It started out in music class. That day none of the instruments were set up for us to play. The projector was set in the middle of the room and there was no song on the screen. They told all the boys to go to the gym. What was even stranger was that the female gym teacher was in the music room. In all my 5 years at elementary school, I had never seen any of the gym teachers leave the gym. As far as I was concerned, they lived there.
I was nearing the end of 7th grade when it happened for the first time. I was getting ready for school and glanced at my reflection in the mirror. Something seemed different, so I paused to take a better look. I look fat, I thought to myself.
Something miraculous occurred that day, because my next thought was, No, I'm not fat, this is body dysmorphia. If I felt and looked normal yesterday, there is no way I could suddenly be fat today. I have my 6th grade Health class to thank for that moment.
In regard to health education, much of the information came from some brochures. I can recall reading some materials that came with the textbooks each semester in primary school. These materials talk about how our body grows, how we change from little kids to teenagers, and talked about girls’ period and such. And they also tell us about the damage of drugs. So that’s pretty much the first health education of mine. Schools were reluctant and by-the-book.
I grew up in Bangalore, India in the late 1990s and early 2000s, a period of rapid growth and development in the country. As the “Silicon Valley of India”, Bangalore’s booming IT industry attracted foreign investment and brought about intense economic and social change. As a child, I was always told I was lucky to witness these changes. Our world was getting better and India was going to be a superpower soon! To my young mind, these were promising ideas but I could never imagine them into reality. If our world was getting better, why was the slum right in front of my school expanding every day?
Growing up in a fairly conservative family in small-town Alaska one might make assumptions about the information and education I received about health, puberty, and sex. Luckily for me, those assumptions couldn’t be further from the truth. As I reflect on my own growing up experience I realize how incredibly lucky I was to have such supportive and understanding parents, friends, and teachers. I was in third or fourth grade when my mom sat me down for “the talk,” which of course made me turn bright red and assure her I had absolutely no questions.