The older kids next door were joking
about Tom, who would jack off
in the basement of their church.
"What does jack off' mean, I asked.
They laughed and wouldn't tell me.
One said, "Ask your Mom" and they laughed
some more, but I asked her anyway.
She got upset and wouldn't tell me either,
except to say it was NOT a nice word and that
I wasn't old enough to know about it.
(I got even later, when I did it again and again
and didn't tell her.) (And never knew if she knew.)
(And still wonder. Wasn't I a smart one!)
At least they didn't tell me a stupid, wrong meaning.
I remember on a school bus, two older kids
talking about our elementary school having
a baseball team. I asked what it was called,
and one said, "The Linwood Pricks,"
and they smirked, so I knew it was a dirty joke,
but not what dirty thing "prick" meant,
so I asked, and they gave me some nonsense
(I don't recall what), but I knew it was nonsense,
so I never proudly pointed out to an adult
a fire hydrant or a teacher or whatever trap
they set for me, saying, loudly, "Look, a prick!".
Nonetheless, I felt a fool, since I'd been
foolish enough to ask and let them think
I was an idiot. (I didn't know yet
that being thought an idiot has its privileges.)
Much of life is about learning it is dangerous
to ask. Trying to learn is like asking for a date
or getting up for the first time on a bike:
You have to be willing to look like a fool.
Even the special tame learning in schools
fends off those with questions. It is much safer
to be nobody's fool and never learn anything.