Invisible Stranger

Invisible Stranger

Collecting Crises on Old Compton Street and Beyond

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Little Tinker

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Saturday, June 14, 2003
As a kid I went to the local Catholic comp. It was co-educational, of course, and, looking back, it did its very best to be forward-looking, even if most of my teachers were seriously backward.

We were one of the first schools in the area to have sex-education lessons. They even showed us a film about how bunny-rabbits were made, and encouraged us to discuss the topic with our parents. When I asked my mum where baby boys came from, and, sensing her uncertainty, suggested you could buy them over the counter at Woolworth's, she was more than happy to agree with me.

The highlight of the sex-education lessons was the question-and-answer session. To save our embarrassment, we could write our questions on a piece of paper and pop them into a cardboard box, to be read out and answered by our (female) sex-education teacher at the end of the period.

Of course, the girls put in boring questions about love and families and soppy stuff like that. We boys delighted in asking really important questions about pubic hair, and knob size, and how many times you could come in an hour. We also asked about poofters who, apparently, were sad, older gentlemen to feel sorry for, and you had to pray for them, because it wasn't their fault, and, anyway, it was probably a passing phase but, boys, if you're really, really concerned that you might be One Of Them, then go along the corridor and talk to Father Cartmell because it's one of his favourite subjects.

We once asked her about masturbation. Well, she huffed and she puffed, and folded her arms and rested them on her enormous breasts, but, to her credit, she did answer the question (after she'd warned the girls this was something they might not want to hear, as it didn't concern them). It was Evil, of course, you'd go right to Hell for it, but a couple of dozen Hail Mary's and a session with Father Cartmell might just help.

This was pre-AIDS so, when she was quizzed about STDs, or VD as it was called back then, all she would say is this was something you should see the doctor (and not Father Cartmell) about, because you caught it from "dirty people". For years afterwards I thought that just shaking hands with the chimney-sweep (yes, we still had chimney-sweeps in the Olden Days) would result in me contracting tertiary syphilis.

Is it any wonder that for years I was so screwed-up about sex?

(Oh, by the way, did I mention that Sister Gabriella-Mary, our sex-education teacher, was a Carmelite nun?)