. . . I mean “testy”. . .Unless you are doing a “self-examination”. . . in which case, it might be true either way. Unless you’re a woman. If you ARE a woman. . . congratulations. . . on putting up with being one. That’s some kind of dedication. I couldn’t do it. Too much “pain” involved. . . Gnarly stuff. Last time I checked, I was a man. . . Not that I have to check with any regularity. I usually catch it during the “self-examination”. . . like the one they showed us how to “perform” in my 6th grade “Health Class”. Actually, it wasn’t “Health Class”
as much as a day set aside, once a year, when boys and girls, in their first year of “middle school”, were separated into two groups during “Gym Class”. The girls were led off to the “Wood Shop” classroom, by our friendly neighborhood “Female Lumberjack Gym-Teaching Duo”
. The year was 1982 and as far as I can remember, at that point I knew very little about “Life Partners” (I still don’t) In the small rural Iowa farm community I lived in that 6th grade year, I think it would be safe to say that few other people did either. But, looking back at it after all these years (and I hadn’t planned on even THINKING of that time in my life until THIS PRECISE moment) . . . The two ladies heading up the Physical Education Program at the Davis County Middle School were SO “a couple”. . . But nobody ever said anything. . . at least not to us kids. They were even prone to “spats”during school hours(often during tax-payer-funded physical education sessions) One would not be talking to the other, for whatever reason (probably over who used the last of the moustache wax), while the other did their best to put on a brave lesbian face
and trudge through with teaching all the other students in my class how NOT to pick me until the second to the last teammate for a rousing game of “Cover Your Privates and Scream Like a Girl”
.(You may know it as “Dodgeball”) There are two words for why I was picked second-to-last. . . David Freelawn. . . rather than embarrass this poor guy any further, I will leave it at that. . . EXCEPT to say that he weighed about a GAJILLION pounds, he sweat A LOT. . . and he ALWAYS smelled just like “corn chips”. (A few years later; in a moment of weakness and in an effort to become “popular”, I came up with his nickname: David “Frito~Lay”- thus, cementing my status as “smart ass” and subsequently scarring him for life)
. . . Speaking of irreparable damage. . .
“Us boys” were taken to the “Home-Economics” classroom. I am unsure of why the girls were sent to a such a “GUY” area, while the boys were sent to an exclusively “GIRL” area. (Perhaps to add to all the confusion) The “boys” were assigned a “SINGLE MALE INSTRUCTOR”. When I say “single male”, it has a dual meaning. Yes, it was just ONE dude. . . BUT, he was also not married. As far as I can recall, he was about as single as you can get. He was our “Art Teacher” and seemed VERY content doing “art-related activities”
. . . unicumbered by the trappings of “human interaction”. . . or “a wife”. I seem to remember him being very fond of “paisley” and “decoupage” (though not necessarily simultaneously)
Without any forewarning (or notes home to our parents requesting permission) we would soon be subjected to the most jaw-dropping, nausea-inducing, myth-debunking and totally confusing 2 hours that any pre-pubescent adolescent will ever experience in the “ENTIRE HISTORY OF FOREVER”. . .
. . . “SEX EDUCATION CLASS”. . .
To this day, I am uncertain who made the decision to put those 3 individuals in charge of “teaching” us what they did. . . I am still not sure what it was they actually “taught” us.
I have the feeling that they actually volunteered for the opportunity. But I WILL say that when all was said and done (mainly said. . . actually all said. . . nothing was DONE. . . this was the early 80’s and those kind of student/teacher relations wouldn’t be en vogue for several more years) But when the smoke settled, the girls and the boys walked out of their respective “Information Hubs”
and we didn’t look at each other quite the same way. Some of us didn’t look at each other until 7th grade. It was awful. . . I am certain that the majority of us walked out much more confused than when we had gone in. In fact, I think there were a number that walked out thinking they were gay. . . or at least “very happy”. . . (no, not me – I was still straight and miserable) But NOW, I was slightly confused. THIS wasn’t what I’d learned about the “birds and the bees”. When I was 5 years old; my mother (a lifelong nurse and minister’s wife) got tired of answering my questions (yes, I had a LOT of them at that tender age) about the “Human Reproductive System” and sat down with her copy of “The Physician’s Desk Reference” and “The Encyclopedia Britannica – ‘Volume A’ for “Anatomy” and let me know ALL about it . . . in “clinical terms”. However, knowing how “vocal” I was as a child, mom still decided to use “geographical nicknames” and “southern slang” for the “good stuff”. (Mom and Dad had been raised in the Ozarks. . . I’m hillbilly from WAY BACK)
Shortly thereafter, many an “ice breaker” could be overheard, when my parents would venture with me out amongst the “common folk”:
ME at age 5 years (the day after “my talk”)
“My mom has a ‘Virginia’,” I would declare to a random salesperson or clergyman, while my mom searched for a proper “beating device”.
