She called me a hussy.
I didn't even know what the word meant. I was 11, after all. I just knew it was bad.
My unspeakable trangression? I had crossed over into the boy's side of the schoolyard to rescue a massive snowball from the destructive forces of a hoard of 11 and 12-year-old boys. I merely thought it could be put to better use. A snowman, perhaps.
Any creative juices in me were immediately quelled by the shrill voice of my stern Catholic schoolteacher, screeching at me to "GET AWAY FROM THOSE BOYS!"
Later, in religion class, I was chided me for my scandalous act. "I've never seen such behaviour," the woman sputtered, her thin lips twisted into a scowl. "This young hussy out in the yard making a fool of herself with the boys."
She may as well have sewed a scarlet "A" on my shirt. I was confused, somewhat embarrassed but mostly annoyed. My behaviour hardly seemed to warrant such scorn.
I began to think there was something off with this whole Catholic approach to male/female relations.
My suspicions were further aroused (yes Teach, I said aroused, what does that make me?) when, the following year, this same teacher told us that we'd get pregnant if we kissed a boy. I had kissed at least one boy up to this point and, as far as I knew, at age 12, I wasn't with child.
I later discovered there were, oh, a few extra steps required between kissing and becoming pregnant that my teacher had clearly neglected to explain. The jig was up. I decided I wasn't buying any more of the bunk Catholic school was feeding me when it came to boys, hussies, snowballs or kissing as gateway drug.
It'd be a bit of a stretch to trace the origins of my career as a sex columnist back to a schoolyard snowball scandal, but I do find it amusing that this young hussy went on to make a living writing about sex and frankly, challenging much of what I feel is misguided info the Catholic Church puts out there when it comes to sex.
It's especially amusing when you consider it's thanks to some of this misguided information that I'm even here in the first place. Let me explain.
I'm the youngest of eight. Duh, yes, my parents were Catholic. When my mom was pregnant with my brother, the seventh, complications led her doctor to advise that, after giving birth to my brother, she should close shop and get a hysterectomy (it was 1963 and they didn't do things halfway back then). She and dad decided they best consult their priest before making this decision (given his no doubt vast experience with women's reproductive issues and making babies). He was dead set against it, as interfering with conception was considered pretty much a one-way ticket to hell. Heaven forbid (literally), you let a little risk of death during childbirth stand in the way of popping out another one of God's snotty-nosed, I mean, beautiful little creatures.
So there they were, weighing their options -- hysterectomy and go to hell or potential death during childbirth... hysterectomy... death by childbirth. Tough one. Faced with such a stressful decision and, well, sex being the great stress releaser, they had some and got pregnant with me. Once both mom and I made it out alive, she said, "Sorry G, but I'm shutting 'er down" and had a hysterectomy. And, tah dah, I had the Catholic Church to thank in part for allowing me to sneak in under the wire.
I suppose I should be grateful. But like that little hussy on the schoolyard, the unfairness and the twisted logic of it all ultimately served to make me more defiant than deferential.
I can't help wonder if that priest might have changed his counsel had he known I was to go on and devote my life to writing about sex, touring schools to promote condom use and contraception choices or, er, defiling myself to raise money for women's sexual health in masturbate-a-thons (I'll have to save that for another column, perhaps during Masturbation Month in May when the next masturbate-a-thon rolls around).
It just goes to show you that, confusing people, teaching them half-truths or denying them full access to something as fundamental as their sexuality usually backfires.
Just look at the glut of evidence demonstrating the failure of abstinence-only sex education south of the border. Turns out all those kids who took "virginity pledges" had just as many sexual partners and had sex at the same average age as those who didn't take the pledge. And a study out of the U.S. discovered that five per cent of teens that said they'd never had sex had an STD. As a Twitter friend commented: What is that? Immaculate misconception?
Oh, and that whole forcing priests to remain celibate thing? That's worked out really well for all those reform school and altar boys, hasn't it?
If I remember correctly (okay, I admit it, I had to Google it), the Ninth Commandment is "Thou shall not lie"? Pretty sure spreading hypocrisy and misinformation would fit under this umbrella.
As a good, Catholic hussy, I guess I just decided at some point that when it comes to sex, it felt better to tell the truth. Huh, maybe I'm not so defiant after all.