Idaho Parents, I Wish My Mom Hadn’t Opted Me Out of Sex Education
Unpopular opinion: opting kids out of sex education is counterintuitive. Whether it's a public school in Idaho or in any other opt-out state, unless they're home-schooled, it does little to shelter our kids from the ripple effects of the controversial curriculum. How do I know this?
My parents opted me out of sex education.
It was early fall in 1997, but I remember it like it was yesterday. After weeks of anticipating what seemed like a milestone event for a 13-year-old girl, Mr. Sawicki handed me something to bring home to my parents. I was dying to know what was inside, but whatever it was had been sealed in a thick, anti-snooping manilla envelope. A sixth-grade teacher many times over, Mr. Sawicki had given me explicit instructions not to open it and to bring it back the next day. Dang it.
Climbing the stairs to my parents' second story apartment on the southside of Chicago, I couldn't help but wonder what was in the envelope. Was it a note about my behavior? No. Except for talking too much, my behavior was never an issue. Math again? Nope. I actually passed my last math test by the skin of my teeth. Maybe I got busted for asking Jeeves to look up spelling word definitions instead of using the dictionary? That was a big maybe.
Three landings and 20+ steps later, I walked through the back porch door to my mom's kitchen. Before a word left my mouth, Mom asked me if I had anything for her. That was a bad sign in our house. Readying my reasons on why using the world wide web wasn't actually cheating, Mom told me to cop a squat at the kitchen table in her thick 'Chi-kah-go' accent. Ugh...another bad sign. She wanted me to read whatever it was she just signed in the kid-proof envelope.
"Ryan Does Not Have Permission to Attend the Sex Education Seminar."
The sound of my breaking pre-pubescent heart began pounding in my ears. Adjusting my giant Sally Jesse Raphael glasses that sat just below my one bushy eyebrow, I fought back hot tears. The next day at school when all my friends were learning about whatever the heck sex was at a super cool assembly—in the gym!—I was sitting in a chair outside of the principal's office like total nerd. I mean, I loved Ms. Hill. And even though I was definitely one of her favorite students, sitting next to Andrew the Booger Eater would've been better than this display of public humiliation. Ya' know, when he wasn't trying to scratch the interior of his sinus cavity, Andrew wasn't so bad.
If embarrassment could kill, I would've died at my desk.
Four hours later, the cool kids were released from the MTV-like Sex Ed seminar. The sound of their laughter and enlightenment echoed down the hallway, finding me in my Loserville solitude. Walking back to my seat in Mr. Sawicki's homeroom, I watched as all my girlfriends went through their cute pink bags filled with designer period products and sample-sized Cucumber Melon body sprays from Bath and Body Works. Seriously?! The boys made out like bandits, too. They had bundles of Axe body spray, deodorant, a razor and shaving cream. It was a total bummer, but through the heavy fog of Axe that had consumed the classroom, I resolved to use my babysitting money to buy my own Cucumber Melon! And someday, when I actually needed them, I'd buy my own fancy-schmancy maxi pads without wings.
But that's when I learned that money can't buy everything.
For the rest of sixth grade, middle school, and the '90s, all anyone talked about was sex this and sex that. Oh, and stuff about scary STD's, but if you asked me what the hell an STD was, I'd freeze like a deer in headlights. For the life of me, I couldn't understand what the heck was so funny about eating bananas in front of the boys. So, I stopped—gave ‘em up cold turkey for the next three years. By the time high school rolled around, I was probably suffering from a potassium deficit, but it was better than being teased.
What's worse than being held back from sex education?
Learning sex education on the playground, the school bus, at sleepovers, and anywhere else pre-teens are left to their own devices. Don't believe me?
- Annoying Caesar C. who always wore Puma tees kept going on about something called, "No glove, love."
- Katherine F. tried her best to explain the horrifying concept of boners to me. She got pregnant in eighth grade, ps.
- Denise B. told me to carry tampons in my book bag for the rest of my life, but she refused to tell me how to use them.
- Kyle H., Jose T., and Noe O., my friends who were boys, but not my boyfriends, told me my boobs should come in before freshman year. If I was still flat at 15 and I hadn't gotten my period, they told me to talk to my family doctor because it probably meant I had lady-parts cancer.
To this day when I hear parents talk about how they'll never consent to their kid attending sex education, the sixth-grader in my heart cringes. Parents, I'm a mom now. I get it. But no matter how hard we try to hide our kids from uncomfortable truths like the birds and the bees, who would you rather have your kid hear it from? "No glove, no love," Caesar C., or the school nurse and mom of three?