American, reminds Tina that there will be no special treatment for her gender handicap. Don’t break a nail on that aperture control, cupcake.
Tina’s tryout assignment is to take action shots of the school’s best athletes, who are all dudes because, duh. Things are going fine until she approaches wrestling team captain Steve Anderson, a simmering volcano of hostility who wants nothing to do with her feminine wiles. Steve is a lone wolf and tortured soul who lifts weights in purple underwear on rooftops, which is where Tina attempts to hide while taking his picture. That is, if she can stop staring at his straining back, rippling muscles and glistening sweat.
Aaaand she’s busted! Steve responds by throwing the camera’s film off the roof, grabbing Tina and forcing her into a stomach-churning, you-know-you-want-it kiss. She immediately melts in his arms, as this is an alternate universe where true love begins with assault. Just for good measure, Steve dismisses Tina as worthless once he’s done. Swoon.
Tina yearns for Steve even as as glares, taunts and basically says she’s a slut when he sees her pushing away a guy who’s trying to maul her on a picnic.
Sassy Wendy says this behavior is simply evidence of Steve’s deep feelings for Tina, and as we all know, “love and hate are like two sides of the same coin.” Yeah, except hatred does not indicate the beginning of a healthy, nonviolent relationship. But the whole thing was totes worth it, because Tina’s pictures of Steve win first prize in the camera club’s contest!
Aside from the obvious blazing red flags here, it’s also striking what a crappy portrait of guys the story presents. It was written during an era in which social norms regarding gender were (somewhat) less evolved, but EVERY dude represented is a different shade of awful. They’re condescending at best and frightening at worst. Boys will be boys and all that.
You know where this is going, don’t you? Straight into Steve’s embrace, where Tina ends up after confronting him on that damned rooftop. He’s all, “Get away from me, you representative of all useless females,” and she’s all, “Aw, you’re just a scared pussycat underneath.” There’s a smoldering smooch following Steve’s admission that she’s been right about him all along. Tina breaks the fourth wall and smiles at the reader.
It’s one of the most chilling story endings I’ve ever seen.