A New Style of Education
by Karen Page
Monday 20th February 2006
"I see you have a bit more control," opened Rachel. I was in her office for a debriefing on how the previous night had gone.
"Sorry?" I responded, after trying to work out what Rachel meant.
"You didn't have a silly grin at breakfast."
I didn't know if Rachel meant that Helen and I had controlled ourselves after I'd gotten back and restrained ourselves from anything frowned upon by the school, or that we'd managed to stop ourselves from smiling after breaking the school rules.
I decided to go with something neutral. "That's one thing about the school, you get to improve."
Rachel smiled at that. "A nice response. So tell me about yesterday's adventure."
I outlined the trip, leaving out the details of the driver and the mystery woman. I'm sure that Rachel knew who drove us to the BAFTA's, and wouldn't need me to tell her.
"A record," sighed Rachel. "You managed to compress a complete evening into four minutes, twenty seconds."
"Is that good?" I queried, hopefully.
"It's ridiculous. I know at times it is good to the point quickly, but it doesn’t help me understand your feelings. You just summarised the evening in the most unemotional words possible."
"Oh." I didn't know what else to say. I had a fleeting thought about apologising, but I wouldn't know what I was apologising for. Mr Hobson and Stacy both seem happy when I tell them things without the fluff.
It took a few seconds before Rachel gathered her thoughts and posed the next question. "So what stars did you see?"
"I bumped into Rupert Grint," I said, remembering how I almost crashed into him when coming out of the toilets. I still didn't know how I missed him; his ginger hair did make him stand out a bit.
"I hope not literally."
"Well it was close," I admitted.
"Did you get his autograph?"
"No," I sighed, remembering how much I wish I'd had an autograph book with me. "It wouldn't have been right. I mean I was there as a young rich person who probably would have attended lots of events like that. If I was outside the cinema then perhaps I would have been screaming at them for their autograph."
"You would also have been soaked."
"That’s true. I saw Daniel Radcliffe and he looked like somebody had poured a bucket of water over him."
Rachel stopped and put her PDA on the coffee table. I wondered if it was her way of saying that she wouldn't be taking any notes; not that I'd seen her taking any so far.
"So," she started, and I braced myself for the inevitable questions. "How did you find it mixing with film stars?"
This wasn't the question I expected and it through me. "I ... I ..." I paused before trying again. "It was fun. I never thought I would ever do anything like that. And when I was in there they seemed to be human."
Rachel laughed a bit at that.
"What?" I complained.
"Sorry. It was just the way you said they were human. What else would they be?"
"They seem so unreachable. The big stars earn so much money and always seem to be dressed so nicely."
"It's just a job," Rachel pointed out.
"I know, but it never seemed that way before."
"In the after award party they seemed really friendly. I suppose some had drunk a little, but even so they didn't seem as distant as I thought they were."
"So do you have any gossip?"
In spite of being in Rachel's office, I laughed. That was something that didn't happen in here very often.
"I don't think so."
"That’s a shame. I could have made a fortune selling the story to Okay magazine."
"I'm sure they had someone there."
"I'm sure they did," Rachel agreed. "So, you found going to something like this rather fun?"
"I suppose some of it was," I agreed. "At first I was really frightened, which is why I had to go to the toilet; I thought I was going to be sick. After a little bit, though, I found myself relaxing."
When the chat finished, I left I feeling slightly bewildered. Not once had Rachel mentioned gender issues. We just chatted about the evening, who I saw and what I did. She didn't even mention Andy or ask how we'd got on.
When I went into the year room I was surprised to see that Helen wasn't there, so I pulled out my PDA. She was running late with Andy on handover business.
"Are you okay?" asked Jill, who'd come and sat beside me. "You looked confused when you came in."
"I've just spent an nearly an hour with Rachel talking about last night."
"Well it didn't make sense. I thought she would have asked how I felt, but we just chatted about what I did and who I saw."
"So, how did you feel about last night?"
I shrugged. "It was okay, I suppose."
Jill burst out laughing which caused the rest of the year to look our way.
"I think that Rachel knows you too well. If she'd just come out and asked you how you felt, then I doubt you would have given her a different answer. She just talked to you about it, and probably got a lot more information about how you felt."
I didn't know what to think of that. I mean it didn't sound so bad, as it seemed more natural. I'm sure there were good reasons why physiatrists don't just chat. Perhaps it is more open to interpretation, but it seemed good to me as I didn't have to think about how I felt.
"That's great," I responded, the confusion dissipating.
"I doubt Rachel feels the same."
"Probably not, but I just hate explaining how I feel about the whole gender thing. I mean why can't I just be me?"
"Nobody's stopping you. However, it gets really confusing not knowing how to treat you."
"Huh? But surely you just treat me the same?"
Jill looked exasperated. "I wouldn't talk about makeup with Lewis or Brian. Just look how upset they got about the sleepover."
"Yes, but-." I wasn't allowed to finish.
