So I tried to pay attention to the Sex Ed’ movie, but it just seemed like a lot of useless information to me. Probably because puberty hadn’t kicked in for me yet, and I couldn’t relate to the material. I didn’t have pubic hair. I didn’t shave. I’d never had a wet dream. And if my voice was getting deeper, it was probably because, in 1972, parents didn’t know that daily exposure to second hand cigarette smoke would make your children sound like Marlene Dietrich.
So as the projector rolled along, my mind kept wandering, and I'd start daydreaming. Me and Johnny Cash, out on the Santa Fe Trail, cooking beans on an open fire as the sun set behind a weathered rock formation and the buzzards circled overhead. "We'd be eating steaks and sleeping on satin sheets," Johnny said as he stared into the endless desert, "if it wasn't for that connivin' LuAnn."
All of a sudden, this big graphic of a penis came on the screen. It looked kind of like an architectural drawing. Naturally, that got my attention. How often do you see a drawing of a penis in school? As part of the curriculum, I mean. The narrator said something like this: "Here we see a penis. This dotted line represents the urethra, the tube through which semen and urine travel." And the dotted line lit up like a scrolling marquee outside a nightclub.
The narrator continued. "The foreskin, or prepuce, is removed, exposing the glans." And the foreskin part of the drawing separated from this rest of the drawing and floated off the screen. It was like one of those documentaries about the Apollo program where they show you how the lunar module detaches, and the rest of the spaceship stays in orbit.
"Removed?" I thought. "What does that mean 'removed'? Removed from my body removed? Or was that just some kind of crazy special effect, like that thing that looks like a nightclub marquee?"
I flashed back to conversations I'd had with my two friends, John and Michael. "What happened to your penis?" "What happened to the cover?" "Can't you make the cover stay down?"
I thought about what their penises looked like. I thought about what my penis looked like.
Holy Crap! My friends were right. Something did happen to my penis. But what exactly? How did part of my penis disappear? Who removed it?
Is this something that happens to everybody? Obviously not, since it never happened to John, and it never happened to Michael. Why did it happen to me? Was there something wrong with my penis? Is that why somebody took part of it away? Is there something wrong with me?
Why was part of my body gone?
The movie didn't say. And I wasn't about to ask Mr. Hoezel or the Principal. Not in a room full of sixth-grade boys anyway. I wasn't sure if that was even one of the questions you were allowed to ask in the classroom, or was that one of the questions you had to go home and ask your parents?
Maybe if it was just me and Johnny Cash out there by the campfire, I could work up the nerve to ask him. He always seemed like the kind of guy you could talk to about anything.
But no. Probably not. Even if it was just me and Johnny Cash, I think I would have felt the same way I felt there in that classroom, the same way I would feel for many years. Too frightened and too embarrassed and too ashamed to ask anybody why part of my body had been taken away from me.