Now just a couple of classes remained before the end of the school year. At that time and place I’m not aware of any political controversy about sex education in public schools; as far as I know the semester simply got away from Mr. Washington, our young and hip teacher. In one of the final classes he apologized and suggested a way to cover the eagerly awaited topic quickly: we’d all write down one or two anonymous questions about sex, drop them in a hat (or a bag or a box, I don’t quite remember), and Mr. Washington would pick some at random and answer them. No question was out of bounds, nothing was too big or small to ask. Mr. Washington pledged a complete and honest answer to every question, all but promising to kill the fun with an excess of earnestness.
I can’t remember what question I dropped into the hat, nor do I remember most of the other questions that eventually came out of it. Some were no doubt excellent ones based on real curiosity. Information about sex was not quite as easy to come by then as it is now. After all, this was before the frankness made necessary by AIDS, before Dr. Drew and even Dr. Ruth, back in the days when “Internet porn” consisted of an academic in some university office printing a topless woman made of typographical symbols on six sheets of green-and-white fanfold paper.
The hat (or bag or box) passed solemnly around the room. Each of us dropped a folded piece of paper into it, apprehensive in spite of the anonymity that some humiliating bit of cluelessness would be revealed to all. Mr. Washington received it back and, just as solemnly, fished around for the first slip of paper to answer.
He unfolded it — and cracked up laughing, bent over double! It took several long seconds for him to regain his composure; meanwhile, the tension was broken for the rest of us. Finally he read the question: “What’s it like?”
I can still hear Mr. Washington’s immortal and carefully enunciated answer, after our own laughter died down: “It is as good as they say it is.”