Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Everything You Wanted to Know ...

“Are you there, God, it’s me Margaret, and I have CRAMPS! What can be done about this?”

No such thing as time/only change! Again and again this phrase helps to work it all out.

In the 70s, when they separated the girls out for their “meeting” on this particular subject, the girls were given a pamphlet entitled, “Growing Up And Liking It,” as if you had a choice about these things, which you didn’t! Aunt Flo was a freight train screaming around the bend!

I somehow missed the “meeting/presentation,” but just never you mind, I didn’t miss much because I had already found the book, Everything You Wanted to Know about Sex But Were Afraid to Ask on the bookshelf in our living room! I found it long before the school presentation ever came about.

And I wasn’t afraid to ask if I could read it! I just plain didn’t ask if I could read it!

I hid the book behind the book jacket of another book, In This House of Brede, which only now do I see the irony/play on words in that choice! At the time, I was too scared to see anything as I raced up to my room, with everything left yet to know, and the sound of blood rrrush-roaring in my ears!!!!

I read the Everything … book in one sitting, the day into the night I had found it. I was afraid that the “fake book” behind the dust jacket, still on the living room shelf in our “library,” was beating its telltale heart out and getting ready to alert my parents that SOMEBODY FOUND THE SEX BOOK!

Without taking notes, because where would you HIDE THESE NOTES, or in what code would you write them down in, in case your brothers FOUND THE NOTES, I quickly consumed and archived the book’s knowledge into my brain, ran back downstairs, replaced and readjusted the book jackets, and then ran back up the stairs, slammed the door to my room and realized I was full to the top with knowledge, but I was deathly afraid TO ASK ANYONE ABOUT WHAT I HAD JUST READ!!!! [and yes, I DID ALL OF THIS WITHOUT TAKING A BREATH!]

A year or more later, after the “meeting at the school,” which I didn’t go to—and don’t ask me why I didn’t get to go; to this day, my mom said my invitation “must have gotten lost.” Anyhoo, no matter, one fine night I was home alone with her and she “took care of things.”

My brothers were gone!!!!—whisked away by my dad. This was not an uncommon occurrence. It was probably a car show or maybe even Rummage-A-Rama! Though I was included in some of these treks, I wasn’t always included, so my being HOME ALONE WITH MOM AND THE TIME BOMB THAT WAS ABOUT TO BE SET OFF, didn’t trip any wires at first.

I was reading in the living room as was Mom. Maybe I was even reading, finally, and in second order, In This House of Brede, because I do remember that it was one of the books Mom did offer up was a reading level I “could probably handle at my age.” Either way, things were going on swimmingly, fire crackling, books open, absolute quiet.

That is, until I felt warm and chilled at the same time and then realized, “OH, MY GOSH, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO; SHE’S GOING TO HAVE ‘THE TALK’ WITH ME!” Since I had “missed” the presentation at the school, I assumed some day she’d get to it; but I was also “okay” with her NEVER BROACHING ANY OF THESE SUBJECTS WITH ME EVER!

She cleared her throat and began to say, what? I don’t remember. I recall the same rRoaring and rrrrushing noise of the blood rocketing to my head and making my ears DEAF AS A DOORSTOP, as I did when I read the “real deal,” The Everything … deal!

When her lips stopped moving I formed what I thought was a brilliant question, a question that would look like I KNEW NOTHING ABOUT ANYTHING, and I blurted out somewhat sad and disappointedly, about the whole period/bleeding thing, “Uhm, does that mean I can’t go swimming after it happens?”

I tried to make the question sound as if I was so fearful, and SO NAÏVE, that I was sadly disappointed to find out that “becoming a woman” meant NEVER GOING SWIMMING AGAIN!

Mom explained, again in words I scarcely remembered, that it wasn’t that I could NEVER GO SWIMMING, it was more like… but I was so horrified by the fact that WE WERE STILL HAVING THIS CONVERSATION that I finished it off with a quick, “Okay, then,” so we could go back to our reading and living the lie!

Soon after, my dad and brothers arrived home. Did they get the talk too? I’ll never know, and it’s not like I WAS GOING TO ASK, though I did have a book I could recommend to them for filler! I’ll never know. Maybe they were lucky ass shits and had “just been attending a car show” and nothing more! Score on their parts!

I just wanted everything to go back to “normal” so we could all live happily ever after… happily ever after, of course, until ONE OF US STARTED BLEEDING!

The living end, I have to tell you!

Yet, with every end, there is a new beginning, right?

The continuation of this story is that I’ve raised three daughters and have been as Marge Piercy calls it a “kidbinder” (in the latest novel of hers I’m reading, Women on the Edge of Time). “Kidbinders” mother all those kids around them, not just their flesh and blood, and not just female children either. Kidbinding is gender playing fields wide open.

Suffice it to say, many a talk has been had, many a question answered in my life & times as kidbinder. Many further discussions ensued, spin-offs of previous discussions, and some discussions were met with “don’t tell me, don’t tell me, I DON’T WANT TO KNOW…” with hands clasped over the ears until further notice.

It’s a give and take, a careful dance, to be sure. You really don’t want to be stepping on anyone’s “I’m not ready to hear this yet” toes, and you also don’t want to send someone out barefoot in the cold!

My belief system always was that the bulk of all the “growing up and liking it” should not be a surprise that you launch on your child right before the “presentation at school,” the dreaded PRESENTATION AT SCHOOL!

