Rule #1 in Sexual Education: Wear a Turtleneck

posted in: Culture | 18

Fifth grade. Fifth grade was the magical year. The year we were deemed ready. Ready to have all revealed. And what they revealed was everything we ever wanted to know about sex…along with

everything we didn’t want to know.

gumdrops candy
photo credit: glowing gumdrops via photopin (license)

Mrs. Semsar was to be our Catholic elementary school version of Dr. Ruth. And it’s a good thing, too, because the other fifth grade teacher was approximately 874 years old and passionate about only one thing: leading the All Saint’s Day procession dressed as her patron, St. Helen, while emphatically singing, “Oh, When the Saints Go Marching In.” In contrast, Mrs. Semsar said things like “no big hairy deal” and let us pick out two gumdrops from a Quaker Oatmeal canister whenever we got an A on something. And if we happened to pick out two gumdrops of the same color, we got to pick two more. So she obviously knew a thing or two about indulgent gratification…and spherical things that come in pairs.

But Mrs. Semsar was no pushover. She was willing to reveal the secrets which were housed on the “special” library shelves that could only be accessed by librarian permission; but we had to play by her rules. She understood that the subject of sex was uncomfortable, embarrassing, and foreign to us, so she tried to make it as painless as possible. We were not forced to read aloud from the texts, lest we have to say the word “penis.” Instead, she read the text to us. We were not made to feel the hot, gawking stares of our classmates as we asked what “petting” and “fondling” were. Instead, she allowed us to write anonymous questions on index cards, which she would answer honestly. Boys and girls were separated during lessons specific to the intimate changes our bodies were going through, so we didn’t have to be mortified at the fact that our crush might be looking at us and wondering if we were menstruating or having wet dreams. The whole atmosphere was contrived to provide us maximum comfort while learning this sensitive material. In return, Mrs. Semsar asked only one thing of us: don’t laugh.

According to Mrs. Semsar, sex wasn’t something trivial to giggle about. It was serious stuff. It was natural and God-given and a good thing; but it wasn’t funny. So don’t laugh at the word vagina. Don’t. Seriously. Don’t do it.

Easier said than done.

We tried. We really did. We tried so hard. But when you’re ten-years-old and your teacher is standing in front of the classroom reading the sentence, “Pubic hair begins to grow on the vaginal lips, or labia,” it’s pretty much the equivalent to telling a poop joke to a five-year-old. NOT laughing is a physical incapability. The giggle would inevitably find its way out through either the mouth or the nose, and then the death stare would fall upon us.

How were we going to make it through the sex ed unit while staying in Mrs. Semsar’s good graces? If we kept up with the laughter, we were afraid we had all seen our last gumdrop. Not laughing wasn’t an option. Our only choice was to disguise it in hopes that Mrs. Semsar wouldn’t recognize it when it happened. So we all turned to the best friend of Catholic school kids in sex ed classes everywhere: the turtleneck.

turtleneck
Can you tell I’m laughing? No. Because I’m stealthy. Like a ninja. In a turtleneck.

While the fashion merit of turtlenecks has always been debatable, they are most certainly good for two things: hiding hickeys, and their ability to be pulled up over the mouth and nose, concealing whatever facial expression the wearer might be making. Whenever it was sex ed time at school, the turtlenecks had their day in the sun.

The bell would ring, we would sit in our desks, take out our textbooks and notebooks and pens, then swiftly pull those turtlenecks up over our faces, ready for a barrage snicker-inducing sexual vocabulary. Mrs. Semsar would never be the wiser.

Except that she was.

She knew our game. It had been played by class upon class of fifth graders before us. She was going to break us of our habit whether we liked it our not. And she didn’t make it easy on us either, using those words so frequently and with such candor that our muscles would be weak and weary from straining to hold in the giggles. One time she pushed too far, answering the anonymous question, “Do women have to take off their shirts to have sex?” with the reply, “No. But it makes it more fun.” I think one of the boys in my class just couldn’t quell the laughter any longer, and it ended up coming out as puke. All over the floor.

