‘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…


1973: My First School Dance – an epic night

Port Elgin Regional Memorial Junior High School

Port Elgin Regional Memorial Jr High

My Junior High in Port Elgin, NB, was having a dance and I’d never been to a school dance before. I was 13.

Neighbor kids who went on the same bus as me were going to go – their older sister who was all of 16 (and promised my parents she was responsible) was going to drive them and they asked if I’d like to go too.

Surprisingly my parents said okay. It was June and pretty mild outside.

Giant 1970s car

The car we went to the dance in was giant like this one.

They showed up in the early evening to pick me up in a huge 70s car with no seat belts (at least none in use). By the time they finished picking up everybody the car was packed with kids – at least 5 of us in the backseat some sitting on laps and at least 4 in the front.

I was new to all this and had never done anything like this before. The responsible older sister drove us to a place near a lighthouse and parked and we all got out and she opened the trunk and out came bottles of really cheap wine – Baby Duckling or Gosling or something awful.

Port Elgin Lighthouse and Fort Gaspareaux

Port Elgin Lighthouse and Fort Gaspareaux

We slid down to the bottom of the grassy earthworks and the bottles were passed around. When everyone was feeling tipsy and it was getting dark we piled back into the car and went off to the dance.

The parking lot of the school was full of muscle cars and big 70s cars – some guys just sat in or on their cars all night smoking and being cool… some revved their engines continuously.

1973 Pontiac Trans AM-Super Duty

1973 Pontiac Trans AM-Super Duty

1973 Dodge Charger

1973 Dodge Charger

Inside the gym was where the dance was happening. I hung around and danced with my friends.

Towards the end of the evening a guy asked me to slow dance with him. I’d never seen him before – he was either a drop out or in high school  and he had no front teeth – no doubt from some fight he’d been in at the local pool hall. Well here’s where it gets interesting… we were slow dancing and he kissed me.

My first kiss – my first kiss with a guy who smelled and tasted of cigarettes and who had no front teeth (maybe that’s why I stopped liking the hockey player Daryl Sittler when he lost his teeth – too many memories). In fairness to this guy it wasn’t a bad kiss at all.

Luckily it was the end of the dance by then and the teachers turned on all the lights and ushered us back to the parking lot where a frenzy of cars were revving up. All of us got back into the big car with the responsible girl driving and for some reason we went for a speedy drive around the area.

I am taking the edge off this – she was driving REALLY FAST and probably more than a little drunk – the car was flying over bumps in the road like some 70s car chase in a cop movie.

train at night 2All of a sudden we were zooming across train tracks and as we looked to the side we were blinded by the brilliant lights of a train – its horn blaring…. everyone screamed and the rear end of the car bounced off the tracks just as the train went by behind us… it was that fast…

At least it was a sobering experience for the driver – no more terrifying racing around… it was a quiet ride home for everyone.

I never told my parents anything about that epic night because I knew I’d never get to do anything ever again (think about it parents: teens piled into a car driven by a wild teenager and no one wearing seat belts; drinking wine in a ditch; kissing a strange boy; nearly getting killed and only 13).

So because I kept my mouth shut, I got to go to more dances and go in more crazy cars (unintentionally I might add)- but there’s never anything like the first time you nearly die and get a first kiss all in one night.

And in case you were wondering – apparently me kissing this guy meant that we were going out and practically engaged. He showed up at the school the following Monday and held my hand and I had to explain that I really didn’t feel the same way – sorry

Betty c 1973

Betty c 1973 (badly damaged photo – I didn’t have blotches and black spots all over me at 13 – that came later in my 40s – just kidding)