CHAPTER I: THE BIRDS AND THE BEES: TALES FROM PUBERTY AND THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
A CAN IN THE HAND IS WORTH TWO IN THE BUSH
I couldn't have been more than 10 when a new deodorant product, F.D.S., came on the market. Hoping to get women to try it, the manufacturer gave out samples in the store. My mother took one home and placed it in our medicine cabinet, right next to the aerosol can of Arrid. My older sister was 14; I noticed she had begun using deodorant spray under her arms, just like our mom did. Wanting desperately to be grown up like them, I secretly started using it, too. Underneath the large letters, FDS, were the words feminine deodorant spray. I hadn't the slightest idea what that meant. As far as I could tell, it was just another brand of deodorant.
One day, my mother happened to catch me spraying the FDS under my arms. Taking the can from my hand and replacing it with the Arrid, she smiled and explained that the FDS was a special kind of deodorant, not meant for underarms. I looked at her, completely puzzled. "Where do you use it, then?" I asked. Her answer was very straightforward: "It's for a woman to spray on her pubic hair to keep it smelling fresh." I looked at her like she was out of her mind! "Eeeuuu!" I said as I strained to grasp her explanation. "Who smells you down there?"
To this day, I get a private little chuckle every time my husband of 25 years goes down on me.
Though I'd like to think of myself as much more sexually savvy today, I can never forget my very humble (and shortsighted) beginnings.
I had a very strict Catholic upbringing. Sex -- or anything remotely connected to it -- was never, ever discussed in the light of day. In spite of this (or maybe because of it), I was all of 10 when I discovered the secret thrill of jacking myself off. Despite the fact that I'd heard some really scary things could happen to a kid as a result of such sinful behavior (like going blind), I still went at it pretty regularly for the next few months. For a while there, I thought I was actually able to sneak one past God...until the results of my school eye test indicated that I now needed reading glasses. God had seemingly discovered my dirty little secret! Fearing his wrath, I made an earnest attempt to stop and repent, but I just couldn't seem to give it up permanently, and within a few short weeks, I was back to my old tricks. Another school year went by and, once again, I found myself standing behind the line on the classroom floor, trying to read the eye chart that hung from the blackboard. Much to my horror, my vision had gotten even worse and a stronger pair of glasses was now required! Now I was really getting worried, especially since I saw no end in sight for my evil ways. I started taking note of other kids and grown-ups who wore glasses and assumed they too were secretly taking their chances and jacking off just like me. Sometimes, I'd ask to look through other people's glasses. If their lenses were stronger than mine I'd feel a bit relieved, believing I still had a way to go before I lost my sight entirely!
By the time I was on my third prescription, I was seriously depressed. Living with my terrible secret was taking its toll. By now, I was sure I was going blind, and equally sure I could never stop masturbating.
One day, my 16-year-old brother caught me walking around my room with a blindfold on. When he asked me what I was doing, I admitted that I was practicing for when I went completely blind.
"Why in the world do you think you're going to go blind?" he asked.
I was really reluctant to tell him the truth...especially since he didn't wear glasses. But my heart was so heavy I had to confide in someone, so I confessed the whole thing to him. He practically peed in his pants laughing and assured me that except for the word eyeball, the two had absolutely nothing to do with each other!
Years later, after I graduated from college, I took a job with an organization that trained dogs for various handicapped people -- among them, the blind. I called my brother and told him about the work I was doing. There was a long silence -- then he burst out laughing and said, "Still worried, huh, kid?"
A DOWN-AND-DIRTY MOTHER'S DAY
Back in the early '70s, when I was about six, my folks bought a house and moved my 13-year-old twin sisters and me out to the suburbs. We were one of the first families to move to the block, so there was still lots of construction going on around us. All this activity only added to my evergrowing boyhood obsession with toy trucks and construction vehicles of all kinds. I spent hours playing in the dirt, mimicking the activities of the crew breaking ground in the lot across the street. I had a dumpster, a forklift, a pickup, and a bulldozer...all with moveable parts! My dad even showed me how to make a working crane out of my erector set. The tall crane was my favorite. I loved how it could move huge amounts of earth from one place to another! One morning, I happened to be passing my parents' room and overheard my mother talking to my dad from behind their closed door. "Last night was incredible," she said, "I actually felt the earth move!" I was confused. I was in the house last night, too, but I didn't feel a thing! Besides, I always thought the workmen went home to their families at night and came back in the morning. When I repeated what I'd heard to one of my sisters, she made fun of me. "That's what's supposed to happen when two people have sex," she said. I didn't dare admit I had absolutely no idea what the hell sex was! In my little boy's mind, I figured that since it had to do with moving the earth, it must have meant playing in the dirt with toy trucks. I was surprised but happy to learn that this activity seemed to thrill my mother as much as it did me. So, when Mother's Day approached just a few weeks later, I knew exactly how I'd make her happy.