It was a good thing we all still had on our turtlenecks. Had we not been able to use them to shield our noses from the stench, a chain reaction would have likely occurred. And puke is not exactly the bodily fluid one wants to associate with sex.

Hence, the number one rule for sexual education was and should always be wear a turtleneck. It’s your first line of protection.

Customers who like this blog also follow me on Facebook, Twitter (@RYouFinishedYet), and Pinterest.

18 Responses

  1. Ummm….I am kinda’ stunned. You actually had classes focused on teaching you about your body and how to get it on? Want to know whst I got? Do a serious search on this topic for a bit by Sam Kinison and you will discover the answer.

    One of my writing story ideas I have not written about yet is my first time. There are some humorous aspects about it.you think it would be ok to write this for the hop? I can tie it into the whole ‘no sex ed’ thing. Thoughts?

  2. Yes, 5th Grade for mine also. I remember it well…how completely uncomfortable and painstaking that class was. I seem to remember it being covered over multiple days (not quite a full week); however that could just be my memory of it being so traumatic it seemed to last longer than it did in reality, I can’t be certain. I was an overly shy awkward young man, *especially* in the 5th grade, and there was a lot of angst built up to the ‘sex ed’, starting with the note that went home with me for “approval signature” prior to class. That permission slip (i suppose more of an acknowledgement paper) seemed to trigger enough bashful feelings and conversations at home and at school that I thought I’d never get through it all.
    Now that I’m a father, I’m going to assume I passed the class though…lol!

    • Well, you must have done something right!! I remember the note home as well. I think they even had a parent meeting where they talked about what would be covered. I always wondered about the kids whose parents wouldn’t give permission for them to have sex ed. I mean, did they really want them to learn about sex anyplace OTHER than in a Catholic school. Did they think they would find someplace more sensitive to the issues? Or did they just think they’d grow up to be monks? I wonder what those kids are doing now…

      • Yes, i *do* remember those few that were ‘dismissed’ from having to sit through the pain of sex ed class! they were definitely the temporarily outcast of the group. However, I often wondered about those worldly wise or ‘street-smart’ kids that already knew it all (and more it seemed) in that class. Trying to recall things from back that far though, it seemed that by 5th grade we all had some general ideas on how things fit (so to speak); at least in theory!

  3. I have no idea why, but I have ZERO recollection of sex ed! But interestingly enough, my 5th grade niece told me last night that their class discussion is next week and she’s dreading it like nobody’s business. I went ahead and reeled off a bunch of technical words to horrify her and lessen the blow of hearing them next week. I even worked them into most of our conversation when she least expected it. We laughed all through dinner over the awfulness of the ACTUAL words … but I do hope it makes it easier for her next week!

  4. This is hilarious! I wish I’d thought of that when I was in school. All I remember from sex ed is my teacher putting a tampon in a glass of water to show us how much it could absorb (5th grade) and us blowing up condoms and playing volleyball with them when the teacher was out of the room (high school). 🙂

  5. I already like Mrs. Semsar for no other reason than the fact that she keeps gumdrops in an old oatmeal container. Lady had class.

  6. It was fifth grade! YES. We went to this place called the Robert Crown center, and literally none of us wanted to go learn about our reproductive systems.

    • Wow. A FIELD TRIP to learn about the birds and the bees? I think that’s code for none of the teachers wanted to have to say “penis” in front of a bunch of fifth graders, so they passed it off onto someone else.

  7. I have no idea why I never thought of hiding behind a turtleneck. I remember doing my best not to look at anyone else in the classroom, including the teacher. The primary visual I associate with my sex ed classes is the faux-woodgrain of the top of my desk.

  8. […] theme for this week’s blog hop (brought to you by the lovely Emily and Kelly) is… wait for it… wait for it… SEX […]

I'm Listening...Really.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.