Friday, November 10, 2006

Flashback Friday: Like a Virgin

Each week the Flashback Friday: Feminist Edition will feature a story that has something to do with being or becoming a woman or feminist. This series will continue until I run out of stories. I love having guest bloggers. If you have a story you want to tell and you want to be a guest blogger here, please email me; or feel free to link to your own story in the comments.

When I was 8, my family got moved by my dad's employer, away from the (comparatively) thriving metropolis of Kingston to a farm outside of a tiny sleepy town. I was pretty much miserable until grade 7. I don't know exactly why the kids hated me so much but I think it may have had something to do with the fact that the previous school board tested every child's IQ in grade 2. So I was labelled gifted. The new school board didn't do such things but because of my label, they felt they needed to do something special for me. So the teacher told my classmates about my specialness and took me out of classes and really I just wanted to fit in. Anyways, I didn't really make friends until I started senior public school (why couldn't I have gone to junior high like Degrassi???).

One day, in grade 5, I went out for recess and saw a girl who was a year older than me crying on the swings. I went over. I don't know why 'cause she was way cooler than me but I did. And I guess I asked her what she was crying about. She said, between sobs, that she was going to die a virgin. At first, I thought she said she was going to die of a virgin, like it was a disease, but I think she specified.

I didn't know what a virgin was. I mean, I recognized the word because Madonna was my favourite singer at the time, and I'd seen the video for Like a Virgin several times on Video Hits, but I didn't know what it was. And not because I hadn't had sex ed. Not only did I undergo sex ed in grade four, but -- horror of slouching down in your seat with your hand over your face horrors -- my mom taught it. Yes, she was a public health nurse and taught the friggin' sex ed class at my school. My class. Plus, I lived on a farm with cats and horses. You tend to learn a lot about sex and death on a farm.

Anyways, despite those things, I didn't know what a virgin was. I tried to piece it together from Madonna's video: lacy gloves, lying on your back, prowling lions. Oh - and gondolas in Venice. When your heart beats next to miiiiiine... ohh ohh ohh.... ahhh. I thought it had something to do with cats, maybe cuddling them close to you?

The girl in the playground lamented that no boys would ever like her. According to this girl's sobs, dying a virgin was just about THE worst thing that could happen to a girl. It just didn't occur to me that it had anything to do with sex, or that anyone my age would actually want to have sex (eeewwwww!) or imagine wanting sex sometime in the future.

That night, at dinner, I asked my family, "What's a virgin?" And was met with stunned silence for a moment. "Well?" Finally my mom said, "It means something that's never been touched before." So I spent that night continuing to process just what a virgin is, and why it was so bad to die as one, with the primary resource of Madonna's video. That video still doesn't make sense to me. And in retrospect, I'm rather disappointed with my mom's copout answer. I mean, she was a public health nurse. I got the talk when I was 7 and when I said, "That's gross, I'll never do that," she said, "Well you might feel differently when you're older." And really, it just confused me. A parent shouldn't leave her child to work out these kinds of things from a Madonna video.


Mad Hatter said...

Oh Sin, I do so look forward to this series every week. This entry is priceless. I know you likely didn't mean the following sentence to be read humourously (maybe you did) but I too grew up on a farm and chuckled out loud at: "You tend to learn a lot about sex and death on a farm."

Thanks for this. Having a toddler sleep in-between you and your husband can, well, bring back many a memory of those virginal days. I will be thinking about Madonna and lions all day now.

cinnamon gurl said...

Actually I didn't mean it that humourously... to be honest, I was thinking about the dead babies I saw as a child. But I did also have a humourous memory of trying to get two cats to mate. I didn't know the female had to be in heat yet...

I'm glad you like the series. I almost didn't bother this week... Any time you wanna tell another story, just let me know.

sunshine scribe said...

I like your series too. This one especially.

I kept nodding about your puzzlement with the Like a Virgin video.

But you had a public health nurse for the mother that taught your CLASS sex ed. Wow ... there must be some kind of special award for living through that.

penelopeto said...

great post.
that you thought she said she was going to die OF a virgin is priceless.

i was more of a 'toronto rocks' girl - samantha taylor bugged me. do you remember how she loved to tell us that her sister was a 'choose life' girl in the wake me up before you go-go video?