Travels with George in Search of Ben Hur and Other Meanderings

By Paul Ruffin | Go to book overview

Learning about Sex

If I had to choose the one subject that occupied my mind more than any other after the age of ten or so, it would have to be sex. Never under this sun was there a child more ignorant of the act, the organs involved, or its marvelous potential for pleasure and fulfillment. And never was there a child who tried harder to understand.

Not having a sister, and living in the country with few close neighbors, I seldom found myself around girls, except for those at school and church. Every boy I knew well had a sister, so they did not have to suffer the torment I did. What was so unfair was that they didn’t want to talk about their sisters’ private places to me. I mean, they had seen the light, and there I was crawling along in the dark looking for some glimmer.

My mother was so modest about her body that, with the exception of the time I saw her naked in bed with Daddy, with nothing showing in the way of truly female equipment, I never saw anything of it beyond her face and appendages after I was old enough for my mind to record such things. She kept well-covered, indoors and out, so she could have been completely without the usual female equipment, and I would not have been the wiser. (I never saw my father’s genitals until one day in the hospital while he was dying—in some sort of delirium he yanked the sheet aside and I saw his penis flopped over like a little dead mouse.)

My parents were, as I described them in the first novel I attempted, as sexless as stumps, and that is not an exaggerated simile. They never mentioned sex at all except for a blanket condemnation of any touching down there.

“It’s nasty,” Mother would say. “That’s a nasty place. You ain’t sposed t’touch yourself there or touch anybody else there or let anybody else touch you there. It’s nasty.” (Nasty was the vilest word they seemed to be able to conjure to describe something bad. The way she said the word, I always got visions of sweat and “potato rows” and pus and scabs.)

-143-

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Travels with George in Search of Ben Hur and Other Meanderings
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xii
  • Things Literary, More or Less 1
  • Travels with George in Search of Ben Hur 3
  • The Mosquito 15
  • The Lady with the Quick Simile 19
  • Workshopping a Cowboy Poem 22
  • Was Emily Mad or Merely Angry? 28
  • On the Death of Edgar Allan Poe 31
  • Making Preparations for the Tour 34
  • The Girl in the Clean, Well-Lighted Place 37
  • Explaining a Poem to a Student 40
  • Some Rare and Unusual Books 43
  • Tales from Kentucky Lawyers 45
  • The Boy Who Spoke in Hymns 48
  • Making a Dam in Segovia 51
  • Just Thinking about Shit 54
  • To San Juan and Back 60
  • On Likker and Guns 81
  • Drinking 83
  • Rats! 100
  • The Bowhunter Asks for My Bladder 117
  • The Day the Sharpshooter Killed Something He Didn’t Intend to 120
  • Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, off to the Gun Show We Go … 128
  • From "Growing Up in Mississippi Poor and White but Not Quite Trash" (an as-Yet-Unpublished Memoir) 135
  • Trains 137
  • Learning about Sex 143
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