This can also be filed under “reasons children shouldn’t possess smartphones.”
As a kid, I never believed in the Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy. I never questioned the fact that it was my parents who put quarters under my pillow or filled up those colored eggs with jelly beans, so the fact that I steadfastly believed that Santa Claus was a living, breathing entity until I was 12 years old still baffles me.
Twelve might be pushing it because, to be honest, by the time I was in seventh grade, and therefore a high school student at the small, weird public school I attended, I did start having my doubts, even though no authority had confirmed it for me. Fear might be a better word than doubt. As Christmas approached, I remember getting the uneasy feeling that my parents were going to have “the talk” with me, essentially robbing me of that Christmas magic that Santa entails. I knew it was inevitable; I just didn’t want it to happen.
As fate would have it, that talk didn’t. The myth of Santa Claus was not gently broken to me by caring parents, but in a far more technologically savvy and perverse manner. The culprit? An trip down the online search rabbit-hole which began with an AltaVista (it was 1999!) search for, “what is a blowjob.” Happy holidays indeed.
The fact that I had to use the internet to find this truth cements how I was the world’s most gullible child. It should have occurred by my own fruition. I should have been smart enough to figure out that there was no way a 300 pound man in a velvet suit could squeeze though the pipes and emerge from the our furnace like my parents claimed when we worried about our lack of a chimney. I should have been clued into the fact that my parents didn’t in fact startle Santa one night and force him to leave unwrapped gifts by the front door but rather were probably too tired (or enjoyed Christmas Eve too much) and maybe thought to themselves who has sixth graders that still leave out milk and cookies and carrots for goddamn Rudolph? Maybe this will help them figure it out. It didn’t, and it was only in my quest for sexual knowledge that the myth of the Claus crumbled.
I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn that the kid who still believed in Santa upon entering high school knew very little about the birds and the bees. I did know what sex was and was aware that it was something that kids my age were inherently fascinated with, which is why I was happy to count myself in the group of guys who’d seen boobs before, even if they were just Kate Winslet’s via Titanic. My knowledge was basic. I was fairly ignorant of most of the bells and whistles; I only knew of very clinical procreation. My more progressive and perverted friends did not have this naiveté and so sex seemed to dominate most conversations.
At first, when they used their newly minted grown-up phraseology around me, I laughed along. Internally I was always panic-stricken that my charade would be exposed. It finally happened one day during study hall, when a friend called me out. “I guarantee Pat has no idea what half this stuff is.”
“Of course I do,” I responded.
“Yeah right. You still believe in Santa.”
They had a valid point and I probably should have just called it a day. Not only did I believe in Santa till an embarrassingly advanced age, but I was a public crusader for him. In sixth grade, merely months earlier, my class had got into a Santa discussion. The majority agreed that Santa and their parents were one. The minority, my brother and I, strongly disagreed. We claimed that we’d heard Santa rummaging about in the downstairs of our home. We told everyone about the times he’d been scared off and left the toys in the entrance way. Furthermore, our dad religiously spotted reindeer hoof prints on the roof, and he would never lie to us.
Our kicker, which we loudly announced in front of our teachers and classmates, was that our parents were too poor to afford Christmas. We’d gotten a Foosball table the year before. My mom made us shop for jeans at Ames. Clearly we didn’t have the budget for it, hence the big guy up north.
I ignored the Santa burn. Shaken, but not daunted, I told them to question me about specifics. They proceeded to do just that. Obviously I crashed and burned.
“What’s a blowjob?” they demanded.
“That’s easy,” I said, my mind racing. “It’s when a girl puts her mouth on the top of your penis and blows as hard as she can.” I probably added “duh” after that. I couldn’t for the life of me imagine why anyone would want that done, but it was the only thing that semantically made sense. My audience was loving this.
They pushed on. “What does it mean to eat a girl out?” Sweet, I thought, I think I got this.
Although blatantly not sexual, my friend Megan and I went out to eat all the time. I shared how our moms took us to Franks for dinner once a month. Megan was (and still is) a good platonic friend whom I unwittingly made out to be a friends with benefits, so to let them know that I didn’t “like her like that,” I explained that usually my brother and sister and her brother came, too. It’s both adorable and cringe-worthy, the ease with which I added shades of incest to the equation. My friends just laughed more. They told me they hadn’t expected much. I was a“prep” and a “good kid”.
Naturally seventh grade me was devastated to be called a good kid. I was determined to right this horrible indignation. I came home that day and went straight to the internet to perform the aforementioned search for ”blowjob” and “eating out.”
Afterwards I felt equally informed and confused. I also felt strangely grown up and in the know. It was time for me to leave the trappings of childhood behind and become an adult. So, because it’d been brought up that afternoon, and because just maybe I thought, and wished, that in this case the internet might just allow me to go in and gloat and say I-told-you-so to my friends, I typed in, “is Santa Claus real?”
I wasn’t surprised with the results. I was disappointed.
On the plus side, the next time we had a sex talk during study hall, I was able to shed that pesky preppy stigma by introducing the rest of the group to some new pornographic vocabulary the search had taught me. I’m not sure why they’d doubted me. I mean, it’s not like I still believed in Santa.
– photo Matti Mattila / Flickr