The birds and the bees – 70 years ago

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 14, 2003

Surprising title? You just wait ’til I get into it. All this came to mind when I visited a friend in the nursing center. She never misses my column and I thank her repeatedly. So when she said, &uot;Please write again about growing up in New England and about things that happened to you.&uot; I told her I’d write one just for her and I decided it would be about the way we Coyne girls were taught about dating and sex. Don’t know what the boys got, but ours (the girls) was what could be called &uot;Sex? What’s that?&uot;

Let me prepare you. First realize this took place 70 years ago. I was 16 and beginning to see a certain boy a number of times. You dated a boy once, saw someone else and all was normal according to my mother. When you continued to see the same boy, it was time for the &uot;birds and bees&uot; conversation. Before I get you to attend the convention you must be made aware of a few things. The word S-E-X (deserves capitals) was never mentioned in my house – never! Pregnancy was &uot;in the family way&uot; and girls not married but in the family way were &uot;poor souls who didn’t think.&uot;

When I was 16 and allowed to date, I was summoned to meet Mother (she was never Mom) in the parlor. Dad had suggested to her that it was &uot;duty time&uot; for the birds and the bees to come to the forefront. I shall put my thoughts in parentheses after each earth-shattering statement from my mother.

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It began, &uot;I asked you in here today to speak about you seeing- so often.&uot; (WOW! The warden speaks.)&uot; Dad (he was never called Daddy) and I felt we should say a few words about-.&uot; (I’ll die if she ruins this one – he’s great!) &uot;You see as you understand the birds and the bees, (who understands them?) you’ll see why we speak of this speak of this young man.&uot; (No one really spoke of him yet – is she leading up to dropping him? The word &uot;dump&uot; came years later.) &uot;Now your relationship with him is wonderful, I’m sure.&uot; (Kill him off in my life and I’ll run away.) &uot;If you watch the birds and the bees you’ll understand about boys and girls dating.&uot; (Is she crazy? I refuse to climb a tree and intrude on a mating moment. The bees I’ll ignore. So much for sex.)

Now comes the climax.

&uot;When you marry your husband will tell you all you need to know.&uot; (Forget the &uot;telling.&uot; Show me as Dad must have shown you. Eight Coynes resulted in that big showing.)

So much for sex. What a complete disaster and all from an intelligent – and worse, sorry to say – an Irish woman. Such bull – &uot;your husband will l tell you.&uot; Forget the telling and show me gently or I look elsewhere.

My generation learned about sex from their older girlfriends. Sorry to say our mothers fell down on the job.

Florence Arena is a resident of Hillcrest Retirement Center and a regular News-Herald columnist.