First Encounters

How the ‘Parent Trap’ Woke Me Up to My True Sexual Identity

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First Encounters is a series in which writers explore the media that inspired their first brush with their sexuality. Whether it was a book, a cartoon character, a film, or a painting, we all have one cultural artifact from our adolescence that informs how we think about our bodies and desires for the rest of our lives. Have a First Encounter you’d like to share? Send your story to

Disney had me at the acidic guitar riffs of George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone.” To this day, all I need to hear is the intro to that way-before-my-time ‘80s rock anthem and I feel like I’m up to something illicit, too sexy for my own good. That song, in its own right, could be a sexual awakening for a blushing, frumpy 10-year-old girl. But, as it appeared in the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap, the song, combined with young Lindsay Lohan’s enviable air of confidence and sophistication, elevated the film’s otherwise saucy poker scene to its current status as a softcore erotic icon of my childhood.

Looking back, that scene – in which Lindsay Lohan plays poker opposite herself as both a well-preened English preteen and a Midwestern sounding California prankster while a crowd of girls revel in Lohan’s charisma and family-friendly sass – is one of the first times I remember being attracted to someone of my own gender. At age ten – anxious, bossy, and purposefully disregarding essential elements of personal grooming in order to deftly fuck the patriarchy – I saw in Lohan’s two characters almost everything I wanted in womanhood and female sexuality. Lohan’s characters, Hallie and Annie, adroitly play at some of the most appealing parts of my ideal vision of womanhood – irreverent humor, unapologetic strategic skill, and self-assured financial maneuvering – thereby creating the two strongest and most compelling age-appropriate women protagonists I could find in popular culture in the early 2000s, when I first saw the film. I was head-over-heels, embroiled in the desire to both touch and befriend Hallie and Annie, and this was way before brazen nudity even entered the scene.

Much to my youthful scandalized disbelief, Hallie, convinced she possesses the winning hand, suggests this round’s loser should strip and jump into the lake at the conclusion of the game. Annie agrees and shows her hand and a challenge to her opponent to “start unzipping.” My 10-year old heart pounds. I’m unsure who I would rather see naked, having completely forgotten both characters are played by the same actress. Then, in a smug and self-satisfied affected British accent, Hallie reveals a royal flush, and Annie’s wet and slippery fate is sealed.

Even now, at a more confident and less angsty 20, I remain enthralled by Hallie and Annie’s stance on nakedness, simultaneously bold and casual. When the characters introduce nudity as the final component of the dare, it’s framed as gutsy – far from a source of embarrassment or shame.

The actual shots of Annie walking, naked, along the dock and jumping into the lake are appropriately modest and, in young Jordana’s eyes, thoroughly underwhelming. Independent of the act of skinny-dipping, though, the most alluring and exciting element of this scene for me has always been the way every actress involved handles the nudity. Annie stands on the dock, never visibly attempting to shield her body from the gaggle of onlookers. She matter-of-factly salutes the crowd before diving into the water, seemingly far more annoyed by her poker loss than her physical exposure. Both at ten and at twenty, I look down at my comfortable, fleshy body and hope for the day that I could manage to be more affected by losing a card game than parading naked in front of a group of semi-acquaintances led by my victorious adversary.