“Daddy has a ‘Trotline’,” I would exclaim to a convenience store employee or teacher, as my father pretended I was someone else’s lost child.
. . . To this day, I have a hard time hearing about Hurricanes hitting the Eastern Seaboard and I HATE fishing. . .
Of course, MY way of dealing with uncomfortable situations was with “humor” – a trait not lost on this opportunity, some 7 years later:
In the last few agonizing moments of our “Video Presentation” we were forced to sit through a ‘vignette’ featuring a “Father-Son Combo”
extolling the importance of “Testicular Cancer Awareness and Prevention”, complete with detailed “How to Check Your Junk” footage. I will be honest, at that age I was barely aware I had testicles and the only thing I wanted to prevent, was them being “nailed” in “Dodgeball”. The fact I had to watch how to deal with this was almost more than I could handle. . . The game really should have been called “HITball”.
Boy, was that a “humdinger”. . . (That’s what I thought after watching the video) . . . Actually, that’s what I asked my gym teacher after the video was over. . . I was VERY uncomfortable after sitting through a class headed up by Andy Warhol’s love child with David Bowieabout “sexuality”. . . I had to “act” to diffuse the situation. . . and I had to act soon. . .
“Excuse me Mr. Sexton?” , (yes his REAL name) I asked, trying to control my snickering. I felt as if my head was about to explode and I was going to throw up. I was ill-equipped to handle saying the teacher’s name with any sense of maturity and THIS was about to send me over the edge. . . this was already ALL SORTS OF WRONG on EVERY IMAGINABLE LEVEL.
“What is it Danny?”, sighed my teacher (it was bad enough that I was called “Danny” at this stage in my life, but when HE said it, it REALLY rhymed with the word “Panty”. . . I made an attempt to shorten it to “DAN” in 7th grade, to mixed results. After all, “DAN” rhymes with “MAN”. . . a point you cannot dispute)
“Was THAT a ‘humdinger’?” I repeated in my outside voice . . . the awkward silence that filled my “Information Hub”
was stifling. . . Mr. S was a little “thrown” by my question. I could see it in my teacher’s eyes. Was I referencing the video “package” we’d just watched as a “unit” . . . or was this a clever “turn of phrase” referring to the “male anatomy”? I think we ALL knew. . . Soon a collective sigh filled the classroom. . . followed by laughter and eventually Mr. S decided to let us go “early” to roam the halls of our middle school telling “Sack and Bag” jokes with reckless abandon. Oh how grand it was. . .
(That is not even close to true)
He actually told us that he hoped we’d paid attention, because he had a ‘loved one’ that lost a nut in the Vietnam War and it was NO LAUGHING MATTER . . . talk about a tough room! (I never knew what getting one blown off and having cancer had to do with one another) but I then became quite aware of why HE had chosen to participate in “teaching” us. . . but I still think the Lumberjills were “recruiting”. . .
As if my introduction to this particular “Subject Matter” during “Regular School-Operating Hours” hadn’t been surreal and uncomfortable enough. . . the fun had JUST begun. . . For some god-awful reason after we came back from Christmas Break (back before the Satanists started calling it “Winter Recess”) . . . they decided to add a knew “wrinkle” to “Physical Education” class. . . SHOWERS. . . Again, with no proper warning, no notes to my parents, and for NO DAMN GOOD REASON, the Board of Education (in their infinite wisdom and with limitless resources) again tapped into “Tax-Payer” money, built new locker rooms equipped with “State of the Art” SHOWERS and decided that children were REQUIRED to BATHE after P.E. . . and after being subjected to that “VIDEO”. . . I can only say it was “horrifying”. Not only had I never been nude in front of another guy (or ANYONE – I’d blocked out my parents during my bed-wetting spell in the summer of ’79) but I’d really hoped to save that for someone I “Loved” or at the least . . . a “Female Doctor”. “Communal Bathing” was probably the single most traumatic experience I had the displeasure of taking part in during all of my adolescence. . . and there was definitely some trauma. I think that communal bathing is in fact the reason the Roman Empire fell. . . too many “distractions”. It’s intimidating. . .
. . . Jeffrey Harsh, was a nightmare of a boy. He had transferred in from some school in Chicago
. He was equipped with a full 1 o’clock shadow. (no, not five o’clock) I know this, because I had study hall with him 3rd period (around 9 AM) and gym class with him right after lunch. Sure enough, he had grown more facial hair in that 4 hours, than I have, to date, my entire adult life. . . During the President’s Physical Fitness Award portion of the school year (after the holidays, when we’d had just enough time to stop doing any sort of physical activity), We were asked to perform a series of physically demanding and excrutiatingly painful tasks in a manner that would meet the lofty standards of our nation’s president (then, Ronald Reagan)
. All so we would become the proud recipients of. . . a really cool “sew-on patch”. (I NEVER got one because of “pull ups”. I still consider whoever invented “pull ups” to be a major butthole). When it got around to time to perform “sit ups”, our Gym teacher (one of the lesbians) would match us with a partner based soley on their popularity. I was often paired with Frito~Lay. I remember thinking whoever had the misfortune of holding the ankles of Jeffrey Harsh during sit-ups was one unlucky individual. . . it would turn out to be “me”.
