OUR VALEDICTORY year of 1982, Saint Jude Catholic School (SJCS) batch 82 was caught in a perfect storm of defining actor and unique moment.
Our hormones-gone-haywire and fascination with puberty was the unstoppable force that moved into the immovable object that was the set-in-stone policy of our Beloved Leader/s, principal Fr Peter Yang, to implement boys-only (and girls-only) classroom plans and chuck in the garbage the co-ed environment that had served SJCS’s students so well the previous dozen years.
Out the window went the soiree-like atmosphere that kept the inmates normal; preserving the reality that you grew up with members of the opposite sex (as well as yours); that you could eat, speak and act better and more sensibly if the fairer (or stronger) gender made you conscious; and finally that being around people other than those of the same sex prepared you to be a normal member of civilized society. We were the convenient guinea pigs in a social experiment : separate the yins from the yangs, don the safety goggles, step back and see what happens.
Three decades later, no one’s the wiser, we can’t qualitatively or quantitatively determine if separating the boys from the girls did any of us a world of good, if teaching us the way they did in Ateneo, Xavier, Miriam, St. Scholastica’s or any of the other so-called “exclusive” schools made us more focused, less naughty, or less predisposed to fornication, which was (and remains) probably the prime directive of all Catholic schools and their downstream industries.
The only thing that remains crystal-clear from that senior year so many years ago was that, from Day One, with very few exceptions, in Section B ( of which Your Loyal Blogger was a member ) from 7.30 am morning prayers till 4.30 flag retreat, we joked about, thought about and of course, talked about sex and most everything related to it.
By sex I don’t mean graphic images of sex acts, pornographic material or obsessions with sexual dysfunctions, but how we perceived the forbidden world of sexuality and how soon we would enter it. Some of us, obviously the ones who had matured sooner, had already entered such world and were naturally the sort-of authority on the matter. Others, like me, were late bloomers who didn’t have a clue on why this or that was sprouting out of our bodies or why some “default settings” were springing to life whenever certain persons, images or memories were brought to our attention.
By the way, I’m talking about these things because I heard on one of the thousands of mass media outlets we’re desensitized to, the oft-repeated urban legend that men think about sex every seven seconds or that only :07 separates one sexual thought from the next in the average man’s brain.
While it’s not an outrageous stat, personally I think there are too many other things that occupy modern living for us men (incidentally, your crazy blogger happens to be a circle-and-arrow) for us to think of doing the nasty every-so-often. A more revised number, around 19 times a day, seems a bit more plausible.
But back to our St Jude days. We were a disparate and motley crew of neophytes to the world of the worldly, each one of us harboring a unique universe of preconceived ideas regarding sex. The only common ground among us was that each was insatiable in our thirst for knowledge about what was happening with our rapidly evolving hearts and minds (and other organs). Well at least, that’s how I saw it.
On the one hand, you had classmate X, taller and bulkier than the rest, who knew almost everything that you needed to know as a man on the cusp of young adulthood. Then there was comrade Y, who was brooding and thoughtful, but also athletic and creative, and so attracted admirers like ice-cold Coke attracted thirsty construction workers in the middle of the summer day. Seatmate Zwas the wholesome boy-next-door and was humble as pie, but already had a pair of relationships under his belt, so he knew what he would be talking about every time he opened his mouth. And then there were wide-eyed babes-in-the-woods like me who were just tagging along for the ride.
Every time a joke was cracked, a double entendre was uttered, or a popular girl’s name was mentioned, you would expect the usual gaggle of snickers, follow-up jokes or punches-in-the-arms to follow, but more than that, the discussions generated would likewise never end. Why was the joke funny? (if you have to ask…) Are they really an item now? (What planet have you been on?) Or I get the joke, but can I repeat it to the girls or the folks? (better not.)
All in all, it was a time for secret thoughts, forbidden jokes and hurried peeks at verboten pictures that we dared not think, laugh or stare at, but when you think about the mind and sense-numbing of our culture today, hardly elicit more than a chuckle or twinkle in the eye now.
It was the age of magical mystery, wonderment and discovery, when everything was new to the eye and hot to the touch, and not just the obvious enticements. Higher knowledge, sophistication, financial independence and of course, sex or sexuality. They were all part of the intensity of adolescent attention. And depending on how we turned out as scientists, fashion gurus, captains of industry or oversexed suburban dads, the charter members of Batch 82, section 4B, the very first gender-separated SJCS class, are probably as OCD when it comes to their favorite distraction, as they were 30 years ago. Seven seconds, far from being the new normal, is the old normal.
Thanks to all my 82 kabatch, especially 4-B, and thanks for reading !