By Maleeha Shafiq
G ym class: the bane of my existence in middle school. There I was, 13 yrs old, barely coming into understanding my own existence, but there was also Dawn Pye, the 5’7 bombshell who spoke about “making out” and “hooking up” with boys. I had no idea what she was talking about. I thought “hooking up” meant fishing with boys at the nearby lake with fishhooks. I always wondered why she and her friends never spoke about the kind of fish they caught or how they would “make out” with the fish…
When it came to changing for gym class, I changed privately in the bathrooms whilst girls would always change in front of one another. My traditional Pakistani mother always said, “No one can ever see you nangni (naked) and you shouldn’t even see yourself naked!” with her stern voice and harsh face. I was so scared of being seen with bare legs, I always stood on top of the toilet so no one could see them.
On this particular day, I decided that I was going to be bold and change in the restroom without having to stand on the toilet seat. None other than Dawn Pye called me out for having hairy legs. One of the many interesting things that happened that fateful day. It was floor hockey day and it was guys’ team first and then girls. Girls always sat on top of the stage while the boys played for 20 mins. Within those 20 mins, a congregation of girls would surround Dawn Pye and amazing questions would be asked.
This day, being bold, I decided to sit in on the questioning. Plus, I wanted to answer all the math/science questions if they ever came up (they didn’t.)
First question asked, “Are you a virgin?” Every girl had to answer yes or no. I NEVER got the Bees and Birds lecture, NEVER EVER. And I only learned about the mechanisms of intercourse from AP biology my senior year in high school. I had NO idea what “virgin” meant. I didn’t know if I should answer yes or no. I didn’t know what to say. Most girls were answering no, some yes; I had no clue what answer was right! It seemed like both answers were right. So, being the diplomatic 8th grader, I decided to answer it both ways.
“Are you a virgin?” I was asked. “Sometimes yes, Sometimes no” was my answer.
Everyone’s faces dropped. Girls looked at me with shock. Here I was, a small 8th grader and the only brown girl in my white middle school. All the girls knew I never spoke to guys and that I had never been kissed. Yet, I was answering the question as “sometimes yes, sometimes no.” Incredulous, right?
The gym teacher’s whistle blew, and – voila! – the congregation broke up and the girls began to play air hockey. I was happy with my answer that day. It wasn’t until I asked my mother “What does virgin mean” that I figured it meant something horrific and that I should never talk about that EVER again. Y’all should be happy to know I figured out what virgin meant in the 10th grade during religious studies in high school learning about the Virgin Mary.
Luckily, Dawn Pye had since moved away and I was content being the brown science geek, who was subsequently never asked about my “virgin” answer nor asked to clarify.
Looking back 11 yrs later, I still wonder what those girls were thinking when I answered that question. And if anything, why did my parents never give me any lecture regarding the birds and the bees to help me with these awkward situations?
Protection from this society is one thing; not educating and embarrassing your child is another thing.
Alhamdulilah, I am now happy to say YES to that question, but I am sad to think that as an 8th grader, I answered “sometimes yes, sometimes no.”
February 19, 2012