I don’t remember having a single, momentous, uncomfortable for everyone “this is where babies come from” talk like I’ve heard other people had. I don’t remember how I learned about sex and the differences between boys and girls, men and women. I’m guessing my mom simply worked it into our everyday discussions. It had to have been my mom, no question there, since she was the hands-on parent and my brother and I lived with just her after the divorce. Besides, if it had been my dad, I imagine it would have been really awkward and embarrassing for both of us, and therefore I would remember.
The only even remotely related talk I can recall having with my dad wasn’t a talk at all— was him screaming, absolutely flipping out, because he found a Kotex pad on the main level of the house, rather than hidden away in the upstairs linen closet next to the bathroom. His reaction was totally out of proportion to the offense (not an unusual situation; unfortunately, I sometimes catch myself doing the same thing). It wasn’t a bloody, used pad, and we didn’t have visitors over who could see this breach of order, so I couldn’t understand why he was raging, but I knew better than to argue. I just scurried downstairs and got the offending object out of his sight as quickly as I could. At Mom’s house, a Kotex somewhere other than the linen closet was not a big deal. In fact, when I got my first period, I had to go out to the car to get a pad and didn’t think anything was strange about that.
Mom showed me the book Our Bodies, Ourselves about the same time as we had the boys in one room and girls in the other meeting at school in fifth or sixth grade, so I’d have another perspective on the whole thing. She did tell me not to show it to my friends, though; it was a bit liberal compared to the prevailing attitude where we lived. The most interesting part of the meeting at school was one girl asking our homeroom teacher what you did while you did “it”. We all giggled uncomfortably at that, in part because sex was not something we were used to talking about, but also because it was just so strange to ask a teacher about her life outside school. The most interesting part about Our Bodies, Ourselves was the pictures; we didn’t get illustrations like that in our sex ed at school, and they weren’t like the photos my Dad’s off-limits magazines I sometimes snuck a look at, either. Those black and white pictures were real, looked like people I knew, looked like me. I went back to the book a lot. Maybe telling me I couldn’t show it to my friends was all part of Mom’s strategy to teach me, since I spent a lot more time looking at it than I probably would have if it didn’t have that hint of the forbidden enticing me to study it, to find out what was so powerful.
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