Symphony 124

Ninety percent of the girls had watched the film calmly for knowledge, but only ten percent of the boys did. They had all come in to prove how much they knew already. As a consequence, they learned very little.

Their questions were different. They did not care about babies except to ask about defects and oddities. Their concern was the sexual act itself. If the questions had not been anonymous, probably none of them would have been able to ask anything. Preserving their image would have killed the whole experience.

They wanted to know:

“What is a hard-on?”

“What is masturbation?”

“Does it make you go blind?”

“Does it feel good?”

“Do girls masturbate?”

“What is a wet dream?”

“Does everybody have them?”

“What is a dick?”

“What is a cock?”

“What is a peter?”

“What is a boner?”‘

“What is an erection?”

“How can you keep from having them in public?”

Neil did his best to answer each question as simply and calmly as he could. Half of the questions were simply an attempt to bring their slang language into line with the new information the film had presented.

“How big is a penis?” Neil held his hands about six inches apart.

“Is everybody’s the same size?” 

“It depends on the situation. It varies a lot even for one person, from one erection to the next.”

“Do women like big ones better?”

Neil thought, How the hell should I know? and passed the question to Fiona. She fielded it gracefully and turned it around, pointing out that women weren’t as much interested in size as they were in tenderness and love. 

The boys didn’t even bother to listen to that answer.

By the time the boys left, running out into the playground to find some sixth grade girl to embarrass, Neil was exhausted and depressed. He and Fiona looked at each other and she said, “What a disaster.”

“Is it always like that?”

“It has never been like that before. The girls, yes; they were just the same as always, but the boys were terrible. You must be a bad influence.”

Neil invoked a four letter word he seldom used, and added, “Don’t even joke about that.”

“You know what I think? I think they have probably been like this every year and I just never got the chance to see how they acted because Tom or Glen always took this section alone.”

“It wasn’t that they were interested in intercourse,” Neil said, thinking aloud while he tried to make sense of it. “They weren’t; not really. I’ll bet you every one of them is a virgin.”

“You would have a hard time convincing me of that any more, even at their age.”

“It was all posture; all gesture; all trying to keep their places in the pecking order.”

“Pecker order, you mean!”

“That’s too close to reality to even make a good pun.” Neil gave up trying to put his feelings into words. He could only ask himself if he had been like that at eleven years old; he must have been.

Once again he faced the cruelty, the vanity, and the ignorance of the macho image. How did a boy go from that to become a real man, and why did so many veer aside from the harder path to become predatory womanizers, wife beaters, rapists, and child molesters? And what could he do to help them along the right path?

Fiona bid him good-bye and left. He gathered up the papers that lay scattered around the floor. It would not do for their questions to be found and circulated around the playground as a source of dirty fun. more tomorrow

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