Chapters 9–11

Summary: Chapter 9

In the morning before going to the slopes, Sharon talks with Katherine about her concern that Michael could get hurt by their relationship because he’s sensitive and vulnerable. At the mountain, Michael teaches Katherine to ski. They break for lunch at the lodge with Sharon and Ike. Later in the afternoon back at the house, Katherine takes a bath to ease her aching muscles and then naps before dinner. 

After dinner, Michael and Katherine take a walk under the stars. When they return, they find Sharon and Ike smoking marijuana, but Michael says he doesn’t want to join them. He and Katherine head to bed instead, where they discuss their experiences with marijuana. In bed, Katherine takes off her nightgown and Michael takes off his pajamas. Michael introduces Katherine to his penis, which he calls “Ralph.” He then shows her how to use her hand to bring him to orgasm. Afterward, Michael tells Katherine again that he loves her. This time, she says it back, and they promise their love is forever.

Summary: Chapter 10

Back at home, Jamie asks Katherine if she still likes Michael after spending so much time with him on the ski trip. Roger shares his view that Katherine is too young to be getting so involved with a boy. The next day while talking with Diana, Katherine learns that Roger thinks she should date other people. On the way to school, Katherine asks Diana when she lost her virginity. Diana replies that she lost her virginity when she was engaged. Diana also tells Katherine that she wishes she’d been older when she got married. She then warns Katherine that sex is a big step that she needs to be ready for. 

When Katherine talks to Erica at school, Erica expresses surprise when she discovers that Katherine is still a virgin. Erica presses for details of what happened sexually between Katherine and Michael on their ski weekend, but Katherine says she wants to keep the details private now that she’s in love. Erica then relates how she and Artie played strip poker but didn’t touch. Erica concludes that Artie is not gay but impotent. She insists that she can help him and wants to lose her virginity to him.

Summary: Chapter 11

Michael and Katherine go to a hockey game and dinner with Erica and Artie. There they discuss Artie’s acceptance to a drama school and the fact that his father won’t let him attend. Later, Katherine and Michael talk about Artie being privately depressed and hating school. Katherine wonders if Erica and Artie are good together, and Michael observes that Artie is not interested in the girls at school. 

The next weekend, while Michael is away skiing, Katherine’s parents talk about their dating experiences and repeat their concern about Katherine getting too serious with Michael. Katherine decides she wants to apply to the same colleges as Michael, but Diana won’t give her permission to do so, thinking it’s better for Katherine and Michael to have time apart. Michael arrives home early from skiing, and he and Katherine go to a movie. A joke leads Michael to reveal that the previous summer he got a venereal disease from the only girl he’s had sex with. He and Katherine argue about taking chances. Michael expresses disappointment in their date, and Katherine cries. Michael then tells Katherine that he has the key to his sister’s apartment, and he suggests they go there to talk.

Analysis: Chapters 9–11

These chapters introduce Ralph. Ralph is an amusing name for Michael’s penis and serves as a reminder that in many ways, Katherine and Michael are still kids. There’s a playfulness to their intimacy that helps them trust each other as they navigate the power, danger, and vulnerability involved in losing one’s virginity. Using a euphemism allows them to discuss what they’re doing without embarrassment. They are inching closer to being adults one small step at a time. Michael also admits that he named his penis for Katherine, which shows Michael’s single focus on her. By naming his penis for Katherine, he in a sense gives himself to her fully. He also confesses his love before Katherine, and at each juncture, Michael is all in while Katherine hesitates, weighs her options, and thinks things through. In this way, Ralph represents a level of devotion and trust from Michael that Katherine does not fully reciprocate.

Part of Katherine’s motivation for slowing down her physical relationship with Michael is that she fears losing control. She wants her mind to control her body, which is something that is not entirely possible when she’s having sex with Michael. Katherine says that having sex is akin to making oneself completely vulnerable to another person, and it’s that vulnerability she fears most of all. As she gives herself over to feelings of love for Michael, her ability to trust him when she’s out of control during intimate acts strengthens. She incrementally becomes more sexually experimental with him as they build trust. Michael and Katherine agree that their love is forever, creating an illusion of control over the future that helps them be vulnerable with one other. Just as Ralph is a euphemism for a more clinical term, forever is a term the couple uses to avoid their fear of uncertainty.