Catholic Confirmation

Raging Hormones: Why puberty begins at twelve

 

Raging Hormones: Why puberty begins at twelve

Puberty is a difficult period in the life of a child. Not only are there rapidly progressive physical changes, but also as if mystically or magically materializing out of nowhere, unusual thoughts and proclivities directed toward the opposite gender emerge like a wild Blue Norther rolling across the plains of West Texas.

Most children probably do not have a clue as to the whys and wherefores of what is happening; or at least not until their peers start to disseminate both information and misinformation about sex. I have already mentioned my friend Eddie, who told me that sex was when a man puts his penis in a woman’s ass and then pisses in it. Meanwhile as their parents are wallowing in anticipatory dread about appropriately timing “the talk about birds and bees” in some cases, ironically the children could probably teach their parents a thing or two they didn’t know themselves; Eddie notwithstanding.

When the subject is finally put on the table it is usually accompanied by dire prohibitive warnings about pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases; or if religion is piled on by evoking the sexual guilt card and the additional threats of eternal damnation, premarital sex becomes a crime against God; a Cardinal sin.

The reason no one can reasonably come to grips with the problem is a lack of scientifically based understanding. That is, the dichotomy between the societal sexual taboos versus the age at which puberty starts can be explained by the fact that biological evolution has remained a constant factor over time while concurrent societal evolution has become more technically complicated. Societal issues outpace and artificially grow further away from those biological roots.

This has created a significant paradox that unintentionally accounts for the mandatory sexual suppression of the adolescent, who is capable of reproductive breeding but who is also incapable of subsequently coping with day to day survival, making a living, and supporting a family. All of this was more easily facilitated when humans lived in communal tribal bands surviving as hunters and gatherers. For human beings it is simply the case that they are both genetically and biologically programmed by design to begin their reproductive cycle at about the age of twelve. This took millions of years to evolve, whereas our modern technologically oriented society has only taken a few hundred.

The emergence of secondary sex characteristics therefore is nothing more than nature’s way of signaling to the rest of the world that a child is announcing: “Hey look at me. I’m ready.”

The human species, by evolutionary standards is relatively frail. Without the modern medical miracles of safe habitats, weapons, tools, decreased maternal and infant mortalities, vaccinations, antibiotics, pharmaceuticals, exotic surgeries, and the other marvels created by life extending sciences, a human being would stand little chance of living past the age of thirty or forty. Face to face with a Grizzly bear, and without a knife or a gun; the bear will always win. In fact, the average life expectancy of a white male in the United States in 1900 was thirty to forty, which oddly enough also correlates well with the female menopause.

Age forty for a human being then, is a biologically programmed time for everything to be “over and out;” so to speak; including the rationale for a number of Medieval royal patricides.

Even so we are still doing better than our Cro-Magnon forebears whose average life expectancy was only twenty-five years, or our European ancestors in the Middle Ages, who barely made it to the age of thirty. That is why European Royal families married off their girls at about age 14 and nobody blinked an eye about it being a form of pedophilia.

To illustrate this point, does anyone not think it odd or ever wonder why Alexander the Great had already conquered half the world before he was twenty-five? He had to seize the day because the odds were critically against him living for even another half decade. Or why is it a fact that most elite athlete’s careers, including tennis, baseball basketball and football are over before they even reach the age of thirty. Or that for certain other athletic endeavors such as Olympic level swimming, and especially for gymnastics, that the age of twenty five is also considered to be “over the hill?”

Mortality issues were also the only omission in the otherwise exceptionally brilliant thinking of America’s forefathers when they drafted the Constitution. If they had even an inkling that someone could actually live to be 90, they would have set term limits for all political offices at the documents’ inception.

In some primitive tribal cultures the rites of passage to adulthood are actually the official signal of availability of the young man or woman for marriage and child rearing. These people for the most part do not fixate on the appropriate age. They fixate more on the biology, which they simply take for granted, with guidance directed only by empirical observation.

The rites of passage of the Jewish Bar Mitzvah or the Catholic Confirmation ceremonies are also neither mystical nor magical. They have simply lost their true identifiable meanings as a marker for official passage into adulthood. The development of breasts and pubic hair on the other hand, has not. What this means is that if a human being had not already reproduced at a young age, his gene pool would basically become extinguished.

Being just two generations removed from my Italian grandmother who was married when she was sixteen, this circumstance was not considered to be anything out of the ordinary; nor did it raise any eyebrows. Even today there are still pockets in the deep rural south where there are teenaged child brides.

Maybe OK as long as it is not your fourteen-year-old first cousin, which coupled with Jerry Lee Lewis’ notoriety, was more the reason that got him into trouble than for actually marrying a child in the first place. Consanguinity in his case was worse in the eyes of his fans than his getting drunk one night and because Jerry, in believing that he had more talent than the King, tried to drive through the gates of Graceland to kill Elvis Presley with a handgun.

