It was in 4th grade: the day the girls were separated from the boys, and we watched a video about the changes our bodies were about to go through. Not much of it was news to me. I’d started my period months prior and already wore a bra. I didn’t really know why I had my period, though; the video didn’t explain that either. Just a very basic rundown of what to do when it was happening and that it meant we’d all become women.
The video went on to explain that now that we were becoming women, it was important to protect our purity for our future husbands. To save ourselves for our wedding nights. That failing to do so would devalue our love.
I wasn’t completely sure what all that meant. The other girls were giggling, whispering to each other and obviously knew something I didn’t. I wasn’t about to ask any questions, though. I was an only child, raised by my father, and Ididn’t socialize much outside of school. It was a very small town and all my classmates had been together since kindergarten. I was still “the weird new girl” although I’d joined them in 2nd grade. I tried my best to remain unnoticed.
It wasn’t long after the video watching that a popular girl invited me to come to church with her. Of course, I was thrilled! Someone wanted to be my friend. So, I began attending church with her on Sundays and Wednesdays, an Assembly of God church with a rather small congregation.
On Wednesday nights all the girls our age, about 5 of us, attended a class run by one of the girls’ mother. S.T.A.Rs: Susanna – Service , Tabitha – Testimony , Anna – Attitude and Ruth – Relationships. Our pledge was: Having accepted the Lord Jesus as my Savior, I will follow the Master in Christian living, in witnessing, in service, endeavoring always to glorify my Lord as a Star.
We learned all about what it meant to be a good Christian woman, so we could be loyal and subservient wives someday. This included the importance of remaining pure and saving all of ourselves for our future husbands. We mustn’t share our love with anyone until our wedding nights. Oh, and that our periods were punishment from God, for Eve’s original sin, eating that apple the snake told her to eat.
It wasn’t until the following year, in 5th grade science class, that we learned how babies are made. I already knew from the lessons in S.T.A.Rs that when a husband and wife lie together, under the approving eye of the Lord, they become blessed with a child. What more was there to know? God gives babies to people when He decides they deserve them. That’s pretty straight forward if you ask 10 year old me.
Seeing as I thought I already knew everything I needed to know about baby making from church, I was only half paying attention. The teacher explained that sperm cells swim and fight to be the first to penetrate the egg cell. This grabbed my attention, because it didn’t make sense with what I’d been learning in S.T.A.Rs.
In my confused state, I raised my hand and asked “How does the sperm get to the egg?” Everyone laughed at me. I mean everyone. The teacher became angry with me. He yelled at me that I knew exactly how, and how dare I be so inappropriate? He sent me to the office, where I was given swats for asking inappropriate questions and disrupting instruction.
After this incident, I became the target for even more ridicule than before. Not only was I “weird” now I was weird and stupid, too. The older boys, 7th – 9th grade, started teasing me and saying maybe if I wasn’t so ugly, one of them would have showed me how by now. The girls started making fun of me for being so inexperienced, while also commenting on my lack of sexual appeal. They had apparently already done all sorts of things, but were, of course, still pure for their future husbands.
What did “pure” even mean? None of them seemed to know, really. In S.T.A.Rs we learned a lot about having a pure heart, protected from false love and being able to give our husbands all of ourselves on our wedding nights. I decided that meant I’d marry the first boy I fell in love with, because I also learned that when you gave away your purity before marriage you were giving away pieces of your heart. Love comes from the heart, so it only made sense that if you loved someone before your husband, you wouldn’t have all of your heart anymore. That must have been why my classmates were still pure. They hadn’t given any love away.
Combining child logic with raging hormones is a recipe for disaster. I managed to move away in 7th grade, with my virginity in tact. That wasn’t the case for the majority of the girls in my class. By the end of 6th grade three girls had mysteriously moved away and reappeared nine months later. No one talked about it, but as I got older, it became obvious what had happened. The real sex education I received at the new school, in a large city, surely helped me piece it all together.
I’m all grown up and a mother now. I can’t imagine filling my children’s heads with such misinformation or causing them to feel such shame and confusion over the changes their bodies go through at that age. Answering questions honestly is the best thing we can do as parents and educators of the next generation. We can’t expect young people to make the right choices for themselves if they aren’t armed with adequate knowledge of the most basic things. A clear understanding of how ones own body functions can’t get anymore basic, I’d say.