I was in the sixth grade, when a male classmate, David, asked our music teacher if she had a pussy. I don’t recall how much sex education we’d had at that point in time, but certainly we’d had enough to realize, at least on some level, that there was some kind of forbidden sexual connotation to his question, and the class sat and watched in fascinated horror as the teacher turned from her seat at the front of the class toward the boy.
She asked him to repeat the question, (WHAT DID YOU SAY?) and feeling emboldened by the barely suppressed nervous giggles of his classmates, he did. She was not amused. Nor was she placated when he insisted that he was talking about a cat. Did she have a cat? A PUSSY cat?
David was sent to the principal’s office.
He was, I suppose, the kind of boy who, had this been the 1950s, would have been considered a bad boy. The kind of boy who girls might like, but parents wouldn’t like at all. He might have been like Arthur Fonzarelli from Happy Days, or Danny Zuko from Grease, or even Eddie Haskell, from Leave it To Beaver. Except he had big blonde hair, and this was 1979.
David, as it turned out, liked me. Or more specifically, he liked my chest. There were few girls in the sixth grade with a stack like mine. He asked me to be his girlfriend. I think I asked my mother if I could have a boyfriend. I don’t remember what her verdict was. But I remember going to the pool one summer afternoon and seeing him there. He tried to kiss me. I was a good girl, and he scared me. He talked about my boobs too much. That made me uncomfortable. I hated my boobs. In all truth, I still do. I avoided him after that.
A few days ago, my son Snags was bored. Bored, bored, bored. Bored out of his skull. He played Star Wars LEGOs on Xbox. He got bored. He played Star Wars LEGOs on his Game Cube. He got bored. He moved on to Star Wars LEGOs The Complete Saga on his Nintendo DS. He got bored. He built some ships with his Star Wars LEGOs. And what do you know? He got bored.
I suggested that he play outside. He said it was too hot. I suggested he go outside and ride his bicycle. He didn’t want to. “I don’t want to change my shoes,” he said. He was wearing Crocs. He was too lazy to kick them off his feet and switch to tennis shoes. I suggested he go outside and ride his scooter. His eyes widened with interest, but just as quickly returned to normal when he realized he couldn’t ride his scooter wearing Crocs.
In a last ditch effort to get him outside, I offered to walk with him to the nearby playground. “I’ll push you on the swings,” I said. That was something I knew he liked, and so finally, he thought that sounded like fun. An escape from his boredom.
As we started up the sidewalk toward the playground, Snags said to me, “Mom, there’s this thing called a pussy…”
Sixth grade music class came back to me in a rush. I wasn’t ready to give a sex talk. Snags is six years old, not sixth grade. And this was summer vacation. I couldn’t send him to the principal’s office.
I didn’t want to hear any more, but warily I said, “Yeah?” I waited, with dread, for him to go on.
“Yeah, there’s this thing called a pussy and I don’t know the rest of what’s it’s called or I can’t remember what it is exactly?”
What should I say I wondered. Should I explain that boys have a penis (which he knows) but that girls have a, um… No. I can’t, I thought.
But before I could decide how to respond, he went on…
“And this thing called a pussy… something, it grows in a pond!” he said.
I died with relief right there on the side walk. As I lay there dying, my sixth grade life flashed before my eyes. I saw my music teacher point David toward the door. I heard her reprimand as she sent him to the principal’s office. My final words, right before I died for good were surprisingly strong for a dying woman, and nearly shouted with joy: “PussyWILLOW? You mean a PussyWILLOW?”
“Yeah! That’s it!” Snags said, all smiles. “A pussywillow!”
And then a miracle happened. I was brought back to life and we walked on. To the playground. And the swings. Where Snags wasn’t bored at all.