Growing and changing needs to be an ongoing conversation, for both sexes, not something you “launch” and then back out of the room going, “Okay, then… if you have any questions, you know where to find me,” but then you hope they won’t find you, or ask!

This works when discussing issues of death and dying, grief and otherwise WISE subjects, since it’s all linked, the feeling of lost and found, lost and found, found and lost again, found?!?!? It all requires ongoing communication, and sometimes LOUD SCREAMING, SCREEEEEECHING AND OUT LOUD FEAR!

This evening I’ll be attending my 10-year-old first grandborn’s “presentation” on lady issues. I’ll be there with her and my eldest daughter, her mother. Ironically, this is taking place, as I mentioned, at the same elementary school I attended as a mid-elementary school child, and the same place where I somehow “missed” their group discussion/presentation on these matters.

Is my daughter ready for this “coming of age” moment with her daughter? Am I ready for this “coming of age—again” moment with my daughter and my granddaughter? These are moot questions by this point. The important thing is what my grand girl is ready for.

She has approached us both with the usual questions, the most prominent one being, “Tell me again why all the girls have to go to this?” We can’t answer this question, fully, of course because we’re jaded “bleeders” and we’d like to launch into the million ways it’s unfair that any of us go through this, let alone sit through a flowery presentation about it!

However, in order to keep the doors open, for future discussions and questions, my daughter and I have to answer with stuff like, “Don’t worry, all the girls are going. It’s just a way to keep everyone informed and empowered, and on the same page,” even though we know HOW SKEWED THAT PAGE IS GONNA GET IN THE FUTURE!

We go with the adage that a child will ask questions, at their own pace, when they’re ready to hear the real answers. We don’t bombard her with diagrams and overt discussions about what “men and women” really do in the dark, or the consequences of dark times and not so perfect scenarios.


I was given a piece of advice about kids and telling them about the “tough subjects” like death & dying and “growing up and liking it,” wherein you are to remind your SCARED OUT OF YOUR MIND SELF, that your child will only ask for what they are ultimately ready to hear. The important thing is, NEVER OVERLOAD A KID WITH THE DETAILS. Start slow, and engage in a conversation that will continue infinitely. Gradually, they will ask their questions, at their own pace, whew!

Starting slow, engaging in discussion patterns, all along becomes more and more helpful as childhood mature. The questions are a lot easier to handle if there wasn’t a lot of “cabbage patching it up,”when the first questions ever arose, believe me, but you also don’t want to freak a kid on just how complicated life can get, outside the confines of the happy-go-lucky cabbage patch.

There’s this fine line, somewhere, and I think all parents are still trying to find it, cross over it, redefine it, and then run back to the other side of the line and still worry if they’ve “drawn it up right.”

How do you explain to a kid who believed once-upon-a-time in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, that the real reason the Tooth Fairy leaves change is because you’ll need it for the Tampax and condom machines of your future?

Losing Santa, and demystifying the Easter Bunny are one thing, but a handful of loose change, and A LOT OF QUESTIONS ongoing can be pretty scary, no matter the time period we’re living in. No matter that “this is now” discussions are ten times better than the “then” discussions.

Growing up is what it is, and you actually aren’t always going to like it. Therein lies the rub, but being openly educated about it, feeling as if you can even have opinions and deeper questions, that makes it a whole lot easier.

And I promised I wouldn’t bust out laughing or embarrass anyone tonight, which I WOULD NEVER DO THAT! I’m actually looking forward to the “presentation” I missed all those years ago, and attending one in a more open and loving fashion. It will help me to forget the “deer caught in headlights” GUILT I had in my own “knowing all along” before I was supposed to know, right?!

What comes around, goes around and around and around … all of life is a circle!


Restlessly Random said...

my school meeting just happened to happen at the time when mom was back. i remember in those times the way she came to the halloween party at your house. with glitter in her crimped hair and a top hat... very unreal.

and i hated the meeting cuz my wrong mom was there.

but i think maybe kyle's mom didn't know that, cuz i got one from her too... and when i think back on it?? rushing sound...

i haven't finished reading this post yet because abi woke up, but i had to comment before i forgot.

also, my 'prove you're not a robot' word is 'durpi' hee hee

Anne Cunningham said...

you to the story from kyle's mom that i would have gotten if i hadn't shut her down and pictured myself throwing myself into the fireplace.

i have my own vintage/70s copy of the Everything... book too, and i put one on our shelf as soon as possible, becuase kids should be able to find stuff like that to read and question, and we had the updated version of "our body ourselves," but i also have a butt ton of "other books" various time periods "just because" it's a blast to see how people handled it over a year. i told Ruthie that years ago, and still in some homes and cultures, they don't prepare a girl at all. she was all like HOLY HECK, THAT'S MEAN!

Jennifer said...

You know, I've been thinking a lot about this post since I first read it, about the mysteries and how the classes and all the rest really don't solve them and about the differences between boys and girls and how I bought "The Joy of Sex" and read it surreptitiously and scoffed a few years earlier when my mother tried to make it all sound normal. And then there was "Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret" and "Then Again, Maybe I Won't" (from the boy's perspective and I had the good parts marked and passed them around to a small group of boys and girls in my sixth grade class.

Having a boy is a totally different experience. I wonder what it will be like when it's really time, when the cartoony sperm journey of "It's So Amazing" clicks with the stuff going on in his body?

Anyway, thanks for bringing it back and making me think.