Saturday, September 18, 2021

Tabada: Idiom


CLOSE your book. No free reading.

In these lines, borrowed from a store display, I distilled my philosophy on virginity after 12 years in a Catholic school exclusive for girls.

My parents chose my school by family osmosis. Nearly all the women in Mama’s clan displayed the varying lengths and bodily coverage that the blue-and-white uniforms underwent over the decades.

Or perhaps Papang expected the nuns to restrain me if I gave in to the urge to burn my training bra and run out of the closet?

In my teens, closets hid nothing dirtier than dustpans entangled with brooms.

Families and schools are the seats where a child learns for life that being Catholic is a perpetual guilt-trip. In kindergarten, I felt different from my classmates. My parents permanently separated.

“Broken families” are red flags for outbreaks of rebellion. I cannot recall a homeroom teacher who was not flummoxed when Mama gave her standard opening to explain why Papang was a no-show in getting my report card: her father and I do not see eye-to-eye.

Though I witnessed my parents locking eyes and horns, I thought Ma’s version was clearer than the one spun by the mother of a friend who said her father drowned in the soup.

Escaping into novels as soon as I discovered “Dick and Jane” (heteronormal twins influencing my conversion of hymen into a “book” kept closed to avoid breaking the “spine”), I saw my classmates and their families in the binaries of wealth (rich/poor), color (mestiza/brown), and marriages (intact/broken).

In high school, “tomboy” was first whispered in comfort room (CR) colloquies, along with smoking, petting (first base, heavy), Cebuano, and “kodigo (cheat sheets).” Under segregation (the faculty had their own), the student CR, spic and span, was the black market for the prohibited, disorderly, or just different.

I liked to gabble in Cebuano to the tune of flushing before returning to class where I nitpicked the English in my head, but I had little else to exchange in the CRs.

I suspected I was heterosexual but was pathetically out of experience to prove or disprove. Thus, college was the great revelation not just because the “books” were “falling off” the shelves but also flying “open,” helter-skelter. “Browsing” welcome.

My coed uneducation, first in a Catholic university and then in a state college, began in the CRs, reading the cubicle walls where the graffiti of chatty penises and pushy vaginas illustrated the order of “gender disorder,” to quote Judith Butler.

In an age when the watchdogs of orthodoxy hold that homosexuality is “objectively disordered,” our society’s spaces for excreta and articulation are, in my uneducation, vexedly misplaced.


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