In Tune With June

Teenage sexuality is a subject that drives me crazy. However, I have three teenage granddaughters: Rachael, Melissa and Ali. Because of the girls, I feel compelled to be interested in anything that has to do with their age group. That’s my excuse for having watched every episode of “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.”The television show revolved around a single injudicious move (to put it mildly) by a 15-year-old girl. The horror at the center of the show is an unplanned pregnancy. If you read the front pages of today’s newspapers, you’ll discover that this is not a singular event, even in the best of families. Ricky, the male cause of 15-year-old Amy’s pregnancy, acts as if he’s the son – or grandson to be more accurate – of Hugh Hefner. “Secret Life” presents a faith-based point of view. Parents look on the periphery for the show’s world belongs mainly to the teenage character. It surprised me to see Molly Ringwald cast as Amy’s mother. She was once famously an American teenager herself, Can it really be that long since “Sixteen Candles?” Ouch! “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” debuted on ABC Family in July 2008 and episodes have been repeated at different hours. The set of characters come from families of all stripes – from intact to single-parent households to one boy in foster care. The teen drama addresses how families and friends react to 15-year-old Amy’s unexpected pregnancy. It’s a cautionary tale and I find myself repulsed yet curious to see how the planned 13 episodes will unravel such a crucial situation. I wonder how to define adolescence. I’ve thought of it as a precursor to adulthood – unformed adults. I’ll have to be sure to continue to tune in this nighttime soap opera. As of now, for me, it’s a puzzlement!

As a youngster, I watched the Astaire-Rogers filmed dance sequences, wishing I could delete Ginger Rogers and float off with Fred Astaire. I’ve always loved dancing, especially ballroom dancing. Recently, there’s been a craze on television for ballroom dancing. There’s “Dancing With the Stars,” which is scheduled for season seven, and “So You think You Can Dance,” which became a summer hit. And, yes, I think I can dance. I know I can dance. No, not the way the television programs depict. In my eyes those dancers are acrobats with the ladies looking so marvelously undressed. My granddaughter, Ali, is a wonderful dancer (if you call hip-hop dancing). Her favorite TV series, “Friends,” featured an episode concerning ballroom dancing. So what exactly is ballroom dancing? My research explains it as the following: ballroom dance refers collectively to a set of partner dancers who enjoy moving to the music socially and/or competitively. Happily, I found a place where I can indulge my pleasure-socially. It’s the Starlight in Nutley, N.J. Although the dance center offers every kind of dance imaginable plus lessons every day of the week, I only go on Tuesdays for the “senior social” afternoons. For me, it’s a highlight in my week’s activities. Luckily, I have different partners for each dance, all fine dancers, from the quickstep (Guy), to the waltz (Ned), the tango (Angelo), the foxtrot (George), the chacha (Seymour), the rhumba (John), jive (Al – we used to call that “jitterbug”) and mambo (Sam). D.J. Peter’s music, the social atmosphere, plus the live dances present an easy way to exercise. If you go the Starlight, you’ll meet two gracious hosts, Nina and Joanne. The dance center not only offers a large dance floor, but also a small lunch (after all, we don’t go there to eat!) and lots of coffee and cake. If you go, easy on the cake. You won’t erase the good cardio effect of the dancing.

Within a time frame of 24 hours, I saw two French movies and this question occurred to me: Does it matter where you see a film as much as the film itself? I was visiting in Chappaqua, N.Y., when I viewed “A Girl Cut in Two.” It was being shown at the lovely Jacob Burns Film Center in the nearby town of Pleasantville (which truly lives up to its name!). The film center is a not-for-profit organization housed in an elegant building that came to life because of broad community support. Its programming offers the best of current, independent and foreign fare (Frank’s South Cove Stadium, take note), with three state-of-the-art screening rooms. The result is a move-going experience not found at most other theaters. “A Girl Cut in Two” is razor-sharp and darkly seductive. The putative heroine is an attractive television weather girl. She becomes involved with the see-saw demands and whims of two men. You might suppose that that’s an enviable position, but there are tragic consequences (otherwise there would be no story!). In the French cinema, older men are quite commonly seen as the more attractive (I agree!). In “A Girl Cut in Two,” a distinguished author several decades her senior perverts the 20-something girl in ways too kinky to be portrayed on screen – or even to be imagined by me, thank goodness. The headstrong, spoiled, potentially unstable young suitor is no bargain either. He wants her as his trophy. The girl becomes the victim. Sitting in the Jacob Burns Film Center did make the icy examination of class divisions more palatable. So did the very comfortable seats, the very clean ladies room, and the very fresh popcorn. I saw the second French film, settled in the beautiful family room of my son and daughter-in-law. “The Last Mistress” is an erotic costume drama. When I became aware that it was going to contain pretty graphic sex, I didn’t turn it off, but I did ask my bright 12-year-old grandson, David, to please watch his own television program in his room. He was kind enough to do that so I settled in to see “The Last Mistress.” It is set in 19th century France and is a bodice ripper. The story involves the upcoming marriage between a young, dissolute man and a virtuous woman of the French aristocracy. The handsome, young man is unable to give up his 10-year affair with a hot-blooded Spanish-Italian courtesan – a true femme fatale. The film offers an eyeful of historical detail: the dress, the jewelry, and the interiors all look authentic. If you fancy watching characters in the grip of erotomania, then you should see “The Last Mistress.” I kept hoping my grandson wouldn’t come into the room. He didn’t, and I didn’t have to change the channel. These two French films were shown in two different venues – both beautifully comfortable. I guess the more important thing was the movie itself.


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