"Mom, what's an orgasm?"

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Even nearly a decade later, I cringe thinking about driving in the car with my mom and how I, after gathering courage during a period of silence, asked about the word I had heard the seventh grade boys joking about at the lunch table next to mine. I had attempted to look it up in the classroom dictionary but, thinking the word was spelled "O-R-C-A-S-M," I had studied the page from ORCA to ORDER and back again with no luck. 

My mom was clearly taken aback. "Where did you hear that word?"

I knew at that moment it was something inappropriate. "Just from some boys in my class."

She stiffened. "It's a sex word. They were just being immature." We said nothing else on the subject, that car ride or since. 

I learned about sex from reading Memoirs of a Geisha. As Mameha detailed what was going to happen the night Sayuri lost her virginity, she was teaching Sayuri and she was teaching me. Mameha described "the eel"—I knew that was a penis—entering the cavern, which seemed straightforward enough, but then she went on to talk about the way the eel would "mark his territory" when the act was complete. With no other clues to go from, I came to the conclusion that the man pees inside the woman, and then sex is complete. 

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