What we now have instead is a society that has become so complex that many people are forced to delay having families until they are in their thirties or even forties, which according the biological species time card should be just about the time they would ordinarily become grandparents or even getting ready to clock out for good.

The ultimate, unanticipated ironic consequence of this longevity has left some of today’s generation having to care for two sets of children. Their own, who may not leave home until they are in their mid to late twenties, and their aging, slowly disintegrating parents who may even have to move back in on the heels of their grandchildren’s recent vacancies. This is known today as being “The Sandwich Generation.”

Couple this with the new modern insanity of men and women becoming parents when they are in their fifties, or even worse for men who become fathers in their sixties or seventies and you get:

  • Hey Johnnie. How come only your grandpa brings you to school. What ever happened to your dad?

All of this only leads full circle to the way it was originally designed in the first place; the early orphan phenomenon, which is summarized as follows:

You are born. You give birth. You die. 

Parents, teachers, and clergy lose perspective or understanding why they have such difficult issues when trying to control teenagers. The reason is that ten thousand years ago teenagers were more functional as integral parts of a larger group, and in fact were expected to reproduce as soon as they could to ensure both the survival of the tribe as well as the greater overall survival of the human species. Imagine, then a primeval cave in which Barbie was the doll who had to play with a real baby, while Ken was the buffed dude out hunting a Bison instead of playing X-box.

Hormonal cycles are finely tuned end products of a biological evolution that makes it virtually impossible to beat any rational thought or guilt out of a blossoming adolescent. 

The reason that puberty begins at twelve is very simple. It was designed solely for the preservation of the human race, but not at all for the preservation of parental sanity.

 

Raging Hormones
© Film: Written and Directed by Michael Dugan

 

Advertisements

First Holy Communion

 

First Holy Communion 

It is a matter of fact that for most of us as we grow up, are subjected to doses of both secular and religious education. Although our American system legally separates Church and State, our culture, in reality does not. There is Catechism for the Catholics, Sunday school for the Protestants, Hebrew school for the Jews and Bible Study for the Protestants or the Born Again Christians.

This is where we learn about, peace, love, God, and our religious heritage.  Unfortunately, although these schools are also supposed to be where we learn ethics, morals and values, they also seem to be the first places where we learn bias along with where the propaganda seeds of cultural and religious hatred are sown. Therefore this is also where we learn that to whatever cult or religion we subscribe, ours is the One True Way, whereas any other nonbelievers should only be pitied, converted or persecuted.

The first thing a Catholic studies for in Catechetical instruction is the First Communion. Once again I struggled with the dogma so much that I could not even get past the first simple principals of the Catechism.

  1. Who is God? God is love.
  2. Who made me? God made me.

I should have stopped right there, quitting the church on the spot because if someone had explained it more simply and left God out of the equation, I could have easily related to the idea that love made me, even if it may have been casual, indifferent or accidental love, as opposed to some invisible spirit entity.  However, as hard as I tried I simply could not intellectually grasp the concept of God. This was supposed to be a Supreme Being of goodness and light who had created, then ruled over the Universe, except for the fact that he had totally lost control of his First Lieutenant Lucifer, who was going around creating as much misery and chaos as he could possibly get away with.

As a result, God and the Devil are locked in an eternal battle for souls, both casually indifferent to the horrible consequences wreaked upon the playing field by this little game of thiers, all of which seemed no better than any other planetary war and the human cannon fodder used to fuel it.

This concept is rationalized by religious pundits who try to sell children the idea that God really does care, but that because he gave us all free will to decide for ourselves how we are going to behave in life, he then just casually sits back and like Santa Claus, makes up a naughty and nice list. God simply hands out the rulebook issuing the edict that one can either take it or leave it.

We then get to choose if we want to do God’s work or if we want to work for Lucifer; to wit after we eventually die, there is an eternal sentence to exist in one of three places. Nice gets to be in Heaven. Naughty gets to go to Hell. In-betweeners get to pound a few rocks in Purgatory for a finite period of time known only to Saint Peter who doles out the sentence at the Pearly Gates based on how much Naughty is in the equation. The: n/N ratio I suppose. One hundred percent Nice gets to be a Saint who eternally plays a harp in Heaven. But I never found out what all Naughty gets to be, besides roasting in an eternal fiery blaze.

Maybe instead of that the Naughty ones wind up being the accordion players in Polish Polka Bands condemned for all eternity to play the same tunes day after day in small dance halls. Or perhaps even worse, they are condemned to sit in the audience listening to those same endlessly repeated tunes until that promised day when time finally comes to a pirouette end and the universe stands still. Now that’s a real hell.

