The short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates is about a teenage girl named Connie. She was the typical teenage girl growing up in the nineteen fifties in the United States of America. She was at the age of sexual recognition. Connie has to decide weather or not she wants to have sex and if she decides she wants to have sex she had to think about how it would affect her life with her friends, with society, with her family, and most importantly with herself.
Connie is a typical teenage girl in the fifties because she wants to look pretty and she wants boys to be attracted to her. She is constantly checking her face in mirrors and in other people’s eyes to make sure she looks good and there is nothing wrong with her. She thinks her long blonde hair is one of her more attractive features. Connie uses her hair to her advantage to attract boys her age and get their attention; one of the things she does with it is to let it fall on one shoulder and fidget with it as if trying to get their attention. Connie knows she is pretty but doesn’t go over board with letting other people know she knows she looks good.
Connie wanted her family to think of her as a sweet innocent little girl, their little girl. In reality she was growing up. She was fifteen and she had the feelings of transforming from a little girl to a young adult. Connie would “[dress] one way when she was at home and another way when she was away from her home” (Oates 445). She dressed differently when she was at home because to her, her house represented childhood and the outside world represented adulthood. We see this when Arnold would not go into the house after Connie, rather she had to come outside to him (Oates 452). Arnold represented the fairy tale boy Connie had “trashy daydreams” (Oates 444) about. Connie was growing up and it was hard to hide that fact.
Connie’s decision on whether or not to have sex would be one of the most important decisions she would ever make in her life. To Connie, growing up, she had two choices. If she decided to have sex with a boy she might end up looking like her mother or following in her mothers footsteps. Connie didn’t think her mother was very pretty but knew at one time in her mother’s life, she was very beautiful, and Connie thought beauty was everything. The second choice was to end up like her sister June. June still lived at home and was a secretary at Connie’s high school. This suggests that June herself had not made the decision to have sex and become a young woman because she was still in “high school”. Connie was “boy crazy” and enjoyed the attention she got from them and she didn’t see June getting any of that. She wasn’t sure what decision to make because what she wanted was the fairy tale, the romance written in songs and she didn’t see that in her future with the footsteps of the women she was following.
Connie went to the local teenage hangouts hoping to meet boys, just like all the other girls her age. Connie went to the drive-in restaurant that was shaped like a coke bottle with a boy as the coke bottle cap holding a hamburger in his hand. The boy on top of the coke bottle was symbolic because he reminds us of Eddy, the boy she was with at the restaurant the night before. He sat in his seat backwards, turning the seat back and forth which suggested that he had bottled up sexual emotions (Schulz 158,159). She left the restaurant with Eddy and walked down an alley. She was alone with this young man and static’s show that forty-nine percent of boys at his age are sexually active and forty-eight percent of girls Connie’s age are sexually active (government static’s). Connie went to this place quite a bit and she was not afraid to leave the restaurant with him. This suggests that Connie was having thoughts of sex and wasn’t sure if she wanted to act upon them so she put herself in a position where she would have to decide quickly weather or not it was right to give into her sexual desires. This is a way of putting off making an important decision until it has to be made.