Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Birds and The Bees

   Everyone has his or her own particular story. Whether it was the infamous "talk" parents awkwardly fumble through, a classroom lecture, snippets of a graphic television show, or even catching a naughty (yet unsuspecting) older sibling in the act. The details may vary, but the bottom line remains the same: loss of innocence. We never quite view the opposite sex in the same pure way we once did after finding out the truth.

   For me, it happened one fateful afternoon when I was seven years old. I was in my second grade classroom, and it was time for our weekly Sexual Education class. It was held every Thursday. One might wonder why second graders were being taught Sex-Ed. That would be a question for the Colombian Board of Education. They clearly need to sort out their academic priorities. Still, one can only assume they must have their reasons. 
   We had the same teacher for Sex-Ed in second grade as we did in first grade (again, priorities should be sorted in the Colombian BOE). Her name was Miss Marta. She was a stout woman who wore an unmistakable air of authority. Nonsense, such as laughter and snickers, was not tolerated in her class. The fear every single child in that classroom felt for Miss Marta paralleled that which the Boogeyman invoked within us. In hindsight, I suppose stirring fear would be an effective way to teach second graders about sex. We knew laughing about anything Miss Marta said implied the most terrible of consequences, so we usually kept our mouths shut no matter how much it cost us to do so. Miss Marta was my Sex-Ed teacher for a total of four years. It is safe to say only one of her numerous lessons was forever engraved in my memory.

   "Boys and girls, before we begin today's lesson, I must ask something of you. The topics we will discuss today are serious. I ask that you please act like mature young men and ladies." Great. Nothing good ever happened whenever Miss Marta started the class with a maturity preamble. Let's face it, seven-year-olds are not exactly the epitome of maturity. "Turn your books to page 73," Miss Marta's stern voice commanded. 

   Before following her instructions, I looked up and noticed a rare happening. Her eyes were absolutely drawn to the text placed on the desk in front of her. Usually, Miss Marta's glare scanned the room inspecting our behavior. She was not a woman who missed a pin drop in her class. Something about her demeanor also seemed different. Less demanding and more hesitant. I shrugged off my thoughts and turned to page 73, as she specified.

   Emphatic gasps shattered the classroom's deafening silence. Exclamations floated around the room with the swiftness of flying dust. Three words were repeated with painful frequency: what, look, and the all-too-expressive huh. I sat in utter silence. My young eyes were glued to the image gracing page 73 of my Sex-Ed textbook. Though exactly what that image entailed was completely unknown to me. 

   "Oh my God, Laura, do you see this?" Karen, my best friend, leaned her head to my desk and whispered. 

   I wanted to reply that of course I could see it, but the words would not leave my mouth. It was not every day that a seven-year-old, growing up in the 90's, saw what I was seeing. We must keep in mind the Internet was nowhere near as widespread in 1997 as it is in 2013. As such, seven-year-olds back then did not have access to the same amount of information as they do today. 

   Perhaps the Colombian Board of Education perceived it as everyday information second graders should have, but I was perturbed. There, covering the entire lower half of page 73, was the picture of two figures: a man and a woman. The figures were actually outlines of very real-looking human bodies. The male outline was colored green and lay on top of the blue female outline. Considering the fact that the figures were presumably naked, it was possible to see each and every body part outlined in great detail. Yes, even THAT body part.  

   Due to our prolonged Sexual Education courses, we all knew and understood the male and female body parts by that point. However, it was not until that day that we realized they actually fit together. After the initial shock passed, boyish snickers drifted across the room. The girls were sorely silent. Miss Marta did not take lightly the "nonsense" shown by the boys in class. She ordered them to settle down and act in a mature manner or they would get detention. After coercing them into obedience, Miss Marta proceeded to explain the act of sexual relations as a reproductive process. Though her instruction was entirely scientific in nature, some of my classmates found it incredibly challenging to keep a straight face throughout her explanation. 

   I just sat there dumbfounded. Suddenly, it all made sense. My mom always forced me to either cover my eyes or leave the room during "adult" scenes in soap operas. I never quite understood what she meant by "adult" scenes until that day. Well, I thought, I'll go home and surprise my mom with everything I learned today. That would go well.

   I ran off the school bus and sprinted into my house. As soon as I opened the door, I called for my mom. She was in the kitchen. She's going to be so surprised, I thought to myself. But really, I had no idea just how surprised she would be. I took the Sex-Ed textbook from my book bag and flipped it to that scandalous page 73. 

   The scent of my mom's delicious seasoned chicken greeted me upon entering the kitchen. Her back was turned to me as she sliced some vegetables.

   "Hi, Mami!" I greeted her.

   "Hi, Princess. How was school?" my mom asked.

   "I learned something new today! Look, Mami: the man's penis is penetrating the woman's vagina," I proudly replied as I pointed to the diagram on page 73.

   The swiftness with which my mom spun around would have made Jackie Chan jealous. Her eyes were aghast with horror. The ceramic plate in her hands slipped cracking into a million pieces upon hitting the tile. 

   "QUE?!?!?!" my mom's pained voice exclaimed as she snatched the textbook from my hands. Her eyes scanned the contents of page 73 with growing dismay. My mom's knuckles turned white from holding on to the book so tightly. She closed it and put down on the counter.

   Disconcerted, I asked, "Mami, is something wrong?" 

   My mom bit her lip in hesitation before saying, "Nena, we need to have a talk." 

   At the time I did not understand my mom's reaction. As a grown woman, I now comprehend the panic she experienced at being forced to have such a conversation with her only child at such a young age. Like I said before, we all have our stories. I guess mine intertwines a classroom lecture, a much-too graphic diagram, and an awkward "talk" with my disturbed mother. 

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