Sunday, December 21, 2014

I'm Sick of This Crap

"I'm not sure if I'm going through an assertiveness phase, or a raving bitch phase," I recently confided to some friends.

I had taken one of my kids (I forget which one - for our purposes, it's not important) to the doctor, and as I sat in the waiting room, I caught wind of a juicy bit of gossip. Naturally, I couldn't wait to pass it along. 

While the doctor examined my child, I filled her in. 

"I hear Hannah Arbromowitz's* mom took some medication last night, and now she doesn't know if she should nurse Hannah. She's been calling all morning - so annoying! Do you encourage your staff to discuss patient information in front of the people in the waiting room? Does it help build community?" 

No, that's not what I said, but wouldn't you prefer it was? I communicated like an adult, but I did rat out the receptionists for their HIPPA violation. 

"Because you're sick of this crap," one of my friends suggested. 

"I am," I confirmed. "I am sick of this crap." 

Not long after, we learned my husband's case had been rejected by the NIH Undiagnosed Disease Program. Turns out, it's similar to The Innocence Project, where they like to take cases they think stand a chance. Now, I don't know why one undiagnosed illness has a better chance of being diagnosed than another - you'd think if anyone knew what it was, it wouldn't be undiagnosed - but I'm no medical researcher. What I am is sick of this crap. 

My daughter has been talking all year about how at the end of this year, she and her fellow fifth graders are scheduled to watch a video on puberty. "Sex ed," I thought it was. The children are simultaneously intrigued and horrified, and have made plans to spend the year leading up to said video fearing to watch, but not daring to look away. 

I was a bit surprised to learn the boys and girls would be separated, and all they're going to do is watch a video. I have since learned they will also be having a frank discussion with their teacher, so that's a plus. I'm betraying my age, but you see, in my day, giggles and secrecy were discouraged. In both fourth and sixth grades, my class had an entire unit on sex ed, taught my our teachers, and it was comprehensive and fact-based.

I don't believe there was a video involved (there was one in ninth grade, but in Mr. Morgan's defense, what was he going to do? Have a woman give birth in front of the class, live?), as such things were considered outdated and absurd. Proof? My husband and I, although we didn't meet until our 20s, still laugh at a video on train safety we both happened to see. 

A family was stopped in their car on the train tracks. The children noticed there was a train coming, and mentioned it to their father.

"Well, it's just going to have to wait!" 

Needless to say, those were his last words. As kids, we shook our heads and laughed grimly. We knew better, and we've been repeating that line ever since. 

To add insult to injury, my daughter told me that not only does her school's "sex ed" (her teacher has since corrected me on this - it is not sex ed, she has explained to me, but rather a video on maturation) consist of a single video, and not only are the boys and girls separated for it, but there are two different videos. But wait, there's more! Not only are there two different videos, one for girls and one for boys, but the girls watch both, while the boys watch only the "boy" one. 

I fretted over this a little, but concluded it couldn't possibly be true. The most likely explanation, I decided, was that the girls in my daughter's grade had gotten this information from girls a year older than themselves, igniting a rumor born of ignorance - the girls had talked among themselves, and didn't really know what the boys had seen. School yard rumor. A game of telephone.

"Kids," I thought. "The things they come up with!" I smiled and shook my head. It was for precisely this reason that sex ed was so important - look how kids could twist the facts if they were left to their own devices. Preposterous. 

However, last week, my daughter told me something that made me wonder if the children had been right all along. From the mouths of babes, and all that. 

"The boys' parents were complaining, so they stopped showing them the girls' video," she told me. 

This rang a bit more true, but still - really? Boys' parents had complained? And the school had appeased them? I emailed my daughter's teacher, who confirmed that, while she was not happy with this turn of events, it was true. The squeaky wheel had gotten the grease. Since none of the girls' parents had complained, they had continued providing the girls with complete information. After all, why keep all the students ignorant, when they could get away with actually educating half of them? 

Can't argue with that, but have I mentioned being sick of this crap? 

I don't want either of my children dating a boy who hasn't been taught some basic information about the female body. In regards to my daughter, the reasons for this should be obvious. But I don't want my son dating a boy raised in such a manner, either. Imagine, if you will, my son is gay. In reality, I do not have the foggiest idea if he's gay or not, but for the sake of argument, assume he is. 

Now, if my son says he's gay, he's gay. However, can I say the same of a boy who doesn't even know what breasts are for? Maybe he has simply been driven into the arms of another man because the idea that girls are icky has been so deeply embedded in his brain. Later, it will slowly dawn on him that he's heterosexual. 

That's right. It's entirely possible my son's heart could be broken, all because I have no control over the fact that other parents insist on forcing their kids to wallow in ignorance. No thanks! 

I picture my family three, five, ten years in the future. One of my kids has brought a nice boy home to meet the family. I mean, he seems like a nice boy, but how can I be sure? 

After offering him a cup of tea, I invite him to join me on the couch. 

"Please, help yourself," I'll say, gesturing toward the crudités. 

"So," I ask him, while he nibbles on a sugar snap pea, "are you familiar with the concept of menstruation?" 

"MOM!!!!" my son or daughter will exclaim, mortified. 

"What?" I'll ask, pretending I have no idea why this might bother them. "I'm just trying to make conversation with your friend!" 

I'll smile as I briefly make eye contact with the boy in question, shaking my head and rolling my eyes. My kids - it seems like everything I do embarrasses them these days! I just can't win. I take it in stride, although I'll wonder aloud if he is this hard on his parents.

On the other hand, maybe the boy whose parents didn't allow him to see the video really is gay. By coincidence, he's gay and from a family that encourages willful ignorance. One can easily imagine that his parents aren't too keen on the gays, either. With my son-in-law estranged from his family, I never have to share the holidays. Don't get me wrong. They try. My husband and I spend Christmas of 2037 alone, our son with his husband's parents, our daughter shooting a film on location in Belarus. But things don't go well, and by 2038, I have all my babies back again. **

I could try complaining to the principal, but it's probably out of her hands, too. Anyway, since not telling boys about what puberty involves for girls is clearly going to work in my favor, maybe I should just leave it alone. 

*Names have been changed. 

**I mean my son and son-in-law's visit with the in-laws doesn't go well. My daughter accomplished exactly what she had set out to with her film, it's just done.