At some point later in life I did decide that no matter what, I did not really want to go to heaven, because every genuine saintly person I had ever come to know was also an incredibly colossal bore.

  • Hey. Anybody up for a party?
  • No, first we have harp practice. Then it’s on to Confession. After that we go to Mass. Then we go to Mother Theresa’s for tea and scones, and finally we all go to Grandma’s house for Christmas dinner. And up here you know, every day is Christmas.

How about putting up with that every day until Gabriel blows the big shofar?

None of this made a lot of sense to me. Intuitively, God could not be all that good or all that powerful if he allowed so much misery to take place by letting Lucifer run amuck. I simply could not believe that someone who was supposed to be so all-powerful could just sit back indifferently doing absolutely nothing to stop the evil in the world.

No. Instead he just lolls around reclining on a cloud with a cosmic channel changer in his hand, scrolling through scenes of life on Earth until he finds one that amuses whatever sentiment or mood he happens to be in that day: Sports. Pornography. War. Starvation. Murder. Misery. Reality TV. Cartoons. Terrorism. Possibly a few Saintly deeds here and there. Or maybe a missionary being boiled an eaten by a cannibal.

On a less celestial level I also could not believe that he was then partly responsible for the evil of me having to be subjected to the violent scrutiny of the Nun who was trying to pound this information into my head by whacking my knuckles with a ruler.

I tried to ask my father to help me with some of these issues, but when it came to anything mystical he just said: “Use your imagination.” This was a problem too, because I had no clue as to what an imagination was or how to go about getting one. In finally deciding that the better part of valor was to simply give it up, I stopped studying the Catechism, hid it under my bed and subsequently failed First Holy Communion.

However, I did finally begin to get an imagination during the second time around. After all I was a year older, and now the Nun in charge of my indoctrination was beginning to remind me of the Wicked Witch of the East. Her habit made me think she was a black Vampiress, her head cover made it look like white wings were growing out of her skull and I had already learned to keep my hands off the desk to avoid the karate blows arbitrarily and capriciously imparted by her terrible swift wooden ruler.

First Holy Communion was the only subject I ever failed in my entire subsequent education making the only positive thing about the experience the fact that the embarrassments of being held back in Religion 1 caused me to swear a personal oath, but not on a Bible, that it would never happen again.

After passing this second time I was finally ready to receive my God: and His body: and His blood. I had memorized all of it by rote and regurgitated all the answers that had absolutely no real tangible meaning to me. In doing so I had also learned the trick of taking the test or any other test for that matter: just give them the answer that they want.

The entire class had been rehearsed on how to behave, how to parade, and how to kneel at the Alter to accept the host. We were all especially warned that it was sacrilegious to chew the most holy wafer and that when the priest delivered it we should close our eyes, slowly let it disintegrate in our mouths while thinking only pure holy thoughts.

On the day I received my first host, dressed to the nines in a the snow white suit designed to represent holy communal virginity, the boy kneeling next to me got his host first then started smacking his lips and chewing on it. I was horrified. My turn came next so I closed my eyes, and then stuck out my tongue. The thing was completely tasteless, but worse than that nothing happened except for the fact that it didn’t melt.

There was no epiphany. No revelation. I felt just the same as always and was immediately disappointed to know then that my life would probably not change very much. All I could think was that some salt would go along way to help the flavor of a bland little starch pad that had not made me radiantly glow or at all feel the hand of God on my shoulders. Several years later a similar disappointment was felt when I received the sacrament of Confirmation, the preamble of which had been to “perpetually pray that God would send you an avocation.” Because God never did tell me what do with my life or what career I should follow, I capitulated by praying instead for a perpetual summer vacation.

The boy next to me must have agreed about the communion wafer too, because he then committed his second blasphemous act in as little time when he turned to me and said:

  • Tastes like cornbread, don’t it?

At the photo shoot afterwards my mother took me aside, asked me what the little boy had said and became aghast at what she then heard.

I told her I would have asked him to be quiet, but my mouth was so dry from the anxiety of the day that the host had stuck on the roof of my palate and would not dissolve. Desperately trying to manufacture saliva, while at the same time trying not to sacrilegiously wiggle my mouth to dislodge the thing, I had silently left the Alter to return to my seat.

She said I was not supposed to speak anyway during the blessed event; then prattled on about “What kind of derelict family could that little boy possibly have come from?”

But she couldn’t help how she felt. She was the worst kind of Catholic when it came to her fanatical devotion to the faith. She was a convert.

 

 

 harp

               Welcome to heaven. Here is your harp

          Accordian

         Welcome to Hell. Here is your accordion

 

 

Mine eyes have seen the glory

Of the coming of the Lord.

He is trampling out the vintage

Where the grapes of wrath are stored

He has loosed the fateful lightning

Of his terrible swift sword.

His truth is marching on.

                     (The Battle hymn of the Republic)