“Swingers”

The theme of the second episode of The Wonder Years is sex. Looking back as an adult, Kevin, Paul, Winnie, and all their classmates are babies. Just little, teeny tiny children. But… I remember being 12 years old, and how preoccupied with sex I was. I wasn’t sure exactly how it worked, but I knew I wanted it, and that boobs were the greatest thing ever invented.

The theme might not make sense since the episode opens with Brian Cooper’s funeral. The loss of the neighborhood cool kid might not seem like the time for sweet, sweet lovin’, but try telling that to a 12 year old ball of hormones. Kevin can’t think of anything but feeling Winnie’s “… 72 pound body next to [his.]” Luckily, Brian Cooper’s ghost stops by to tell him to give her a little more time. These odd little dream sequences will become a recurring theme of early episodes.

We get thrust right from the funeral into sex ed. Taught by the gym teacher, sex ed is leaving a lot to be desired. (“Sex in the hands of public educators is not a pretty thing.”) Their textbook is bland, and Wayne explains the bases to them, which leaves them even more confused. The boys go out in search of the answer to all their questions: the book Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex but Were Afraid to Ask.

They find it at the bookstore right away, but need to pick out some other, non sex related books so they don’t look like perverts. (I employed this scheme to buy Playboy and such from convenience stores. “Yes, this soda, car air freshener, and box of cereal will be it. Oh. I guess while I happen to be here I’ll grab a copy of Hustler. I mean, I never do, but you only live once, right?” No convenience store clerk ever figured it out!) Unfortunately for them, the older man working has now been replaced by a pretty young lady! They can’t buy a book called Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex but Were Afraid to Ask from a pretty young lady. Kevin’s about to give up, but in a show of guts that will never be seen again (damn, those 12 year old hormones!), Paul is ready to shoplift the book. Kevin ends up overpaying for the books by about $10 and the two run home.

At home, the book is discovered by Wayne, who takes it and relentlessly teases Kevin about it (and his desire for Winnie). A fight breaks out, which is broken up by their mom who sees the book. Kevin is getting ready for a massive talking to about his interest in sex, but his mom is more upset that he had gone in her dresser. It took me years before I realized she meant that she mistook his copy for her own.

Kevin ends up meeting up with Winnie and heading to the neighborhood make out spot. Finally, those raging hormones will get some relief. However, he can’t seem to work up the guts to make a move. Finally, Winnie breaks the awkwardness by suggesting they go on the swings, which gives the title of the episode its true meaning. The two end up choosing being kids for just a little longer.

This episode in particular reminds me of what it’s like being 12. You’re full of these insane, raging hormones, but you’re still just a kid. You know there is a thing called sex, and that you want it, but it terrifies the bejeezus out of you since you barely know what it is. Of course, with the Internet, kids these days are probably experts on how the whole shebang works by age 10.

Favorite line: Kevin, on Wayne’s explanation of the bases: “This was a lot of pressure, especially since most of the girls we knew had no second bases.”

The pressure of not being able to buy sexual things from pretty young ladies is so real. Back in my teenage condom buying excursions, the only thing worse than a girl roughly my age ringing me up was a grandma type. Those disapproving looks weren’t just imagined. Middle aged guys were the best option.