at all the people around you, and realize that you are very alone, that you do not fit, like you are an alien species.
Our elementary school had a small library and we could opt out of noon recess after lunch and go there, just so the recess monitor knew where you were. Today, I opted for the library. I wanted to know, had to know, about growing up, what men looked like. Lunch was something I never passed on because one, it was free for me, and two, sometimes it turned out to be the only hot meal of the day. Mother insisted that I never miss it. Afterward, I went to the library.
I searched the shelves for anatomy or sex education but there was nothing there. I asked the librarian.
“Do you have an assignment that requires that reference material?” she asked.
“No Ma’am, I need to know, that’s all,” I said.
“You must have a permission slip from a teacher. Then you must have a permission slip from one of your parents allowing us to show you material of that nature,” she said. “That is two permission slips.”
“You just do!” she said.
“I don’t understand. Why is it such a secret?”
“I shouldn’t have to paint you a picture. Those reference books have photographs of male and female genitals! You are too young to walk in here and sign those books out!”
“So, when I pee, I’m too young to look down.”
“He has a point,” Principal Jenner said. He stood behind me chuckling. I freaked. I thought I was in trouble for asking. He, being a tall man, thin gray hair, leaned over to the librarian and whispered to her. I heard what he said because he couldn’t whisper very well.
“Look, I respect your rules, but he doesn’t have a father. Let me get the child development book and I’ll sit with him and answer his questions. It won’t leave here.”
The library wasn’t very modern. There were some rows of books on shelves and then low rectangular tables like cafeteria tables, and few of those. The Principal took me to the end of a cafeteria table and we sat.
“Well,” he said, “I suppose you want to start with girls. I know I did when I was your age. I had no idea what was going on between a girl’s legs.”
“Sir, I’m not so much concerned with that right now. I want to know what’s happening with my own body, and what I will look like when I grow up. I think I am going through puberty right now and I don’t know that that means.”
He straightened, “Oh! Of course, Ronald. That is very mature of you to want to understand the changes you will go through in the next few years. Let’s get right into it, then.”
We talked for a few minutes about gynecomastia. I told him my breasts were getting bigger. He said it was normal. We looked at hand drawn and real pictures of it. I felt better once I saw in print that it was normal and that half of all boys went through it. Then we got to human development and I almost swooned again. There it was, a picture of a grown man, fully naked and uncircumcised just like me.
“That’s going to be me, well something like that?” I asked.
Principal Jenner nodded, “In about four years or so, but yes, that is what you will look like. It will be so gradual you won’t notice. You’ll grow into a man.”
I looked up at the Principal and he looked down and me and smiled, “It is all very natural,” he said. I almost kissed him.
“Thank you, sir, for doing this for me today,” I said.