My Sex Education
When I was in the fifth grade, my mom drove past a building grafittied with the f-word on it and I summoned the courage to ask her what it meant. She took a shaky breath and said that it was a bad word for sexual intercourse. To this day, that phrase makes me queasy. Her explanation was short, factual, and contained words like “insert.” It left me more confused than ever.
I thought a blow job had something to do with a hair dryer. A girl in my class said that she gave someone a blow job in the woods next to our school. I couldn’t stop wondering how long that extension cord must have been.
When I was in the eighth grade, a rumor spread that a girl named Maggie took a shower after school with twin brothers from our class. I just looked her up on Facebook and friend requested her, because after all these years, I am dying to find out if that was true. I had not yet kissed a boy. My parents wouldn’t even let me watch Pretty Woman and Maggie was getting naked and soapy with brothers?
At the end of the ninth grade, I snuck out of my friend Ashley’s house during a sleepover. We put Cabbage Patch Kids in our beds, covered their faces with sheets and left their hair sticking out on the pillow. We left a “Sounds of the Ocean” CD playing because we thought the waves sounded like breathing. Ashley had met two Marines at the beach the weekend before, and they were waiting in their car for us down the street. I was terrified. They took us to the pier and we smoked cigarettes. They drove us to their motel room where we watched a movie and drank a beer. My mind was racing about exactly what would happen and how I would act and what it would mean and how I would be different afterward. After a while, they drove us home and said good night. Neither one of them touched us.
We got caught sneaking back into the house. I was grounded for the entire summer. My mom told me years later that she had watched my stomach for months, praying that I wasn’t pregnant. She thought I was some wild child and I had still never been kissed.
Finally, in the tenth grade, a boy named Rob found out that my parents didn’t get home from work until 6pm. He invited himself over and stuck his tongue in my mouth while we were watching TRL. My brain played grainy footage of a giant squid attacking me with its tentacles. I was happy when he stopped. He asked me if he could “just stick the tip in to see how it feels.” I had no idea this was not an original request. A shout out to all my ladies who have been on the receiving end of that question, and a special one to the Thirstea vendor at the Brooklyn Flea for turning it into the sign on her tip jar.
Rob had weird blackheads inside of his ear. Once I saw those I made damn sure not to let his tip out of his pants.
In the eleventh grade, my friend Kristy told her single mom that she was pregnant and she didn’t know who the father was. Her mom said, “Damn. Me too.” Kristy got sent to a home for pregnant teens. She told everyone that she was going to boarding school and then gave the baby up for adoption. When she came home, she described childbirth to me and explained what an episiotomy was. I decided to remain a virgin for a very, very long time. Sex ed teachers are missing the boat. A detailed, life-sized episiotomy poster hanging at the front of a class could wipe out teen pregnancy forever.
In the twelfth grade, I kept my personal curiosities at bay thanks to my best friend Tara’s parents’ library of porn. They say most people are visual learners and whoever they are, they’re right. What a relief to discover, after all those years, that I was using my hair dryer properly.
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It is so much more simple to say, “Stop caring what a man thinks, ladies, you’re beautiful as you are,” than to address all of the myriad reasons why that likely doesn’t apply to her.
These discourses, these models of life, are insidious, egregious, and soul crushing.
I cannot see the middle of a relationship at the beginning, but I can see the end from the middle. I know that there will be an end. There has to be. This is just a stop on the road.
I could walk to Celebrate Brooklyn all summer along. I’d learn how to start running. I’d eat meals of happy chickens at the commune across the street.