I remember being in the fifth grade. It was a great year for me. It was the last year I was really popular.
One day, we got separated from the boys and put in a room. The light was turned out. A tape was popped into the VCR. The teachers disappeared to the back of the room. The tape started.
The tape told us our bodies were going to go through A Lot of Changes. Among these changes would be body hair, liking boys (I was way ahead on that one), and, of course, Your Period.
There were some images of a teenage girl running through a meadow, some close-ups of hairy armpits, and that was it. The state of Texas considered us duly informed about Our Changing Bodies. We were allowed to go to recess.
Around the same time, my mom sat my brother and me down in the living room, put a tape in the VCR, and left the room. I don’t remember anything about the tape except a guy who I thought was Fonzie playing some kind of musical instrument while singing a song called “Penis is the Proper Word.” I am not making that up. (If you want to view it, here it is, but please be warned: it is the most hilarious thing you will ever see.)
That was the last time my mom mentioned sex to us. If you call that mentioning sex.
Now, I’m not saying that too much information about sex is a good idea. I was a virgin until after high school, but my good friend had a mom who told her everything about sex, and she had a baby at 17.
Truth is, information about our reproductive health is different from being taught sexual positions in grade school.
At age 11, I had very vague ideas about what a period was. I knew it meant I would bleed once a month, and that’s about it. My grandma was at our house when it happened. As I was hustled off to the bathroom, I remember Mamaw saying, “She’ll feel better now.”
This mystified me. I would feel better? Really? For the record, I’m still waiting to feel better.
In high school health class, we got the usual drill – “the uterine lining is shed blah blah blah” – and then one day we were ushered into the auditorium where a dynamic Mexican man gave us a talk intended to (a) convince us he was our “homeboy” and (b) make us scared to death of sex. This consisted of giant projected images of diseased genitals accompanied by harrowing explanations given in a hip, “with-it” fashion.
I didn’t learn anything else about my menstrual cycle until I started having lady plumbing issues in my 20s. Even then, I learned little bits and pieces, but the whole process never really came together for me. No one ever mentioned the follicular phase, the luteal phase, ovulation, or how hormones were involved. Even when I was prescribed progesterone cream, they didn’t tell me which days of my cycle to use it. I used it incorrectly for months before I discovered and fixed the problem myself.
A couple months ago, when my husband and I started trying to conceive, I began learning about timing ovulation, but I still was confronted more with a hodgepodge of information than with a coherent explanation of the entire cycle.
I am a member of a group called New Wave Feminists. We are reclaiming “feminism” from the people who have corrupted it. We like to talk about what we are for, not so much what we are against. So instead of being against abortion, we are for the sanctity of life. Instead of railing against pre-marital sex, we give a big thumbs-up to hot marital sex.
We are not down with artificial birth control, but we are so down with the natural functions of our lady plumbing.
But why do we care so much about it? And what does it have to do with abortion?
Moreover, if we haven’t learned how our bodies work from teachers, parents, or doctors, how can we learn it?
Join me tomorrow, and I’ll tell you.