. . . He exuded “MAN”, while the rest of us barely secreted “man-child”. (perhaps ‘secreted’ was the wrong word) He was hairy, smelly and scary. Then it came shower time. . . I dreaded it. Every time I was made to do this, it was my own personal shower scene from “Carrie”(and we all know how THAT turned out)
. If we attempted NOT SHOWERING, our “Lady Lumberdykes” would send an 8th grader in to report the names of the transgressors. (Usually, the second cousin of one of the teachers. A knuckle-scraping bohemith, by the name of THAD TARBUCKLE) He would start taunting us (usually me and a couple other modest fellas) until we succumbed. But inevitably, I would always relent. I would walk into the corner of the shower and avoid looking at anything. Unfortunately the shower heads were in a circle in the middle of the shower room. Everyone chatting away and pushing each other. Let me state, for the record, the very LAST thing I would want to do would be to slap another guy, whilst naked in the shower.(teasingly or otherwise) Especially after the “video” we were forced to watch just a few months prior. Had I been the only one paying attention? I would stare straight ahead (though pasty boy-flesh was clearly visible in my periphery) “THIS WAS WRONG. . .”
And if THAT wasn’t enough humiliation, in would walk THAD. . . The shower would go silent, while everyone tried to finish quickly. THAD would stand there and tease us mercilessly as we did our best to shield ourselves (or parts of ourselves) from his ridicule and critique. I am unsure why he was allowed to stand there and make fun of us. I’m sure if this were to happen today, more than a few lawsuits would be filed. And then (without warning, a letter to our parents or an explanation from God) in came the “new guy”. . . Jeffrey Harsh was a Centaur. Half-MAN, Half Horse. (mainly horse)
He was that Mythologically freakish. . . He had never been held back. He was OUR age. But this was “scary” and impossible to live up to in terms of comparison. . . This was also one of the funniest things I ever witnessed in my life. Jeffrey strode up to THAD and stood staring at him face to face. . . Uncomfortable with the situation, THAD took a step backward. Jeffrey leaned in even closer. . . Then we heard him speak. (he rarely spoke) It was a soft, low “MAN-voice”. . .
“Hey. . . Why don’t you back off THADEUS. . . Before I tell everyone why you’re not in 10th grade. . . Pee Wee. . . “
THAD, scared by the threat and visibly shaken by this blatant afront to his “manhood”, said nothing. . . He didn’t even look at us. He took one more step back, turned around and walked out of the locker room. . . never to return.
We all let Jeffrey go first the rest of the school year and waited for him to finish, before entering ourselves. . . It became an unwritten rule. . .
I don’t remember much more about that year of school. . . “Jeff” and I talked occasionally. He would tell me about Chicago and about “girls”. I guess you could say we became friends. I even began being picked a little higher in the draft for “Dodgeball”. . . But most of the the remnants of that year have melted with time. . . I remember a few years later my body caught up just like everyone else’s. But I remember thinking somehow a little of my innocence was gone. . . Jeffrey Harsh moved away after the school year was over. . . I think I heard he became a veterinarian in Alaska. . . I don’t know. . . I heard something about a “moose”
. . . ba dum bump. . .
I played football for a couple of years in high school. But by and large I participated in NON-SHOWERING sports like Baseball, Golf and Tennis. . . I don’t like to sweat. . . EVER.
. . . In the beginning of this baseball season, I can’t help but ask pro athletes. . . “What’s up with your nuts guys? Why are you always diggin’ and rootin’ around in there like you’ve got some sort of fungus?” Don’t get me wrong, It’s not just baseball. . . it’s not confined to the sports fields, arena’s and stadiums around the world. You see it every day. Guys hangin’ on for dear life or scratchin’ around down there like it’s on fire or like his junk is some sort of prized possession. (get over yourselves)
MY JUNK NEVER NEEDS THAT MUCH ADJUSTMENT!(and I’m sure I’m not alone) Maybe because I paid attention to “the video” in 6th grade. . . and I “bathe”. . .
Let me tell ya’ something fella’s:
“They” ain’t goin’ anywhere. . . “It” ain’t goin’ anywhere. . . Take care of “your business” before you leave the house or at the very least, take care of it before you “stand up”. For the love of God, stop doing it when I’m trying to watch a game with my family. . . NOBODY needs to see that. . . Don’t make my kids ask. . . “Dad. . . Was that a ‘Hootenanny’?”. . . Thanks. . .
‘Til Then. . . Go Figg’r!
Peace Out. . . Later
D A N