There are lots of opinions and ideas around when, and how, you should teach a child about sex. The reality of the matter is that, if you’re taking your time to plan it out, chances are, your kid already knows everything they need to know. There’s always some kid on the playground that’s going to show up with a Playboy, or will happen across Cinemax at the wrong hour, so it’s best to just get it out quickly, easily, and early. Otherwise, you’ll leave it up to that dirty kid to do it for you. In my case, I WAS that dirty kid. SMH.
It all started innocently enough. I was an avid reader ever since I learned how to do it. I checked out as many books from the school library as possible, and whenever she could, my older sister would take me to the public library to get more. I devoured every single book that came into my possession, but mostly I was in love with everything by Judy Blume. I loved that she wrote such real characters; these were kids with complex emotions who were going through real life situations. Subsequently, I read every single book of hers that our library carried; from Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, to Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, I had read every single one. I had even tipped off our librarian so that she could notify me the second something new came in.
In between library trips, I would feed my addiction by occasionally buying a book at the Goodwill. It’s here that I would discover new authors like Stephen King, Anne Rice, John Saul, Clive Barker, and other horror/sci-fi stuff. But I didn’t limit myself to just that, I read everything, including Harlequin romance novels, and the Sweet Valley High series; I was an unstoppable machine! On this particular trip, I was scanning the bookshelves when I found a Judy Blume book named Wifey, I was elated, even though I’d never heard of the book. Maybe it was new? I scanned the back cover and learned that it was a novel about a “bored housewife.” I didn’t even fully understand what that meant, all the women I knew worked and had no time to be bored. The cover was equally as provocative, a closeup of a naked woman removing her wedding ring. It didn’t sound like the usual Blume novel, but I was eager to read something new from her, so I slipped it into my mom’s things, she barely even noticed it, and I was good to go.
Once I got home, I sunk into the couch and eagerly dug in as quickly as possible. I didn’t have to read very far to realize that this REALLY wasn’t a children’s book. Right out the gate the main protagonist, Sandy, wakes up to an exhibitionist exposing her to his “long and stiff” penis. I was hooked immediately. I don’t remember how quickly I finished that book, but I can’t imagine it took very long because I was absolutely fascinated with the VERY adult themes and the explicitly sexual material. Sandy goes on to fantasize about boning EVERYONE, and I didn’t even fully understand parts of it—there’s a part where she’s talking about her brother-in-law’s “black bush” and I thought the dude was literally hiding behind a bush—but that didn’t stop me from powering through.
Realizing what I had gotten my hands on, I did what any responsible 9-year-old would do, I took it to the park to share it with my friends. I ran across the street, book in hand, ready to educate those mofos. Once word spread of what I had my hands on, a little circle of curious eyes had congregated around me as I sat on the edge of the big slide and read the dirtiest parts out loud. The party didn’t last very long because a concerned (read: nosy) parent came over to see what was going on. She snatched the book out of my hands and immediately understood what was happening, all the kids disappeared instantly. She told me I was disgusting, and that she was going to tell my mother and get me in trouble at school. Of course, this woman didn’t know my mother, or what school I went to, or even my name, but I was terrified. I snatched my book back and ran home.
Being the anxious kid I was, rather than let it go, I let the woman’s threats sit with me all afternoon and into the evening. I replayed the incident over and over in my head, thinking of all the alternative scenarios: why didn’t I run when I saw her? Why did I take the book to the park? Why did I tell the kids I didn’t know? I was literally sick to my stomach with concern, this was going to be my downfall, I was going to be kicked out of school, written off as a pervert; this was the end of my life. But forget school, I was way more terrified of being beaten by my mom, this was definitely past the chancla, this was worthy of the belt, the buckle side! I wasn’t beat often, but when I got it, I got it good. This felt like it warranted one of those beatings, the kind that you try to escape by hiding behind your dad, but sometimes even he couldn’t save you.
My mother, seeing that I was sad and withdrawn at dinner, asked me what was wrong. Since I figured we were minutes away from that woman calling her, I decided to confess, and I broke down and told her the whole story. I was embarrassed that I was telling her that I was reading this smut, and even more mortified that I was out there sharing it with other kids, I felt like a porn distributor. After the long teary confession, I waited for my punishment, and instead, I received a compassionate and thoughtful response. “Listen,” she said in Spanish, “I’d rather have you reading about these things than going out there and doing them.” So began a mini-talk about the birds and the bees, and I learned that there was nothing shameful or wrong in me wanting to learn about sex. I wasn’t a pervert, and I wasn’t going to get kicked out of school. Most surprising of all, she didn’t punish me, and I got to keep my book. As always, my mom taught me a good lesson that day. Sometimes life gives you an unanticipated outcome, so there’s no use worrying about all the ways things can go wrong. Don’t worry until you have to worry.
I still read a ton, but I never read any more Judy Blume after that.