Thank you, readers; hello second grade girls

Sunday, April 9, 2006

SHE SAID: After last week's column, we knew this one would be tough.

Parleying about our usual day-to-day quirks doesn't seem appropriate after writing about the loss of a life we loved and after an outpouring of support from strangers through e-mails and cards.

The e-mails and cards weren't what we were looking for when we wrote the column, but turns out it's exactly what we needed. So thank you.

And even though last week's miscarriage is still having a major impact on our lives, we didn't want to dwell on it in this column. Hopefully, we'll have happier baby news to share with you some day. But for now, life goes on.

A few weeks ago, a girl called stepson Drew at our house.

I was impressed by two things. First,, I would never have dared to call a boy when I was in elementary school. And second, at 8 years old, Drew already has girls calling him.

Drew was not impressed. In fact, all he said was, "Can we talk about this at school? I'm busy."

And then he handed the phone back to me and rolled his eyes.

I asked him what was wrong, and he explained that this particular young lady calls him frequently. I asked why that was a problem.

"She's annoying," he said.

Last week, the girl's name came up again while we were eating lunch. Again, Drew labeled her annoying.

"Why is she annoying?" I asked. "What exactly does she do that annoys you?"

Well for starters, he said, she sits by me at lunch.

OK. Sounds as if she likes you, I said.

And she puts potato chips on her sandwiches, he added.

"I used to pick up dead frogs when I was little to impress boys. She's probably doing the same thing," I explained.

"And she says she's gay," he finished.

Bob and I stared at each other.

"Drew, do you even know what that means," I asked.

"Yes. It means she likes girls," he answered.

"Huh," I said.

Just "huh."

This shed a whole new light on the lives of second-graders. Who knew discussions about sexual orientation went on at such a young age?

Though homosexuality is hardly taboo now, it was still sort of shocking to learn it's a part of elementary students' conversations. Sorting through those sexual issues is hard enough as a teenager, but facing them as an 8-year-old?


HE SAID: How confusing it must be to be an 8-year-old.

I wondered what Drew's friend was trying to accomplish by "coming out of the closet."

I suspect it was a ploy to try to convince Drew that she wasn't interested in him. That way she could justify being his lunchroom neighbor.

Psychologists may know better, but I find it impossible that a second-grader would know the first thing about being gay. But you know what? I don't know the first thing about being gay.

I suspect I started checking out girls in fourth grade. There was this brown-haired, brown-eyed girl named Angela. Then the fifth grade rolled around and a red-head named Erin stole my heart. I think that was the year I realized, for the first time, that Daisy Duke, not Luke Duke, was my favorite "Dukes of Hazard" character.

But in the second grade, I knew nothing about sexuality, homo or hetero. I just knew that girls had cooties, that they couldn't be trusted with the knowledge of the special handshake that some of us boys made up. There was a pact that no girls be allowed into the special handshake club. So naturally, the girls did their own patty-cake thing which was, in retrospect, much more complicated and sophisticated than our handshakes. At that age, girls were our rivals, not our objects of affection.

When Drew dropped the G-bomb on us, it took me by surprise.

But like it or not, homosexuality is part of our culture now.

I believe a person has the right to have a relationship with whomever he or she chooses. I'm not saying it's right. I have mixed feelings about that given my religious background. I can't in good conscience endorse homosexuality. But I fall far short of condemning gay people. I have far too many shortcomings to post judgment.

I am, however, disappointed in how sexual issues have blemished our country's innocence. I'm not just talking about homosexuality here. I wish Drew knew nothing about sexual orientation at his age. I wish our world wasn't tattered with sexual innuendo, provocative billboards and sleazy magazines in our supermarkets.

Sex sells. Industries are capitalizing on our sex drives and lack of discipline. Sex is always in demand. Our free-market society is producing the supply.

How far will it go?

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