The plan was simple; we go to lunch, we stop by the wife’s church for a short thing she had to sit through, we go grocery shopping, we come home. Other than the church part it seemed like a fine way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and I figured even that wouldn’t be too bad. After all it’s a Unitarian Universalist church which is just a place for liberal atheist that enjoy ritual – and don’t fish or play golf – to gather on Sunday mornings, and all I had to do was sit there politely while my wife got the info about the sex-ed classes that two of my three boys were signed up for.
So yeah, it would be a fine day.
We ended up getting a later start than we wanted so we had to go straight to the church for my wife’s little meeting where we walked in and sat down among the other parents that were there for the same reason. It started like most gatherings I’ve been to in a Unitarian church, the lighting of the Chalice, a reading from some spiritual book or another, and then down to the business of the moment. Going into this I believed – and honestly so did my wife – that it would be a purely informational meeting where they told us a few details, handed out a sheet or two printed with what we needed to know about the program, wished us well, and let us go about our day. It only took me a few minutes to realize that this wasn’t the case and that this particular assembly was going to have some participation involved.
Now, here’s a little background information for y’all: I’m not the participating type. Clubs, groups, teams, organizations of any kind – I don’t like them. As an adult and fully functioning member of society I’ve learned to just suck it up and deal when I have to participate in a group but it makes me incredibly uncomfortable and I tend to actively avoid situations where I have to do things with other people. I often find even being part of my own immediate family stressful and I helped make three out of the five of the humans in the group.
Anyway, the nice lady in charge of the program wanted us to stand if she asked a question that we could answer an affirmative too, like if we grew up in the area or if we had siblings or if we felt we had a healthy and complete sexual education as children; all questions that went along with what we were there for. I played along because all I had to do was stand up every so often, there was no talking involved, and, like I mentioned above, I know how to function in society. I understand the social contract. I can participate. I hate it. But I can. And do. Still really hate it though.
All of that first part went fine.
Then we had to separate into groups based on our child’s grade level which dictated the specific program they’re in. We have one child in first grade that’s doing the kindergarten through second grade program and we’ve got another that’s in eighth grade doing the program designed for eighth and ninth graders. It was mandatory for at least one of us to go and sit in on the eighth grader’s meeting so my wife asked if I’d be willing to go and listen to what they had to say about the little kids curriculum which caused me to immediately start panicking because “I don’t know any of those people”, “what if they ask me questions”, and “I just wanted to go to lunch, I don’t even go to this church, why did you make me do this?”. Rolling her eyes she told me she could get that info later and we went up together to the room where the mandatory meeting was being held.
We walk into this room to find that it’s all middle aged mothers except for myself and one of the program’s teachers who is a very nice older gay gentleman. That on its own didn’t bother me. What bothered me was when we had to go around the room and share our names, who our children were, and what our preferred pronouns were. When it came to my turn I tried first to crawl behind my wife and hide but that didn’t work so I answered best I could even though I suddenly forgot my name, who my children were, and why I was there. Also I answered the pronoun question by saying, “um… the typical guy ones I guess…” in much the same manner I imagine my thirteen year-old will answer that question when asked. Then we were asked as a group who felt as if they had gotten a decent education about sex from their family. Not realizing I’d be the only person in the group to do so, I raised my hand.
“Oh, only one person. Well, why don’t you tell us about that!”
So there I was being stared down by a gaggle of strange women and one old queen and right then I decided to suck it up and participate. That was a mistake. I should have just said pass because what happened is I nervously started to stutter and stammer my way through the entire history of my sexual education, about how open my parents were with information about sex, how I almost felt as if they were too open and freaked me out at a young age, how my stepfather divorced my mother and then came out by showing up to dinner with his boyfriend, how most of my babysitters as a child were lesbians, how I got caught masturbating that one time, I apologized to all women about premature ejaculation, and on and on and on. The longer I talked the hotter my face felt, sweatier my palms got, and I eventually just blanked out mentally but my mouth kept talking.
My next clear memory I’m sitting behind the steering wheel of our van and my wife is asking me if I’m ok.
“Yeah, uh, I think so.”
“You want to go get some lunch? Maybe a beer or two?”
“I think that would be nice. Um, did I overshare in there?”
She took what felt like a good long while to get her response in order. “You know what sweetie? It’s fine. I wouldn’t worry about it. You don’t even go to this church. Let’s go get you that beer. Let’s get you a few. You seem like you need might need them.”