How a ‘seminal moment’ caused decades of confusion for Jake DiMare.
I was a strangely sensitive, precocious, and curious child. As early as I can remember I had a desire to be “in” on whatever adults were discussing. I craved acknowledgment and required consistent adult approval to be OK with the world.
This approach to life sometimes negatively impacted my relationships with adults and children. For me, nothing was worse than being seated at the table with the children on holidays. Nothing was better than knowing things about the grown-up world I could lord over my peers with. As a result, I was often somewhat odd to either age group.
My estranged father was a heroin addict. Occasionally he’d show up on a weekend and take my brother and me out to hang around with him while he shoplifted or picked up mysterious suitcases at Logan Airport. Once, when I was in second grade, I asked one of his buddies for a girly magazine. For whatever reason (that most likely started and ended with being high as hell) he handed me a copy of Penthouse.
Later, when I hid under my back porch with that magazine, the images it contained made me feel predictably thrilled in ways I was woefully unfamiliar with. But this wasn’t the real value of the content to me. I was much more excited to have a pile of adult secrets in my possession. I was “in.”
And so I read it from cover to cover, paying close attention to the stories. As soon as I felt I had achieved a sufficient level of expertise, I rolled out my findings to the other kids at St. John’s Elementary. For the uninitiated, the school being named after a saint indicates it was a private Catholic school. And yes, it was staffed almost exclusively by nuns.
The scene did not unfold as I had imagined it would. Kids were not standing around me in wide-eyed excitement as I recounted the meaningless strings of words I had memorized from those sordid pages. The nuns did not laud me with praise for all of my knowledge on the subject. Instead, what I remember is some boys laughed nervously and attempted to steer the conversation back to whatever it was we should have been discussing. The girls seemed incredulous and uncomfortable. Basically, I was seven years old, and I had already managed to become a total creep.
Of course, I lacked the fundamental context to process the information I was sharing in any meaningful way. My recitals were shaded with ludicrous commentary regarding the meaning of the activities I described and the intent of the participants. I doubt I was the first kid to ever introduce his classmates to the concept of human sexuality at a tender age, but my imagination was particularly vivid. I wish I could have witnessed the reaction of the poor headmaster when my classmates’ enraged parents began calling the school.
It was only a matter of days before my mother was notified that I was no longer welcome at the school. The day she came to pick me up, she was called out of work. As we exited the side door of the cafeteria, a second grade classmate literally called out in a thick Boston accent: “Hey Jake! How’s ya sex life?”
Now, my Mother was a very tough girl. I talk a bit about the experiences which shaped her life in a previous article, but suffice to say, she wasn’t taking any shit off of anyone. In spite of a crippling disability and being a single parent, she worked hard. Eventually she put herself through school and worked as a psych nurse with Boston’s homeless schizophrenic population.
It should come as no surprise, as we made our way home that day, I was scared. She calmly asked me one question: “Did you understand what Peter just asked you?” I answered sheepishly and honestly: “No.”
When we arrived at the house, I figured I was a goner. This was the first of many times I was to be invited by education administrators to leave school up to the children who had a future. I noticed it was a beautiful spring day as the possible penalties for expulsion ran through my mind. My mother sat me down at the kitchen table for what I was convinced would be a scathing lecture and who the hell knows what else. What I got was so much worse than anything I could have imagined was coming.
I always supposed my Mom had done the math and realized, after what happened, she had no choice but to fill me in on the truth. The situation had completely forced her hand, and now I needed to be introduced to the birds and the bees at age seven. The thing is … she was a nurse. Once she made up her mind to explain the truth to me, well, things got pretty clinical.
Most of what I heard next was a complete blur. I’m guessing there’s some kind of mental block that kicks in when any boy’s mother starts talking to him about sex. Yet there was one detail that I was positively fascinated by. Amongst everything she explained in horrifying medical detail, my mind was completely and utterly blown away by the knowledge there was another fluid that would one day spring forth from my loins.
I don’t know why this was the most interesting detail to me. I suppose I thought I had completely come to grips with the different functions of the human body, and now there was something completely new and unexpected involving my plumbing—an area of the human anatomy already steeped in privacy and mystery.
That day my mother let me off the hook on the entire experience by asking me to promise one thing. I was anxious to get this whole ordeal behind me, so when I was told I should simply refrain from discussing sex with my classmates and bring any questions on the topic directly to her, I was completely prepared to acquiesce. However, what I actually decided was I would simply never talk about sex again. With anyone. Ever.
Years later, I got a book in my Christmas stocking titled something like, “What’s happening to my body? For boys.” I promptly read the one chapter about what was happening in the girl’s camp and then burned it.
As the conversation wrapped up, Mom asked me if I had any questions, and I could only think of one. How much of this “other fluid” would I create? Rushing to get back to work, she dumped out half of the mug of coffee she was drinking and showed me the other half. “Oh, about that much.” I stared at the amount of fluid in wide-eyed disbelief.
Oh. That much, eh? The volume of coffee left in that mug was burned into my psyche. Years later, when I had my first orgasm, I was quite dismayed to discover I did not produce anything near four ounces of semen. Hell, I didn’t even produce one ounce. Clearly, something was very, very wrong with me.
Women might not completely understand what this experience meant to a teenage boy, but I’m guessing more than one guy out there can imagine. In this most important aspect of a young man’s life I was already finding reasons to feel inadequate. Discovering, quite literally, I didn’t measure up.
And what can a teenage boy do in this situation? Remember, I was determined to never discuss sex again. I certainly wasn’t going to get my facts straight because even breaching the subject with anyone else meant I would have to admit I was engaged in sexual behavior. Even if I hadn’t made my silent pact, teenage boys don’t just ask adults these questions.
So I just kept my mouth shut and worried. Remember, this was before the Internet. I couldn’t just go to WebMD and search for how much baby batter I was supposed to be slinging.
As time stretched on, I just dealt. None of my girlfriends made a big deal about it, so I just figured I’d never produce enough sperm to make a baby and pressed on. Fortunately, this ridiculously faulty line of reasoning never resulted in an unwanted pregnancy.
I was well into my 30s when I finally realized there was probably nothing wrong with me. I was newly single and had discovered online video pornography. Unlike my prior introduction to porn, I was slightly better equipped to understand what I was seeing. It only took a small amount of additional research to confirm my conclusion: I was completely adequate (at least, in this regard).