“So, how’d you like the sex education lesson?”
My wife rolls her eyes.
“Did you learn anything new?”
She gives me the I’m-not-in-the-mood hard stare and I suddenly understand what undergraduates today mean when they talk about the need for safe spaces. Granted, I know it’s not the most fun a couple can have, attending a second grade sex education class, but I’m old enough to recognise that anything goes when it comes to sex.
* * *
It had been quite a surprise when I’d come home one day a few years ago to find the family supper was red bean rice.
“What’s the celebration?”
“Your daughter’s first period!”
I thought it was rather lovely that we all should be able to talk about such things as a family, to identify periods as steps on the road to maturity — a Good Thing — and nothing at all to be ashamed of. I couldn’t help but wonder though, if we’d had a son, would we be celebrating his first wet dream with a family meal? What would be an appropriate dish? A hot dog or a banana split, maybe? I didn’t ask, and the moment passed. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
* * *
Our daughter’s first sex education class was her teacher’s last. He would retire at the end of the school year. Much of the technical bits of his lesson were lost on me and, as far as I could tell, the pupils too as he droned on about frogs and trees and flowers and pollen and grasshoppers and crows and such things that naturally come to mind when you think about sex. But just as the kids were beginning to wonder what all the fuss was about, he paused.
He eyed the two-dozen parents squeezed in around the edges of the classroom.
He pulled out two chopsticks from his tweed jacket. He’d taped a cardboard square to the ends of both. On one he’d drawn an oval. On the other, a smaller black circle with a wiggly tail. He picked them both up and held them as far apart as his arms would stretch. He told the class to start chanting. The boys would have to say one thing, and the girls another.
And so he got the boys chanting “pi-ni-su, pi-ni-su, pi-ni-su.” Then he had the girls begin: “wa-gi-na, wa-gi-na, wa-gi-na.” As the chants rose in volume and parental discomfort, he gradually drew the two chopsticks together.
Finally, the chopsticks met. The teacher hushed the chanting. He twirled the chopsticks around in his fingers and on the back of the cardboard he’d sketched two halves of a baby. He kept the sticks together, making sure all could see the whole baby, then stuffed his props into his jacket. He exhaled a quiet “yuuush” of satisfaction.
The mothers at the back of the room exchanged weary glances. It would be their job that night to explain to the kids what on earth had just happened.