That morning, we all gathered around as mom read her cards and cried. "Before I open my presents, let's call grandma and wish her a happy Mother's Day, too" she said. We all agreed that would be a nice idea and, one by one, each of us got on the phone to talk to her. As usual, my chatty sisters went first, and stayed on practically forever. By the time they passed me the phone, I could hardly wait to tell grandma about my special surprise for mom. First, I had to answer all the usual 'grandma questions': Yes, I'd been a good boy; yes, I liked my new house; yes, I liked school; yes, I was making lots of new friends; and, yes, I missed her very much. Finally she asked the one question I could barely wait to answer! "So tell grandma, what are you giving mommy for Mother's Day?" Making extra sure mom was out of earshot so it wouldn't spoil the surprise, I whispered into the phone excitedly, "This morning before mom got up, I played with my erection set -- daddy showed me how to make it even longer! After lunch I'm gonna take it out and let mommy play with it, too! Then we're gonna have sex together in the yard -- just like the men across the street do!"
THE BEE-WILDERED LITTLE PRINCESS
The only way I can admit to ever having been this incredibly naïve about sex is to relay this blooper in the same storybook way it unfolded in my young, innocent mind. Once upon a time there was a sweet, adorable princess (me -- at five) who overheard her mother talking to her very beautiful eight-year-old big sister. The door to the sister's room was closed, which made the little princess even more curious about what was being discussed inside. So, she put her ear to the door and listened very, very carefully. Most of what she heard about birds and bees made no sense at all -- especially since she couldn't see the pictures in the book her mother seemed to be reading from. Eventually, the little princess lost interest in what she couldn't understand and walked away.
A few weeks later, on a splendid summer afternoon, the princess's mother packed a delicious picnic lunch and took her two daughters for a lovely ride into the country. When they got to the family's favorite spot, she spread a beautiful yellow blanket under a glorious shade tree while the princess and her sister romped about picking berries and wildflowers. The sky was bluer than any the princess had ever seen...bluer than any color in her crayon box! Birds were chirping everywhere and the little princess was sure this was the happiest, most perfect day of her life. Little did she know how quickly things could get ugly! Out of the small bouquet of flowers she'd collected came an angry bumblebee. After buzzing around her head in dizzying circles, it landed on her bare midriff and stung the little princess on her rosy pink tummy before flying away. Alarmed, and in a good deal of pain, the startled princess dropped the flowers and began to shriek at the top of her lungs! Her mother and sister quickly rushed to her aid, both confused as to what was the matter.
"I don't want a baby! I don't want a baby!" wailed the little princess as her mother clutched her in her arms, confused as all hell over her shaken daughter's tearful despair. When the little girl looked down and saw her tummy begin to swell where she'd been stung, she became inconsolable, certain it meant the baby was already starting to grow inside her. Once again she began to shriek, "I don't want a baby. I'm too small for it to come out!" The little princess broke free of her mother's arms and ran for the car. Not until she was safely inside, with all the windows rolled up, did she begin to calm down. Her mother got in and sat beside her. Her voice was soft and reassuring, though, by now, she too was a total wreck! "Honey, can you tell me why on earth you think you're going to have a baby?" The poor, exhausted princess wiped her eyes and blew a big wad into the tissue her mother held under her runny nose. "Look," she said, and pointed to the small red lump just above her belly button. "I heard you saying things about the birds and bees. I listened through the door when you read the story to Betsy." The little princess continued to explain the facts as she naïvely interpreted them: If you heard birds chirping (which she had) and then a bee stings you (which it did), that meant you were going to grow a baby in your stomach. And, in this kingdom, this was not a good thing to have happen until there was a handsome prince and a big wedding first! Finally understanding, and truly relieved that her beautiful little child had not lost her mind, the wise mother thought for a moment and then smiled. "Oh, now I see," she said. "Then I guess you didn't hear the part about the ice cream." The pouting princess looked up into her mother's eyes and shook her head. "That's the best part," she continued. "If a bee does sting you and you don't want to have a baby, all you have to do is buy your favorite flavor ice-cream cone and, before you take your first lick, rub the ice cream on the spot where you were stung. Then, you get to eat the rest of the cone." She leaned in close and whispered, "I hear it works even better with sprinkles!" On the way home they tried it and, lo and behold, it worked! From that day on, Dairy Queen (and her mother) held a very special place in the little princess's heart!
