‘Innocence Abroad’

I was a really sheltered naive kid and my parents apparently liked it that way. Despite my entire childhood spent at art museums looking at endless nudes (and nude lovers),

ancient sculpture/India

Its amazing the things you can see at museums!

I really didn’t know a thing about the birds and the bees. So it always came as a real shock to find out what was really going on in the real world…

When I started school in Canada – I had just turned 13 years old. In this new school there were girls my age who quit because they got pregnant, which was a revelation to me. How and why’d they do that anyway?

And in case you are wondering why I didn’t learn more pertinent information through the Board of Education – our official sex education in Junior High (in Port Elgin, NB) amounted to a couple of grainy old 1950s educational movies that had very confusing animated diagrams and very little useful information – and most of us kids just laughed at them and threw things at the screen…

Last Tango in Paris movie poster

WHOA! Last Tango In Paris – really naughty

I remember my first confusion about two weeks into the new school, when a boy in class pulled a bunch of kids over at lunch to show them that he had stolen a copy of Last Tango in Paris from his parents. I was unimpressed mostly because I had no idea what the book was about.

And then when he came right up to me and stood about 2 inches from my face and said “too bad you’re not horny” I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. Total confusion – I mean here we’d moved to the country and the only things with horns were cows as far as I knew.

I had to take a trusted girlfriend aside and ask her what it meant and she told me. Well, she thought that was soo funny…


Cows have horns, right?

They may have had more knowledge of sex than me – maybe even first hand, but there was still a lot of childlike behavior about “courting” there.

One day, in Grade 7 when I was still just 13, I got a note left in the pocket of my outdoor jacket. It read: Do you like me? and it had two little boxes  – one for yes, and one for no, and I was supposed to check which one was correct. First of all it didn’t say who’d written it so I didn’t have a clue. I thought it was just some dumb joke. But no, it turned out that it was a very handsome young fella who apparently checked his own box that he liked me… this came to me from some go between friends, and was confirmed by my friends’ giggles and his longing googly eyes at me. (Too bad he wasn’t my first kiss – darn).

I wasn’t really interested in boys at that point and certainly didn’t want to be tied to someone – the couples in Grade 7 walked around holding hands constantly and hardly talked to anyone else they were so deeply in love (and clearly some of them got pregnant). So this handsome fella soon moved on to more horny love interests. In fact he eventually had to the leave the country after having gotten some girl pregnant – at least that’s what the gossip was.

I had another memorable moment in Grade 10 when I was all of 16. I had a spare period during the day and spent a lot of time hanging around with some of the older, wilder guys – you know the smokers and druggies and musicians – the cool guys. There was nothing to it – it was just that they actually read interesting things and thought about interesting things and I liked talking to them.

Betty with braids, c 1974

Betty with braids, about 14 years old, c 1974

For Christmas that year my mother had given me a long sleeved shirt from a store at the Mall. It was a bright turquoise blue and had a big varsity type number across the chest. Hey, I thought it looked good on me and my mother seemed to think so too. But one day I wore it to school and I was standing around on my free period with this Grade 12 dude and he kept snickering to himself. I was getting pretty annoyed, and when I got mad he told me. In fact he couldn’t believe I didn’t know what I was wearing – he thought I was in on it….

It was a giant 69. Yes folks, my mother gave me a shirt with a giant 69 across my boobs – the universal symbol of a very well known sex position. Thank goodness for this guy telling me. I never wore it to school again and I never told my mother about it either – obviously my parents didn’t have a clue.

Also in Grade 10 (a real turnaround year), I was reading a book for English class called the Mountain and the Valley by Ernest Buckler. One weekend I was in the kitchen reading it and my mother was ironing and I came across a word I didn’t know.

The Mountain and the Valley by Ernest Buckler

The Mountain and the Valley

“Hey Mom what does this word mean?” – I show her the book and she just looks blank. “Let’s ask your father, Dear” and so she goes up to the studio to get my father. Both of them come down to the kitchen and exchange glances at each other –  “What exactly are you reading?” asks my father, so I tell him its a famous Canadian novel and I’m reading it for English class. “Oh” – more exchanged glances and then he shrugs and says “Go look it up in the dictionary” and leaves the room. I go look it up in the dictionary ….

…m a s t e r b a t i o n…. hmmm, I read the meaning of the word and still didn’t get it. So I just left it alone – it was clear my parents either didn’t know its meaning or they didn’t want to say, so I just read on. Luckily I didn’t ask what it meant in class – that would have been deadly… and thank goodness I didn’t have a shirt with that on it too.

the mountain and the valley image google

Ok, this has nothing to do with my post except when I googled images of the book The Mountain and the Valley this came up and I thought it was just too good to pass on…


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