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 Sex--All I Needed to Know

Eras Cockran

 The water in Mama and Papa’s bathroom has faint traces of blood again. Hmm? My eight-year old mind wondered why. A neighbor girl, I seldom played with since she was much older—eleven, solved the mystery for me.  We were playing with paper dolls at her house, and I mentioned my observation.
She explained, “Older ladies bleed once a month.”
  It was an interesting bit of information and satisfied my curiosity. I didn’t pursue the subject again.
            Three years later, Mama handed my younger sister, Bette, and me a pamphlet distributed by Kotex for us to read.  It explained what happened to all young girls about twelve-years old each month. It was called menstruation.  I read it and remembered what the neighbor friend had said three years before.  Now it had a name.  The subject, though forgotten, was placed somewhere in my memory filled with other new and unusual information.
        A year later in the sixth grade while at school I noticed a few drops of blood and immediately thought, Oh, yes, this is suppose to happen.  It didn’t worry or make me feel nervous. A normal procedure had just occurred.  
            The next night I sat on the edge of Mama and Papa’s bed and watched Mama brush her long shiny hair. She stood in front of the walnut dresser with its large matching framed mirror. I casually mentioned, “I started menstruating.” 
The brush stopped in midair.  
Mama swerved around and faced me with a shocked expression. “What did you say?” I repeated the information.  She looked intently at me.
The next day was Sunday. Instead of driving with the whole family to church, only Mama and I went, and we walked the two miles. Papa, Bette and little brother, Peter, stayed home.
Walks with Mama were always interesting. We talked about different subjects. Also, I watched and copied her walk that had her feet pointed a little sideways.  A year later I changed my gait and had my shoes face forward.  The sideways walk now reminded me of Charlie Chaplin’s funny gait.                                                                                                        
 Mama started to talk about the love between a husband and wife.  She explained that the spirit of the husband went to the spirit of the wife and that created babies.  I visualized fairies flying in the air from the father to the mother.  I needed more information and asked, “Do they touch?”
        Mother retorted in a slightly sharp tone, “Don’t talk to me about that!”
 I thought, oh, okay, and forgot all about it. I knew babies came from the mother’s stomach because when I was nine years old I saw Mama pregnant with my brother. I knew she grew
milk and fed my brother.  Now, I knew more about how babies were born.  It was a spiritual occurrence.
A group of us girls from our church couldn’t date at twelve and thirteen years of age. We talked a lot and wondered why. I made up my own mixed up conclusions.  It had to do with babies.  After complaining to Maxine, another older girlfriend who was fifteen, that I was sorry I couldn’t date.
She asked, “Why can’t you?” 
 “You know. If a boy kisses me, a baby might be born.”
“That’s silly and not true.” 
“Yes, it is!”
“No it isn’t!”
“It is too! In the movie The Old Maid, Bette Davis goes for a buggy ride with George Brent.  When they return, he kisses her at her door.  Nine months later she has a baby.”
“Oh, for heavens sake, they aren’t going to show what really happens in a movie!”
“What really happens?”
Maxine proceeded to give me the actual facts of life.  I was amazed.                                                                                                                                  
        A few months later,  my sister Bette walked into the kitchen where Mother was ironing and I was eating a sandwich. She asked, “Mama, Polly Thomas is in my class, and everyone in the eight grade says she had a baby. How can she help it if she had a baby?”
Mother, probably thinking how innocent her little girls were, didn’t answer and only smiled.   I, older and recently wiser with new information, told Bette to follow me upstairs to our bedroom.  I had something important to relate to her.
            We sat on the edge of our beds facing each other.  As I informed her of all the new and certainly interesting information a look of horror slowly spread across her face.  When I finished, she blurted out, “Yuk! I’m never going to get married!”
I replied in my thirteen and a half year old wise way, “I don’t know. It must be nice, because adults like to get married.”
We went downstairs, confronted Mama and demanded answers.
“ Do you do that with Father?” I asked.
“Do you? Do you?” added Bette.
Mom chuckled softly and nodded her head a tiny bit.
            A short time later, my education was expanded again.  I always visualized a baby’s birth from the side of the stomach—Cesarean style. It was a ten-year old, Maxine’s cousin, who clued me in. This new reality kind of disgusted me.
       When seventeen-years old, another surprising fact added to my sexual education.  Rosemary, a friend of mine, gave four of her close friends, a paper supposedly written by a nurse to inform young ladies more details about life.  I read a few of the first items and was interested and surprised about a man’s appendage reaction when excited.  I never did read the rest of the supposed nurse’s list. It seemed boring and ridiculous. I threw it into my closet under some papers and books.
A month later Mother found the list and was furious.  She declared that it was inappropriate, and I shouldn’t have read it, let alone possess it. I didn’t say anything because, except for the one bit of information about the activity of a man’s appendage, the few items I did read were kind of icky. Later, the list of thirty positions of sex had a name—pornography. Maybe, Rosemary found it in her older brother’s desk and papers.

We were brought up in an innocent and, yes, ignorant time. I learned from my mother—and girlfriends all I needed to know about sex—at least for that time of my life.

        Eras Cochran wrote her first poem in the sixth grade, received her BA at the University of Michigan, MA and teacher's certificate at California State University, Sacramento. She acted, directed, conducted workshops, taught, wrote plays, articles, lyrics, stories and is now writing her memoir. She's a vegetarian and has rescued many animals. Jazzy, her Shih Tzu, keeps her company.

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