Bird & Birds, Bees & Bees and the Things In Between.
- The awesome high school production cast of Sophocles Antigone
When I was in high school I caught lice from somewhere, more than likely it was from being in theater and trying costumes, hats and wigs with a little too much fervor and not enough caution. I will never forget being in the bathroom with the new bottle of lice treatment shampoo my mom had bought. She yelled through the door, “Are you sure it’s just on the top of your head a not (whisper shouts) ‘down there’ as well?” I was relieved there was a door between us so that my mom couldn’t see the color raise in my cheeks. “Yes, mom, I am sure, that isn’t even considered lice, that’s called ‘crabs’ and I would have to be sexually active to catch that and I am not, Mom!”, my mom responded, again through the door, “okay, just making sure, you might want to treat it anyways just in case, better safe than sorry”. I’m sure she could hear my eye roll paired with annoyed sigh through the bathroom door, either way it was super embarrassing, even within the confines of our own home and no one to overhear the conversation.
I wasn’t sexually inactive for any other reason except that being in a small town made your pool of possible partners really small as well as having been taught that ‘true love waits’. I didn’t want to be perceived as a slut if I was at all in touch with my sexuality which I wrongly thought was mutually exclusive. These two things lead me to not really date much in high school at all. This was surprisingly distressing to my parents. I remember a car ride with my dad where he approached the subject with the subtly of the freshly painted taupe walls in a newly constructed home. Even in it’s subtly this was pretty progressive for 1996, as we were riding down the bumpy dirt road my dad said, “You know, there are people out there that are ‘different’, they’re not interested in people of the different sex, but of the same sex”. “I’m not gay, Dad” I responded with frustration. Again, I would have hoped my lack of high school promiscuity would have been seen as a positive thing but instead it lead my parents to question my sexuality.
The few guys I did date in high school I met through my involvement in theater programs, either in my high school Thespian Society or community theater. And of those young men, a majority of the dates involved the performing arts center and of course Broadway shows. I should have gotten the hint, but I wasn’t the most attuned and astute learner of human sexuality as stated earlier. So those guys are gay now, obviously, I’m sure they were gay then as well, obviously. Small towns in the late 90’s were not really the epicenter’s of acceptance and tolerance or the most ‘woke’ areas for people in marginalized groups. Perhaps that’s why I was able to avoid the dreaded crotch lice, dating closeted gays will most certainly help with that arena.
Now I work as a high school teacher and the social climate, even in the same small town I grew up in, is much more accepting and open on issues of sexuality and gender. I have students that represent almost every letter of LGBTQ community and it is a beautiful thing. No one even bats an eye. I am also a parent of a student who will be entering high school next year. Not once have I asked about the condition of his pubic hair in relation to lice or his orientation. This isn’t because of free range parenting philosophies but because of how open all dialog is in our household. It’s not strained conversations between bathroom doors, or dear conversations on dirt roads in effort to be understood or understand more. Both of my parents were parenting, and looking back now, I smile at all of it. I only hope I can provide my sons with some stories as cringeworthy as these. I’m sure I am and most certainly have. That is our real inheritance, the warmth and laughter at our fumbling attempts to talk about things that are equal parts awkward but important. We have to keep the lines open, no matter what that looks like.