By Paula Damon
“The facts of life are very stubborn things.” – Cleveland Amory, American author
It was the first Saturday in June when my older sister was about to sit me down to quiet my questioning.
I was going on 13 and Sis would turn 18 in January.
“How did Jackie get pregnant when she wasn’t even married?” I spouted.
The usual sparkle in her eyes dimmed as they rolled over and over again at my incessant grilling.
“Is it true what Mom said? Her running round drinking beer with boys got her pregnant? Is that how you get pregnant? Drinking beer and running around with boys?”
“Well, not quite,” came her intentionally slow and drawn out response.
Cloaked in “the birds and the bees” analogy, Sis proceeded to issue her explanation of the facts of life, which was my one and only lesson on how babies were really made, since Mom and Dad weren’t chatting up the human reproductive process.
My inarticulate response: “Oh, yuck. No, make that double yuck.”
Though I didn’t realize it at the time, subconsciously, I really wanted my sister’s answer to be delivered to me on a golden platter of abstinence with no physical contact whatsoever in how Jackie got pregnant.
Unfortunately, I learned quickly that was, is and never will be the case. And after learning about the “birds and the bees,” I formed a grotesque picture and then painfully and slowly began to envision a dreaded future for myself.
The next day in church, you could say I was in a state of shock, as I surveyed the many couples in worship. Pairs of males and females for as far as I could see with their children all lined up on either side of them, as they had every Sunday – like rows of chickadees balancing on a high wire.
For the first time I carried the image of how they really begot those little ones, and the lens through which I perceived life had changed forever.
Overwhelmed and thoroughly nauseated, I then daringly cast a long narrowly focused glance at my own parents, running my eyes over them from head to toe while they knelt at the end of the pew filled with their brood of six.
As the Lord’s Prayer emerged in whispers from their lips, I hastily catapulted into a deep dark cavern of disbelief.
That summer, my life’s content had been darkly remade. Longingly, I wanted the whole notion of procreation, every cotton-picking detail, to be a grotesque falsehood.
And, if by some chance it were true, I ever so desired that it not apply to my parents. “Please, God, not them.”
While other congregants were spouting “thy kingdom come, thy will be done…” I was begging that same deity to turn back the clock and make me ignorant of all such matters.
“Return me to before yesterday,” I prayed. “Let me once again walk lightly and not have to think of reproduction or have any a part in it – ever!”
From that point on, the sun shone dimly on my future. The crisp pre-established markers I had previously constructed between males and females completely dissolved. No longer would naivety illuminate shadowy corners or brighten dark hallows of my childhood.
Forlorn and beside myself, I had serious thoughts of becoming a nun. I’d run away to a convent and dedicate my life to seeking the faith, while making a grand escape.
Instead, my existence became an endlessly ticking time bomb, counting down minutes, hours and days until I would have to marry and succumbing to s-e-x.
Like most others, I fought my passage into adulthood, leaving claw marks down a long narrow road from innocence.
Postscript: Nearly seven years after Paula learned the facts of life, she was betrothed to Brian Damon. After 41 years of marriage, the couple has three the children and four grandchildren. (In other words, she got over it.)