GROWING UP CHINESE – Chapter Eleven

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CHAPTER ELEVEN

Sex? What mother didn’t realize or suspect was I had more sex then I could handle at a young age. The world, the whole naked world beyond the doorstep became an open book, with page after page of unabridged and unexpurgated lessons and uninhibited displays by humans and nature, programmed by their creator to go unabashedly after their potential and destinies. I meant sex in all its splendor and glory. The whole wide world became my teacher. Nature was my teacher. Sex was everywhere. The dogs, cats, ducks, chickens, pigs, worms, insects, squirrels, snake and homo sapiens became my teacher. No mentor or tutor or picture book was required. No translation. Life was simple and clear and direct. The world was a splendid stage. And I the audience, my mind, like a huge sponge, absorbing all the images and natural acts of copulation, most unrehearsed, that informed my thinking and life. Intense mental masturbation? Lurking somewhere in my right brain, I early suspected everything exists for a purpose. There was life everywhere you cared to look, from the depth of the earth to the sky above, nature’s creation and work seemed to multiply like untamed weeds out in the farm. Sex is responsible for the variety of life on earth.

The best of times for me was the days of “puppy-hood” with no rules or pressures, no toil or worries, no nothing. Free to roam the world of the village. Every day was a happy day. Time to catch dragonflies, as they visited willowy, tall grass and flowers, with a long, skinny pole dipped in a sticky substance made from natural rubber. With other boys, we built dikes in ponds not far from our houses, emptying the often muddy water from one section to another, hoping to find “fighting fish” for entertainment and competition. We would keep different fighting fish in different bottles but we placed them next to each other, allowing them to see each other but unable to fight each other. It must be a torture to the fish. From the fish to hopscotch, marbles, rubber bands, tops, knives and sharing comic books. One version, using the palm of your hand, throw the rubber bands as far as you could, and the winner was the one who could land on top of your competitors’ rubber bands. Another version: on a concrete or dirt floor, knees on the ground, blow your rubber band and to win you must land on top of your competitors’ rubber bands. Another game we enjoyed doing was the cat’s cradle. It is a game in which a different design is achieved each time a string is looped over the fingers, passing back and forth between you and your partner. Ball games. Pocketknives. Racing with a stick pushing a discarded old bicycle wheel (without tire) on country roads. On warm nights, filling a glass bottle with fireflies. Only once, I recall, a few of us, boys and girls, played doctor and nurse in my neighbor’s house in the absence of the parents who were out shopping in the next town. Something to do with pregnancy, delivery, and playing house, like adults. There was some touching, here and there. All done innocently. Details buried in the past. There

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was nothing to impede us children in search of thrill, thrill, thrill. And more thrill in the village.

One of the sights indelibly lodged in my mind was a group of us fun-seeking boys literally torturing two dogs having sex. I was more than a curious spectator. I was a cruel
craze-driven participant with the others, hitting the dogs with whatever instruments of torture we could use on them, unfeelingly, in a frenzy, like in a boisterous party. And the dogs, meekly, would search for answers, imploring for a modicum of our human kindness. I would never know why we did it. Just something to do in the boring farm, I guess. Instant gratification? Copulation in public? No shame? In front of innocent looking village boys? What were they thinking? The bitch whimpered as the dogs desperately tried to break loose from each other. Not easy, locked like two sets of hind legs tied together, at the moment back to back, the stronger male would pull her along with his now twisted swollen penis. Ouch! We were too small to understand why the penis was stuck in the vagina. To us kids it was raw sex. Shameless, dirty dogs!

The commotion amidst heightened ecstasy caught the attention of adults. Since the intercourse took place near a well, an adult came and doused the sore animals with buckets of cold water, a welcome solace for them, mitigating the swelling in the male’s gland, easing the way for them to break loose from each other. Each hurried off in different directions. There was no promise they would not do it again.

The dogs were not the only ones who got me out of life’s isolated cocoon, and opened my eyes to the world of undiluted pleasures. The squirrels were doing it nosily up and down the trunks of the tall coconut trees, a few yards from the house, a front seat in the theater of life. The lucky ones escaped our traps. Unlike the dogs, cats, squirrels, ducks and chickens, the pigs were special. Since we raised pigs for regular income, we paid special attention to their needs, especially when it was time for the sows to have male companionship, the sexual kind.

In the whole village, there were two senior citizens (or elders), neither had any substantial formal education at opposite ends of the village, who provided the stud service for the whole village. I mean stud service for the pigs. They would be more than happy to oblige your sow for a fee. I saw the studs often, with huge testicles, walking slowly almost impatiently in front of their owners, down the main road or in the neighborhood on their way to perform a business function. Not for pleasure. My family and many others depended on our pigs for survival. Therefore paying for a stud was worth the expense.

