Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Two Taboos

(Originally, I was going to post a piece with several short items about living in Smelterville. Unfortunately, I thought that by changing the name and listing new items, I could save the newly named post, as well as the original. [I do this all the time in "Word"]. Well, the changed post
replaced the previous post, and when I tried to recover the original, I got what had been saved before I did all the writing.) So I am posting this one, because it is ready!

Religion & Politics

Growing up, I always heard the two things you never talk about are politics and religion, but we talked about them. Not much, but occasionally we would broach one subject or the other. I found out early on, that my parents didn't vote anymore. My dad had a definite political party, but thought they were all crooks. Athough he decided it didn't matter who was representing him and his country - he still grouches about the officials from the "other party."

As far as religion went, my parents were jack-Mormons. They had both been raised in Mormon Utah, and been baptised into the "one true church." (Kinda sounds like the pronouncement of several religious groups). The term "jack"-Mormon (jackass Mormon) was coined by Brigham Young who referred to those who claimed church membership, but lived outside of church teachings. Both of my parents smoked, drank coffee, and inbibed stronger spirits on occasion which were all forbidden practices in that religion. We never went to church as a family, except for weddings and funerals. I was free to choose whatever I wanted to believe, as long as I didn't promote it at home.

Our Two taboos:

Although, religion and politics were the mythical forbidden topics, there were actually two things we never discussed in our home: income and sex. I never knew growing up how much money my dad actually made (not that it was any of my business). Unfortunately, when it came time for me to apply for college - he refused to fill out the financial information. As a result, I wasn't able to apply for scholarships or grants. Since I had my heart set on college, I had to work my way through.

Additionally, my parents lived paycheck to paycheck. My dad was a contract miner and worked for one of the best paying mines in the valley: The Sunshine. Where the money went - only he and mom knew. I don't think he started an effective savings program until after he retired in the mid-eighties. Subsequently, I was never taught how to handle money. (If you had it, you spent it. If you didn't have it, you went without.) Of course, I have to add, that because my dad worked at the Sunshine mine, he was on strike every third year. Sunshine was famous for it's year-long strikes and great benefits as a result. However, I suppose, the year he went back to work was catch-up time financially.

As far as the topic of sex is concerned, I was on my own. I didn't even hear about "girl stuff" from my mom. If we hadn't had our little movie at school, I would have been completely stupified when the time came for normal body changes. I had heard some stuff from older friends who enlightened me some, but I was only 10 at the time, and didn't really "get it."

I did overhear my mother and one of my aunts talking one time when we were on vacation. My aunt (one of my mom's older sisters) asked her if she had had "the talk" with me yet. "No," my mom answered, "I figure she'll learn about that stuff from her friends." (So much for the blind leading the blind.) I knew then that the topic was taboo as far as my mom was concerned.

It's kind of funny now - but when I was 13 or 14, my mom was astounded everytime someone used a slang term or euphemism for a body part and I didn't know what it meant. How should I know? No one told me! One time, when I was 15 or older my mom called a girl in my class a Sl___t, and I said, "What's a sl__t?" Her response was, "I can't believe you don't know what a sl_t is!" But did she explain it? NO. (I'm still trying to find out --- not really!)

Weirdness sets in

We had the "sex" movie in eighth grade. It was the first year they showed it to a mixed class of guys and girls. I wanted to crawl under my desk. The film was basic Biology - with no "how tos," nor "dos or don'ts," all in a cartoon format. I was mortified. Of course, I wanted to know what the whole sex thing was about, but I didn't want to find out in front of everyone!

There was a popular book in the school library at Pinehurst Jr. High, that a lot of the kids took turns checking out. It was a basic sex primer with drawings of who has what body parts and how one matures through puberty, but beyond that I don't know what it contained. I only saw bits and pieces, but I don't think I ever checked it out.

A lot of my friends were really curious about sex, but I thought the whole puberty-sex thing was a rip off. I mean, I had friends from grade school, both boys and girls, that started acting weird in Jr. High. Suddenly, the boys were distant. They didn't want to hang out with me and other girls. And the girls were just as bad. They became boy crazy and didn't act normal when the boys came around. I thought, This is terrible. Why can't we just be friends? Why does everyone think that if you talk to a boy - you're in love? Life was so easy in grade school and now it's like starting all over again with all the weirdness to deal with. I didn't like it one bit.

I also hated the way my body's changes were affecting some of the guys. One time in the 7th grade, I was walking up the breezeway at the Pinehurst school, when a 9th grade guy whistled at me. Eeewwwe, Gross! What was wrong with him? I got to where I couldn't eat at the Tall Pine for lunch if there were guys present. They just made me feel so creepy.

Eventually, I got used to the weirdness, but I've never liked it. I guess because young women don't deal with the same bodily effects of puberty, they can't understand why young men act so
weird and are focused on the whole sex thing. When I got married, I was finally enlightened on the male point of view, and it made more sense.

Don't get me wrong, I am not anti-sex (at least in marriage), just anti-weirdness. I still think the weirdness is unfair, because it drives a wedge of tension between the sexes making it difficult for some to be friends. At least now I understand it. In a way, I am looking forward to old age, when we become less engendered and more like kids where sexual distinctions are less apparent. (But then, maybe we don't).

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