I was dropped off early at university, a squeaky clean seventeen-year-old scholar, easily identified as a Southern California surfer dude with huaraches on my feet, knobs on my knees, and of course, a bushy, bushy blond hair do. My life now consisted of a single suitcase full of clothes, three boxes of books, an old typewriter, and a guitar (hey, it was the sixties).
Excited? Confused? My innocence glowing just below the shaky facade of man-about-town buying Twinkies at the local Ralph’s market (two handfuls of dry Cheerios and a Twinkie for dessert). Not only that but now I could openly smoke whenever I wanted to and not just when my father was out-of-sight. So off to the Student Union I went to buy a pack of Pell Mells
While I was rummaging around the student book store, a fellow I recognized from my French class came up to me and asked if I was gay. Like Dagwood, my brain sputtered, chattered, and whirred, eventually deciding this unfamiliar term did not apply to me and answered matter-of-factly, “No.”
The exchange was extremely civilized and I shortly realized that I had been propositioned as a likely homosexual. I wasn’t upset but realized that this was just another of those unfortunate events where I had been erroneously shielded from a controversial part of life and ended up learning about it in the field, so to speak, often with the inherent danger of mis-information or misunderstanding.
As a child of the 1950s, grammar school sexuality was almost non-existent. Oh, the boys would gather to peek at Betsy’s white cotton underpants as she swung from the monkey bars or engage in a terrifying bout of Squirrel behind the wood shop, but the biggest event was the hotly anticipated sex education scheduled for the Fifth grade. You see, back then girls didn’t have curves, their legs were skinny and their chests were flat. A Fifth grader promising the hot juiciness of prurient films and sexy demonstrations caught our attention; girls remained good targets for dodgeball.
I actually didn’t have this sex education until sixth grade and again as a junior in High School Biology. It was a big letdown and I was still confused. Interestingly, I often learned and used the dirty words for sex and other bodily functions long before I learned to what they were actually referring. Why I was in my ’60s before I learned what an Upper-Decker was.