Instead of the sow helping guide the missile, the stud’s owner would most times, nudge the male instrument and insert it into the swollen female vagina to shoot it in the right direction. What puzzled me as a child was why the male pig needed human assistance in doing his job to impregnate the sow. Big animals like cows, horses and elephants are

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doing it by themselves, an act well documented by National Geographic specials. But the pigs could not do it right. Nobody in the family would shield me from watching the whole sexual act. And they had only one chance for heavenly bliss. The pigs were doing it. The dogs were doing it. The cats were doing it. The chickens were doing it. The birds were doing it. And humans did it too. So ordinary and normal that nobody bothered to think or talk about it. Or hide it. Or condemn it. Or be ashamed of it. Such was my early exposure to sex in all its natural beauty.

When a young married woman wore black pants, without anyone indoctrinating me, I grew up knowing that it had something to do with her female reproductive experiences. Morning sickness means sexual intercourse, obtrusive and loud like the imam summoning the faithful to prayers from the minaret of the mosque. Men, women, and children in the village wore very flimsy clothing in tropical Malaya. At homes, many young married women seldom wore bras except in public places, attending public functions. Breast feeding was a common sight. I myself grew up wearing very little, not that we were poor, but it was the custom in the village: singlets (a British word for undershirt) and undershorts at home or out working in the farm. Thin but comfortable cotton clothing. I don’t remember any female flaunting her breasts or male his mighty erections. Here and there, I heard some young men bragging first nights in bed with virgins. Rumors or cases of sexual deviants were as rare as a poor farmer with a mouthful of gold teeth.

Early on I came to a simple explanation of why so many villagers produced many children. The Methodist Church reigned supreme in the village. Catholicism did not exist. One child was enough to carry on the family name. But many hands were needed to help out in the farm, many eking out a subsistent living from the soil. There was no electricity. Few homes could afford the luxury of a battery-powered radio. Entertainment was non-existent except movies in another town, if one cared to ride the bicycle in the dark. Few young people braved the cold and the dark, occasionally. Or the traveling circus in the next town once a year. Few times a year, industrious students would burn their midnight oil for serious state examinations. Most villagers would retire to bed at the onset of darkness. The adults in our family had to rise early to tap the rubber trees. Yes, sex became the only recreation in the dark and humans multiplied like their pigs.

I became an uncle at the age of six when Ah Soh gave birth to her first child, a baby girl in the presence of a capable midwife. Ah Soh had to stop doing the family laundry and retreat to her bedroom and prepare herself for the delivery. Brother had to bicycle to the midwife’s house to inform her of the impending childbirth. She arrived late in the evening, riding her own bicycle, accompanied by her signature black bag, with all the tools she would need to deliver a baby. In her long career as a midwife in the village, she encountered few abnormal or serious cases. In those cases, she would send a mother to the nearest government hospital to help deliver a healthy baby. I could hear everything

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transpiring in her bedroom because in most houses in the village, the walls were very thin and there was no ceiling at all. Brother was going up and down the stairs to the kitchen for something, like hot water. The midwife’s voice of command took over: “Push harder…harder…a little harder…coming…it is coming…good…I see something coming…it is a girl.” The painful moans and groans were too much for me until I heard someone slapping the baby on her small butt and her first muted cry. I wondered what mother was thinking then. A girl would not be able to carry on the family’s name. Her first grandchild. If she was disappointed, we would never know. Nothing was written on her face.

One tradition would kick in immediately after the birth of a child. Ah Soh would do just about everything in her bedroom. And the whole house would be preparing special foods to nourish her because of the birth. Every year millions of Chinese mothers would willingly submit to a month of confinement, when you were not allowed to leave the house, take a shower, or drink something cold. Something like a house arrest. “Sitting the month”, or zuo yuezi, is deeply respected and practiced in our Chinese culture. It is even mentioned in the 2,000-year-old Book of Changes, or I-ching. I grew up hearing about the need to maintain yin and yang in our diet. You will get sick if they are out of balance. The family would be cooking special yin-yang foods, including herbal soups to increase the new mother’s milk supply and that could include pig’s feet and peanuts, or an oily carp soup. The age-old practice of “Sitting the month” was enjoyed by every mother in the village.

Unfortunately, Ah Soh’s health took a serious turn a week after the birth. I don’t remember seeing a doctor visiting her but did witness what brother had to do to restore her health. Daily, for at least weeks, brother would sit quietly and watch patiently for the right sow to urinate. Sometimes she would hesitate or run, sensing brother coming from behind with a pail to collect the urine. And brother had no choice but to chase her with a pail, trailing her gently. If only she would stand still and make life easy for everyone, brother must have murmured a hundred times a day when he had to do it more than once to calm the sow’s anxiety and sought her understanding and cooperation. I suspected this was another one of those Chinese traditional cures practiced by our forebears in China. Miraculously, Ah Soh became well after swallowing a large quantity of the sow’s urine over a short period of time.

I suffered some kind of anxiety and pain now that the woman who had been doing the family’s laundry and cooking the family’s meals took a month’s holiday from her work, leaving the rest of the family seemingly helpless. Mother and brother took over the kitchen temporarily and I, for the first time, was responsible for doing my own laundry, washing and ironing my own clothes. What started out, I thought, as doing my chore to help the family became gradually a permanent undertaking, a first step on the threshold of shouldering adult responsibilities, imperceptibly isolating me from my childhood

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friends and, later, the rest of the world. Soon mother, like fate, would decide my every move and destiny.

 

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