When I say I went to Catholic schools and had a very non-tactile, emotionally remote family, you’ll understand that I didn’t receive the best sex education during my formative years. In fact, I’m squirming a little bit just writing this (I didn’t giggle when I wrote the word sex, so that’s progress).
Sometime around 13 years of age, the girls in our class were taken away for some mysterious reason that was never mentioned again – all we gleaned was that they came back with glowing red cheeks. The boys remained with a very uncomfortable male teacher who described, in a monotone voice, how we might have urges and, if we did, to just – don’t. I was looking out of the window at the time so I didn’t get the full story.
The playground, however, was a rich learning environment where the wiser, older kids imparted their knowledge and experience. It turns out (sometimes embarrassingly late in life) that most of of it was wrong, dangerous or impractical; but we were in awe of their prowess and maturity and longed for the day when we too would do the thing – you know, the thing.
One day at home, there was a knock on my bedroom door. The door opened before I could get there and a book was quickly propped against the wall and then the door was closed again. This was not uncommon; Dune and Lord of the Rings had both appeared in a similar way. I gathered up this new treasure only to discover it was different to the others.
It was a pop-up book of the human body.
It took me quite a while to realise, (I think it was pages 10 and 11) that this was meant to be my complete guide to intimacy, sexuality and gender.
Oh well, back to the playground.