Photoc_2

In Part I of This Post:

I’d been asked by the school nurse to give my fifth grade boys the puberty talk. A couple problems, though: First, I’d never given anyone the puberty talk. Next, the nurse had asked that I refrain from discussing too much about sex while giving the talk.

Yeah right, I thought. That would be like trying to discuss the Theory of Relativity without ever mentioning E = MC 2.

Still, I felt I owed it to my students to do whatever I could to help usher them into manhood.

So I agreed.

To give the puberty talk.


Part II – The Puberty Video:

Finally the day had arrived.

It was time to give my students the talk.

The puberty talk.

Once the girls had left for the library to have their talk with the school nurse I gathered the boys around the VCR.

“Alright you guys,” I said. “You’re gonna watch a video that’ll discuss the changes you and your body will go through over the next few years. When it’s done I’ll be more than happy to answer any questions you might have. Alright?”

No response.

All the boys had that deer-in-the-headlights look in their eyes.

Photoa_2

This seemed a bit ironic.

When it came to discussing their favorite gross-out moments on South Park, or movie violence, or gang violence that frequently occurred in their inner-city community you couldn’t keep them quiet.

But when it came to learning about how they’d soon develop into young men, they had no idea how to respond.

Photob_2

This fear of theirs.

It was the same fear I’d experienced at their age, when confronted by my parents and teachers continually bombarding me with pamphlets, instructional films, and lecture upon lecture concerning puberty.

This puberty thing.

Back when I was a kid, it seemed even bigger and scarier than The Big Bang.

And it was all happening right inside my body.

“Don’t worry,” I told my students. “Really. Maybe you’ve heard some of this before. Maybe not. But puberty is just a part of growing up. It’s nothing to be afraid of.”

A student raised his hand.

“Jose,” I said. “What’s up, my man?”

With those bewildered brown eyes fixed right on me, he asked: “Have you gone through puberty, Mr. F?”

Photoa_2

“Absolutely,” I said. “And look at me now. I don’t have three heads or six eyes or anything. Everything’ll be fine. Trust me. You guys just need to learn a few things to help you along the way.”

Jose and a few other boys breathed sighs of relief and flashed gentle nods.

Still others couldn’t shake that stunned look from their eyes.

“Don’t worry,” I repeated. “It’ll be all right. Trust me.” I started the video.

It went through the basics:

•    How the boys would sweat more, grow taller.
•    Their skin would become oilier, maybe causing pimples.
•    Hair would grow under their arms, on their legs, faces, and in the pubic area.
•    Their voices would crack.
•    Their penis and testicles would become bigger and sperm would begin to be produced.

The video featured these two clean-cut white kids, and an African American boy.

That was fine.

One problem though: all my students were streetwise Hispanics.

And while I wasn’t sure how well they could relate to the boys in the video, I sure could.

In particular, this one little white boy kept complaining about how, whenever in the gym locker room, he felt inadequate when comparing the size of his penis to the other boys.

“Whenever I look at those boys,” he whined, “I always wonder why they’re so much bigger than me. Will Ialways stay this size? Will my penis ever grow?”

Photoa

“Damn,” I thought. That insecure, ill-equipped little brat was me when I was his age.

With that shameful realization, my hands grew clammy. My face flush.

A few beads of sweat gathered on my brow.

It was like I was re-experiencing that earth-shattering Big Bang puberty all over again.

Right in front of my students.

B-BOOM!!

I glanced around the room, wondering whether or not any of my students had spotted my discomfort, thereby picking up on my deep, dark secret.

Coast clear.

They hadn’t noticed me at all. They were completely entranced by the video’s discussion of erections and wet dreams.

Photob

Once the film was over, I surveyed the boys for their reactions.

A few sported wisecracking grins, but most still maintained that stunned look.

“Well,” I said, hoping for the best. “Anyone have any questions?”


Coming Soon: Part III – The Final Installment – The Q & A Session.

TAGS: , , , , ,

RICH FERGUSON has performed nationally, and has shared the stage with Patti Smith, Wanda Coleman, Exene Cervenka, T.C. Boyle, Jerry Stahl, Bob Holman, Loudon Wainwright, Ozomatli, and many other esteemed poets and musicians. He has performed on The Tonight Show, at the Redcat Theater in Disney Hall, the New York City International Fringe Festival, the Bowery Poetry Club, South by Southwest, the Santa Cruz Poetry Festival, Stephen Elliott’s Rumpus, and with UK-based poetry collective One Taste. He is also a featured performer in the film, What About Me? (the sequel to the double Grammy-nominated film 1 Giant Leap), featuring Michael Stipe, Michael Franti, k.d. lang, Krishna Das, and others. He has been published in the LA TIMES, Opium Magazine, has been widely anthologized, spotlighted on PBS (Egg: The Art Show), and was a winner in Opium Magazine’s Literary Death Match, LA. His spoken word/music videos have been featured at poetry film festivals throughout the world. Ferguson is a Pushcart-nominated poet, and a poetry editor at The Nervous Breakdown. His poetry collection 8th & Agony has been published by L.A.’s Punk Hostage Press.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *