Monday, January 22, 2007

Let Me Tell You 'bout the Birds and Bees

It's always possible when I hit " publish" that that's it. The well could now be dry, my blogging days over. But I'm an optimist, and Irish to boot, and at home they always say "the Lord will provide." I don't know about the Lord, but Liz came through with some inspiration in a recent post.

The whole subject of the birds and the bees was pretty much shrouded in mystery back in Ireland in the fifties. The most a child with an enquiring mind could hope for was to glean a little info here, another little bit there, then try to cobble it all together in a way that made sense....

In our fourth grade class there was at least one girl who was "well up" on the mysteries of the grown-up world. I'll call her Nora, to protect myself in case she should stumble upon this and come after me with an axe. I didn't particularly like Nora. She was a large, pale girl with a doughy complexion, and small unfriendly eyes. And she sat directly behind me at the back of the class.

Some chance remark on the playground tipped her off that my information on where babies came from involved storks and cabbages. So she embarked on a mission to educate me. After all, we couldn't have people running about, entertaining such primitive ideas. She felt she was doing a service to society, and to me in particular, although I was less than grateful for her efforts on my behalf. Not least because they were delivered into my ear in full view of the nun up at the blackboard, droning on about fractions.

I was appalled at the revelations, and not altogether sure she wasn’t making it all up. My parents, surely, would never do that? And how could a kind and loving God, the same guy who looked down on us with His beard and His gentle eyes, from the wall over our kitchen table, have such a twisted sense of humor as to make it necessary to be a contortionist if you wanted to be a mommy some day?

Next time we went out the country for a visit with the relatives, I watched
my uncle and his wife with new interest. I had attended their wedding the year before, and they had recently had a baby. I was fascinated that they had been able to maneuver themselves into the necessary positions, as explained to me by Nora. I decided that even though it sounded messy and complicated and embarrassing, I might as well get over it, as it seemed to be the way things were done.

Those nuns have a lot to answer for though. We were not encouraged to think of the human body as beautiful. The feeling they most encouraged in us was shame. Better to cover up. We'd have it on our conscience if, God forbid, a boy should have an impure thought after glancing at us. It was a sin, they told us, for girls to wear trousers. Proof positive that there was a bottom under there. It was a sin, they told us, to wear a sleeveless blouse. Consider, if you will, the sexiness of the upper arm. Feeling aroused? Wanton hussy! Go put your burqa on this minute....The onus was on us, they told us, to keep things under control in our dealings with the opposite sex. Men and boys, they told us , were in the clutches of forces over which they had scant control. They depended on women, whether they acknowledged it or not, to be pure and strong and keep them off the devil's doorstep.

When our own children were born I wanted to be sure that they would not have to depend on furtive whispers at the back of the class from a modern day Nora. I tried to answer the inevitable questions with humor and at least a smattering of truth. Too much, too soon, is as bad as too little, too late. But I'm done. It's much more fun sitting here on the sidelines, chuckling , while Liz wrestles with the questions.


meggie said...

Growing up with 'nature' on a farm, made things a little easier. Although not altogether. And, not all of my growth years were spent watching nature unfold her wonders!

And even after watching numerous cows give birth, plus sheep, it didnt really seem to relate to us, that much.

But, not to cast aspersions on any one's beliefs, the strange teachings of the Nuns seem to be very like the recent 'teachings' over here, from Muslim 'leaders'.

Hmmm, I wonder what my great great Aunt, the Nun, would have thought about our liberal society- & lack of Piety today.

Lily said...

Oh sure, just laugh. Maybe I should just dial your number when they start with the questions. "Well boys, let's just see what Molly has to say!" Couldn't mess up any more than I already have, today I described a stomach as a kind of balloon. At least we've moved on to different parts of the anatomy.

Jess said...

I never did really understand why women had to guard against everything, while men were gripped by fits or something and not responsible for their actions.

And Liz, my mom is laughing at me too.

Aunty Evil said...

Funny, I don't actually remember learning about the birds and the bees in one or more sittings. I do remember going to a film night at the school that showed how our bodies are developing and what to expect when I was about 13. I don't think my mum would have had a clue on how to approach the subject, so I think she just let us figure it out for ourselves! I think we did alright, we seem to know which bits do what. :)

Molly said...

I grew up in the fifties too but went to a public school in Indiana. I remember the neighbor girls telling me about pellets coming out of the penis. (although they probably said thingy)I did not believe what I heard but certainly was intrigued.

Your approach or answering "the inevitable questions with humor and at least a smattering of truth" makes great sense.

Becky in FL said...

Oh dear. You do take us to such regions. First underwear, and now what's beneath!

You know, it's a wonder you developed the common sense and healthy attitudes you have. How did you manage it?

I do think we're still coming out of the Victorian age. I would like to know why we went there in the first place.

Considering how much of advertising's hold over us has to do with our sexual insecurities, I sometimes wonder what it would be like if we simply dropped the pretense. No secrets, no embarrassment. Could we do it? What would that be like? No tease, no flirtation, no jiggling of fleshy parts, no vivid imagination, no suspense, no...

Wait a minute... I think I changed my mind.

Becky in FL said...

Hey, did any of you ever read Islandia, by Austin Tappan Wright? Islandians have never had the inhibitions we have. Poor John Lang gets quite the shock when Dorna drops her drawers to go swimming.

Kelli said...

"But I'm done. It's much more fun sitting here on the sidelines, chuckling , while Liz wrestles with the questions."

I think that's one of the absolute benefits of having grandkids right?

Stomper Girl said...

Heck I'm trying to work out what contortions were involved in Nora's descriptions. Show you what sort of mind I have, doesn't it.

molly said...

OK SG, your mind is fine. Maybe "contortions" is a bit of an exaggeration....I have a tendency to get carried away on the wings of my own supposed wit. Obviously I am not a good spokesperson for the Irish in general, who have never had a problem figuring out which bits do what, and have certainly not been bashful about it, and have gone forth from the Emerald shores to populate the earth.