Many years later (after I'd met the man I would eventually marry), my mother asked me what form of birth control I was considering. I just looked at her and smiled. "I can't decide...vanilla or chocolate...but, either way, definitely with sprinkles!"
THE STRUNG-OUT VIRGIN
Whoever said, "a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing," must have been there the afternoon I almost lost my virginity.
My dad was a late-shift driver for a private ambulance company. Due to the often tragic and gory nature of many of the calls, my mom asked him not to discuss his job in front of us, fearing it would give us nightmares. Of course, what kid alive doesn't want to hear what he's not supposed to? So, one night, after my father came home, I sneaked out of bed and sat at the top of the stairs, listening to their conversation. Between fits of laughter, my dad described how they'd gotten an emergency call from a guy whose dick was stuck inside his girlfriend. The harder the guy tried to get it out, the worse things got. It seemed that she had her period (a word I'd never even heard, let alone understood) and was wearing a tampon (what the hell was that?), and the guy's penis got tangled up in her string. It somehow wrapped itself around and started cutting off circulation to his engorged organ. My dad and his partner wrapped the couple up in a sheet and took them to the hospital, still stuck together! There, the doctors cut him free. Of course, I assumed that meant they had to slice off the guy's dick! God, I thought, if this is what could happen when you have sex, I'm never, ever gonna have it! I never mentioned a word to my parents about overhearing the story, and kept all my convoluted impressions to myself.
Four years later, when I was 14, a few of my older buddies began to fool around with girls. One of them said he'd only have sex with a girl after he'd made sure there were no strings attached, saying, "Otherwise, they try and tie you down and make you stay with them forever." I immediately flashed back to the story I'd heard my father tell years earlier, and once again I swore off ever having sex in my life! It just wasn't worth the risk!
Of course with my hormones raging, swearing off sex was an increasingly unrealistic expectation...especially when an older and experienced chick of 16 set her sights on me! One afternoon, while her parents were visiting relatives in the next town, she invited me over, supposedly to listen to music and stuff. It didn't take long before we were making out on her bed. I was already pretty worked up when she stopped and suggested we take all our clothes off. I'd never seen a girl completely naked, except in pictures, and the real thing had my thing standing straight out! She lay back on the bed, spread her legs, and pulled me down on top of her. "Oh, God" she said, "hurry up and put it in me!" As eager as I was to do just that, I was not prepared to risk life and limb!!! I was too smart to be tricked! Instead of following her orders, I slid down for my first up close and personal look between a girl's legs. Thinking back on that moment, she must have assumed I was preparing to go down on her, and she began squirming in anticipation, but my tongue never made contact. I just spread her lips as far as they'd go and peered as deep into her vagina as I could. Obviously tired of waiting and frustrated by my odd behavior, she pushed me away, sat up, and demanded to know what the fuck I thought I was doing. "Making sure there's no strings attached," I boasted proudly. "What the hell are you talking about?" she demanded. "How do I know that if we have sex I won't be trapped up there and tied to you forever?" By now she'd lost all patience with me. Totally disgusted, she practically threw me out of her house. "You're out of your fucking mind!" she said as she slammed the door in my face.
The next day in school she couldn't wait to tell everyone what a weird and strung-out virgin I was!
I guess my mother was right when she said my dad's stories might turn into nightmares. This one sure did!
Copyright © 2003 by Michelle Horwitz