One of the most awkward things in a boy’s life is the onset of sexual attraction to girls. And it was doubly awkward for me after I had been assaulted and sealed the trauma away behind a wall of denial.
Fortunately for me, I had a couple of things going for me, although I did not count them as good things at the time. One thing was that, as the oldest grandchild in the Aldrich-farm family, I was literally surrounded by girls. Of all the grandkids, there were only three boys in the family of cousins outnumbered completely by the eight girls. I played Robin Hood and Zorro, and games in the goblin-filled canyons of the farmhouse basement. I was surrounded by girls filling in the roles of crew and companions and Merry Men all played by girls who giggled too much for the part. My little brother and Uncle Larry’s youngest child were the only other boys, and they were two of three youngest among us, seven and eight years younger than me. I really only had girls to play with and tell stories to (mostly lies, and some of them terrifying lies as the girls still tell me to this day.)
Sister girls and cousin girls are not potential romantic entanglements, and thus females you get to know as real people, not like the girls on TV, in movies, or (God forbid) girls in porn magazines. I can still honestly say that my two sisters are my friends and I can count on them.
Growing up mostly surrounded by girls was good for me in a number of ways. The embarrassment of seeing a girl naked, or worse, being seen naked by a girl, happened a lot less stressfully when the girl was a sister or a cousin.
And when in 1969 I had to move from the tiny elementary school in Rowan, Iowa to the much larger junior high in Belmond, it was Vicky sitting next to me in Art Class who befriended me and helped me to make it through the difficult adjustment to a place where boys bullied you and most girls made fun of you and I nearly cringed myself into a tiny tennis ball because of my terrible secret. She loved to watch me draw and was amazed at everything I did. It was something she did with a smiley, bubbly personality to the point that Mr. Thorpe, the Art teacher, got mad at her for always watching and talking to me rather than drawing the assignments he gave us. And it wasn’t romance. It was friendship. At least, it was as far as I knew.
And I think the point of it all is that the best thing that can happen to you in your sex life is having a childhood friend who is a girl. You get a chance to know and understand girls more than you would if you only hang out with groups of other guys until somewhere in high school you suddenly try dating one of that other species of human you know absolutely nothing about.
I saw it all in action as a middle school teacher. Kids beginning to have hormones and the regrettable behaviors hormones cause were always getting into fistfights with other boys, catfights with other girls, and eventually screaming fits and break-ups between a boy and a girl where things often really do get broken, and boys usually lose those fights.
But the couples that endured together for the entire time I knew them had a secret. Dave and Tamara were an unlikely pair, but both among the smartest kids I knew. So they stayed together to have someone to talk to who understood all the words they used. Very bright kids. Each with a huge vocabulary.
And Sweetie Jimenez and El Boy, not gang members, but rather, two cute little undersized kids with big heads and big eyes that hung together because they were too sugary sweet for any gang member to lay a hand on either one of them. In fact, the local gang leader made sure the gang protected them both. They had been friends since they were toddlers living next door to each other.
And that was their secret. Both pairs. They would tell you they were not boyfriend and girlfriend. They were best friends. And Sweetie and El Boy each eventually married their best friend. They have six kids. All little with big heads. (Those, of course, are not the kids’ real names. After all, they might somehow read this sometime, and I don’t want them to know I figured out their secrets.)