“Are you there God, it’s me Dani. I can’t believe Betsy got her period before me. Does she have to be the first in everything? Isn’t it enough that you gave her enormous boobs, straight blond hair and a talent for flute playing? Why do you hate me? Is it because I’m Jewish?”
The only books I read as a kid were by the sophisticated and worldly Judy Blume. Her books were sensitive and hilarious tales about the horrors of adolescence. And I was having a horrific adolescence, so I related to her novels in a very profound way.
Let’s just say that I stepped out of my fifth grade reading curriculum by studying and memorizing Judy Blume’s book, “Forever” (thanks to my neighbor Stacy Dominguez). “Forever” was the story of Katherine and Michael’s first time making love, and it was also the first time I read the word “penis” in a book.
This was the beginning of my sex education. God knows my parents never sat me down to explain things. Either they were in denial or too hung over. Besides, that’s what the World Book Encyclopedia was for.
I underlined the dirty parts in “Forever,” or what I thought were the dirty parts, (I was ten) and I brought the book to school to share with my friends, because I’m a giver. We gathered on the black top on the playground at recess, and being the public speaker that I was (read: attention monger and bossy) I read the dirty parts out loud with the confidence of a prepubescent Tracy Lords.
“Then he was on top of me and I felt Ralph, hard, against my thigh.” (In the book, the Michael character named his penis Ralph and ever since then, when I hear the name Ralph, I can’t help but think of that particular part of the male anatomy.)
“Just when I thought, Oh God…we’re really and truly going to do it, Michael groaned and said, “Oh, no…no…I’m sorry…I’m so sorry.”
That Judy must have done her research to know that Michael wasn’t going to be a generous lover and wait for Katherine – not at his young age. Besides, I’m not so sure that Katherine would have known what was available to her if he did decide to wait. My friend Jennifer wanted to borrow the book, and how could I blame her? You can’t hear lines like those and not want to know how it ends.
In school the following day, I was called into the nurse’s office. Jennifer, Jennifer’s mom, my mom, and Mrs. Healy, the school nurse, were all staring at me as if I’d started a fire in the library. Jennifer’s mom snarled, as she stood there with her hands on her wide, child-bearing hips. She was appalled that her daughter was reading a book about sex. Clearly she hadn’t had a sit down with Jennifer either. I was a smart*ss at the time, and I thought the whole incident was laughable. I seriously could not understand what the big deal was. My parents knew what I was reading and they didn’t seem to care. I’m pretty sure the expression on my face said, “bite me.”
The nurse looked at me and said that “Forever” was inappropriate reading for someone my age. I stared her down.
“Inappropriate? My parents roll joints before family car trips, and my dad wears Speedos, and carries a man bag. I think we have different definitions of inappropriate.”
That seemed to render her speechless. Then the adults looked over at my mom, waiting for her to say something parental. Her response?
“I’m just glad she can read.”
That’s my momma!