by J Rourke
I had a lot of questions in high school.
How can you prove a case in court when evidence can be faked?
How much do I have to exercise to justify eating whatever I want?
Where the hell is the last small key in the Water Temple?
So many questions.
Sometimes I’d ask my parents. But while my development was important to them, my adolescent musings on philosophy (and video game strategies) were taxing. Only a handful of the people I knew at church played Legend of Zelda, so I mostly avoided them. Teachers were amused by my vocabulary, but their answers rarely satisfied my curiosity.
So, normally, I’d just ask my friends.
We entertained ourselves, waxing poetic and solving the world’s problems with sarcasm and crass humor. We were like an incredibly lame superhero team.
One afternoon a group of us passed a sign that said: “Wine and chocolate, what could be better?” The loudest of us had an idea.
“How about wine, chocolate, and SEX!”
I knew that wine was supposed to be pretty good. I knew I liked chocolate well enough. And I knew that sex was awesome.
“…yeah man! And sex, of course.”
I asked about everything in high school. Except this. This felt different.
For all my questions, sex was the real mystery. God wasn’t half as interesting as what happens when two people get naked together. And how everyone gets shifty eyed when it comes up. I wanted to know more. Not just what sex is, or how it happens, or why not to have it, or how to avoid pregnancy and diseases. I wanted to have a normal conversation about sex with someone who wouldn’t get awkward about it. I had important questions. But I didn’t have anyone to ask.
My parents would talk around the subject with medical terminology and purity language. Sometimes they would cite their life as an example of what happens when you don’t do the right thing. My friends did the opposite, revealing unhelpful details of their experiences in defense of their insecurities. Actually, my best friend was probably safe, but he knew as little as I did.
And of all the other people I knew – teachers would call my parents, my youth pastor would probably turn it into a conversation about why I wanted to know before turning me over to my parents for another version of “the talk.” Nobody knew me well enough to understand what I was really asking.
My questions about sex really came down to that problem. Nobody knew me well enough. And I was going through a weird and uncomfortable transformation that left me feeling fragmented. I didn’t know me either.
In all the spaces this new developing thing was talked about, none of them seemed like places a “me” could fit. In retrospect, many people in my life tried hard to make room for this new me. My parents tried to tell their story to prove I could exist in this new way. My friends, for all their deflective posturing and grandiose stories, really did like “me.” My youth pastor wasn’t avoidant, she was brilliantly attentive to my real question, and I wasn’t ready for that.
I didn't know then that I wasn’t looking for someone to tell me about my sexuality. I wanted someone to ask me: “What is it like to be you right now?” I wanted permission to be curious about my new self outside of purity, or condoms, or STIs. I had all the information I needed to know why I felt the way I did.
I just didn’t know what I was feeling. I was dying to be invited to be me.