Monday, January 16, 2006

Great moments in my psychosexual development

When I was in grammar school, recess was for the little
kids. Once you started getting up to the fifth and sixth
grades, it was considered babyish to play on the swings
or muck around in the sandbox. We were almost teen-
agers. It was hopelessly gauche to flail about and make
a bunch of noise like the kindergarteners did. When
lunch was finished, we poured out of the building to
disperse into cliques that took up their positions at
various places along the fence that separated the brown-
grass schoolyard from the city streets. Boys and girls
didn’t mix, but we made eyes at each other all the
same. Even though our hormones hadn’t really kick-
ed in yet, the most with-it of us had accepted that they
soon would. We wanted to get a head-start on that
whole scene, we didn’t want to fight it anymore.

My group was a small one, so small that any virus or
field trip could annihilate it entirely. One day, my
friends all had dental appointments or had been sent
to the principal’s office or whatever, so I was left to
my own devices for the whole recess hour. Thus
unmoored, I wandered along the fence until I came
to the place where the rougher boys hung out. These
were the kids who had already started to smoke and
liked to boast how they could con their parents into
letting them watch the kind of movies where you saw
some girl’s boobies all naked and stuff. A fast crowd,
to be sure, and that day they were huddled so close
together it was clear that they were discussing some-
thing magnificently prurient.

I sidled up and they made room for me. I wasn’t one of
their kind, but I had let a few of them copy my homework,
so we were cool. Ronnie, a red-headed boy from a broken
home, was talking at the time. “You did not. You’re a
fucking pervert. You did not,” he said.

“I swear I did. I swear to God,” Joey was saying. Joey
had a faint mustache already and he knew a lot about
repairing car engines. “You know I did it.”

“You did not,” Ronnie declared.

“I did,” Joey assured us and they went back and forth
like this while everyone else just giggled. Eventually,
they had to stop and look over their shoulders at the
girls further down the fence, and I seized that oppor-
tunity to speak.

“What did you do?” I asked Joey and he flashed me a grin.

“I stole my dad’s vibrator and gave it a work out. I totally
did,” he explained and my face must have registered the
utter confusion I felt, because most of them started to
laugh at me.

“Look at him! He doesn’t know what you’re talking
about!” Travis shouted. Travis would later become
perhaps the first eighth-grader ever to declare fidelity
to the aims and program of the Libertarian Party.

Joey was incredulous. “You don’t?” he asked.

I shrugged and blushed, which–interestingly enough–is
still my preferred response to these sorts of exchanges.
They laughed at poor, unworldly me for a little longer
before Joey took pity. “It’s a machine,” he explained,
“It makes you make sperm.”

“That’s fucking gross!” Ronnie shouted, with obvious relish.

“What does it look like?” I asked.

Joey was patient with me. “It’s plastic. It’s like a stick.”

“And your dad has one?”

All dads have one, dude,” he said, with all the finality a
sixth-grader could muster.

“Gross! Disgusting! Nasty!” Ronnie couldn’t get past this
stage. For that matter, neither could I.

“And you used it?” I was unclear as to how this would
work, but I wasn’t going to let on about that, of course.

Joey nodded and gave me his biggest smirk. “It was

A teacher or a tattletale or one of the three girls we all
obliquely longed for must have happened by then, be-
cause wefell silent. Until the danger passed, we had to
keep our heads down, playacting like we absorbed in
the act of kicking pebbles at each other’s shoes. I was
too preoccupied to take much part in this, though. Soon
my velcro Nikes were covered in dirt and little rocks
and the rest of them were laughing at me again. I didn’t
care. I had things to work out in my head.

I think it was something like six years later that I finally
came to understand that vibrators are mostly, if not
exclusively, for women. I don’t think I can explain to
you people how much of a relief that revelation was.