I was sitting on my cousin Emily’s road rug, imagining myself as a teeny tiny person, walking along the sidewalk in this town from the school to the mall, when Emily asked me, “Lexi, do you know what sex means?”

I shuddered at the sound of the word said out loud. As the younger sister of an annoying older brother, my guard was instantly up. Michael would always tease me about the things I didn’t know, the things I hadn’t learned yet, simply because he was 3 and a half years older than me. Emily, at 12, was a full 5 years older than me! I wasn’t about to let on how little I knew. So I lied, “yeah, of course I do.”

“So what’s it mean then?” Emily asked, obviously onto me. She blew a Hubba Bubba bubble between her braces. 

“It means…” I began, trying to paste together the little knowledge that I’d acquired on the topic. It had something to do with kissing, I was sure, but I wasn’t sure what. Finally, I settled on, “it means a bad thing adults do.”

“Nuh uh!!” Emily cried triumphantly. “It actually doesn’t mean that!”

“Yes it does!” I argued. That’s why certain channels and TV shows were banned. Too much sex. I was almost certain. “Sometimes it’s bad.”

“Sometimes it’s bad,” Emily concurred. “But the word SEX itself isn’t bad. Sex is a word that means male or female.”

I looked at her skeptically. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah, we learned about it today in health class. I’ll show you.” She jumped off her bed and ran to her bookshelf, her mop of brown curls chasing behind her. She pulled out a hard cover blue Oxford English Dictionary and flipped toward the back. She read out loud, “sex. Short for sexual intercourse. The union between a male and a female involving insertion of the penis into the vagina…”

Emily’s voice grew softer when she hit the word penis, and she was basically whispering by the time she said vagina. She frowned at the page and murmured, “oh, that’s the wrong one. Hold on.”

But my stomach had already dropped. I’d heard it loud and clear. Insertion of the penis into the vagina?! The guy’s thingy went into the girl’s.. That’s what sex was?! How?! Why?! Those were private parts. That sounded so painful, so intrusive. That couldn’t be right. What did that have to do with kissing? My head was spinning. I felt queasy. 

“Here!” Emily exclaimed a few seconds later. She read from the dictionary with authority in her tone, “sex. Either of the two categories, male or female!!”

She pointed at definition two and shoved the book in my face for clarity. I nodded half heartedly, still overly concerned with the ramifications of definition one. 

1995

4 thoughts on “The Definition

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