While writing the last entry on this topic I thought of more things I was wrong about as a child. So, having exposed my silly, ignorant past for public entertainment already, let’s keep going. Here are 3 more things that confused the absolute fudge out of me in my extreme youth.
1. Plagiarism So, when you’re a kid at school you do kind of learn early on not to copy the schoolwork of other kids. The kids tend to get mad at you because you’re stealing their essence and hard work, the teachers get pissy about it and other kids make fun of you for not having your own ideas. It’s generally a bad thing to do.
However, we cracked the code. We realised it was only bad if people were getting mad about it. We formed our own collective of writers and story tellers. We pooled our ideas and our narratives. Let’s be frank: you have to write a lot of stories when you’re a child.
Every day they want something new out of you. Quite honestly, when you’re seven there’s not that much going on in your life. You’re still struggling with handwriting and sentence making. Plot, structure and character development just don’t really make it onto your list of things to consider.
So, on those days when you didn’t have a new Barbie to brag about, or a stroll down by the river to reminisce over you could just dip into the selection of stories that other people had already written but were now relegated to the creative commons of classroom life. You were free to rehash these as you wished, and no one could get mad because you had a deal going.
I particularly remember one story that everyone rewrote in their writing books. It was Goldilocks and the Three Bears, but with dogs. They didn’t eat porridge, they ate meat. Other than that it was pretty much the same story, but it captured our imaginations dammit, and every week someone rewrote that bitchin’ story. You are probably thinking that the teachers caught on to this and shut it down. No. I don’t remember one tiny remark ever being said about it.
We’d even have complicated contracts in place for the illustration aspects of these stories. For instance, if I was drawing a picture of myself playing with a school friend to accompany a story about what I had done the afternoon before, I would discuss this with the friend in question, and we would solemnly vow to keep secret the fact that we were both actually wearing normal ponytails, instead of the side-of-the-head ponytails that are much easier to draw.
Don’t worry about the fact I’ve just drawn you hovering 3 feet off the floor with a dislocated knee. The truth in children’s drawings is always in the hair. We must build myth and legend around the hair in our drawings, so no one thinks we’re idiots.
2. Condoms Ok, so no one expects children to have a firm intellectual grasp of condoms and their uses. I mean really, the fact that you exist as a child in the first place is quite possibly due to a long family tradition of ignorance in condom related matters. But I do remember one day a friend had picked up some new and exciting knowledge from someone older regarding the existence of condoms.
We knew sex existed by this stage. We knew sod all about it, but we knew it was out there. We knew the stuff in your pants was instrumental to the act. Condoms were described to me as, “little round things that go over a guy’s dick”. I think the baby-stopping, contraceptive use of this device was probably explained soon after. However, I didn’t fully comprehend the “little round things” descriptor.
For the longest time I thought they were little elastic circles worn around the penis. Like a hair tie worn around the wrist, you know? I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how this was going to stop any baby being made. Maybe they were so tight they stopped anything spurting out? My favourite theory was that they were like those patches smokers wear, releasing hormones or something into your system.
It didn’t help that whenever you see a condom it’s usually in the wrapper, so you only see a square thing with the hint of a round thing inside. Nothing about this disagreed with my pre-conceived notion.
Needless to say I paid A LOT of attention in sex-ed after figuring out how wrong I was.
3. Where do babies come from? Ok, so this is a common source of confusion, and it took up my time in the years before the great condom conundrum. The thing is, even when I knew that sex existed and that adults were forever interested in seeing each other naked I had no idea that it was in any way linked to babies. Never crossed my mind.
I remember watching 60 Minutes one day (ok, my parents were watching it, I was just in the room) and it was about a couple who couldn’t conceive. There was probably more to the story than that, but I had Barbies who needed to drive their jeep around the living room and it was distracting me from a full understanding.
I remember being confused because I couldn’t figure out what these people had to do to get pregnant. Or what they weren’t doing. What was the precursor here? I pretty much just assumed it was one of the hazardous things that could happen if you hung around a boy too much. Like, their big, stinky boy scent would get all up in your nostrils and you body would react by sporadically growing a baby. That must be it.
I have no idea when I finally twigged to the truth about any of these, but it did happen. Phew.