"Often I can't tell if you are supposed to be Jayne or David. Clothes often say one thing, but often you behave the opposite."
I looked around the room and saw some discrete nodding. They were carrying on with what they were doing, but you could tell that they were listening.
I sighed. "I know. I hate acting like David, but I don't think I want to live as Jayne."
"Then you're going to have a very interesting life."
That got a few sniggers from the rest of the year. I couldn't help it, but I sniggered too. It was such an outrageous thing to say, but maybe there was some truth in it.
"So how was last night?" asked Anna from the floor, all pretence of not listening gone.
"It was fun. But I've no idea if I'd have had just as much fun if I'd been as David."
"So which stars did you see?" asked Emma, as we went to lunch.
My explanation was interrupted as Helen appeared just as we went into the dining room. I was so glad Helen wasn't late. When she heard what I was talking about she insisted I started from the time we got there. It had been too late to tell Helen about it when I got in early this morning.
It wasn't until we were alone that night that again the previous day’s trip came into the conversation. "Everybody has been asking you how last night went, but how did you get on with Andy?"
"I'm surprised you didn't ask him this morning."
"We were busy with other issues. So?"
"He was a real gentleman. I was very nervous, but he helped me relax."
"I even got a kiss from him as he dropped me off."
Helen's eyes opened wider with that. "On the lips?" she asked, sounding shocked.
"No," I laughed. The laughter was more at her shock than what happened. "He kissed me on the cheek."
I shrugged my shoulders. "It wasn't a big deal. It was just a good night kiss on the cheek from a good friend."
I decided she needed a bit of reassurance. "Nothing like kissing you."
She smiled and we started kissing only the way we did.
* * *
Tuesday, 21st February 2006
Another visit to see Rachel filling up my slot just before lunch. This was either self-study time or time gaining more in-depth computer knowledge with Julia. When I queried this at the start of my chat she said that Julia had not got me doing any extra computer studying for a few weeks.
"Are you going to see me every day?" I enquired, starting to worry.
"I hope not, but there are a few things that I want to help with. You made good progress yesterday with our chat."
"But we didn't discuss anything," I protested.
She gave a small smile. "Ah, but we did. However, sometimes I might not be able to be as indirect as yesterday was."
"Do you want to have your commitment ceremony before or after the next school trip?"
"Before. I've already mentioned this a hundred times already."
"I know. Let me put it differently. Can you remember when Fran and Ingrid had their ceremony?"
"Can you describe what they were wearing?"
I did so, right down to their blue sashes.
"That's one heck of a memory," commented Rachel. "Would you say they looked pretty?"
"Stunning. Their dresses were just part of that. The hair and makeup helped, but it was the sheer radiance they-" I paused, not wanting to say it. However, I couldn't think of a better word. "It was the radiance they ... radiated."
"Now think back to Sunday night. Were there any women there wearing clothes as nice?"
"More expensive, yes. More exquisite, may be. However, none shone like Fran and Ingrid both did.
Rachel gave a small smile, but made no comment.
"Now think about your upcoming celebration. Imagine what Helen will be wearing. You are at the front of the room and you turn around to see Helen walking through the door."
I smiled at the thought. I'd no idea what Helen was going to wear, but I imagined it to be a cross between what she wore for the revue and what Fran had worn.
"Excellent," carried on Rachel. "Now imagine that the ceremony is over and you have finished all the celebrations. It is just the two of you in your bedroom. You help Helen undo her dress and it slips down."
Rachel didn't need to say any more as the vivid picture set me vomiting. I was just glad that Rachel had stuck a waste bin in front of my face at the last second.
"Was this the same feeling you had when you were nearly ill on Sunday?" Rachel asked as she poured some sawdust over the sick.
"No," I answered straight away.
There was a moment's pause before Rachel realised I wasn't going to continue. "And how were they different?"
"Sunday was mostly fear."
I shrugged my shoulders. "It wasn't fear; that much I know. A bit for excitement, but also something else. I don't understand how to explain."
Rachel paused as she thought about her next attack. "Why don't we have a break for ten minutes? It'll give me chance to clean up."
I used the time to rush back to my room and clean my teeth. There was nothing worse than the foul taste of residual sick. When I got back to Rachel's office there was no reminder of my incident and there was a fresh bin by the desk. It was normally there for tissues if a chat got emotional; however it seemed to be a good sick bucket for me.
"Do you have a magic wand or something?" I enquired as I took my usual seat.
Rachel smiled. "You aren't the first student to be sick. Thought, perhaps you have one of the most unusual reasons. The cupboard down the corridor has a stack of spare bins. The one you used earlier was taken away to be cleaned."
"Sorry if I caused more work."
"All part of the job and it gave me a good chance to think about what you've been telling me. You were sick on Sunday because you were frightened. Yet when you were in Moscow you were in a more dangerous situation, but you weren't sick during or after the event."
I shrugged. "I've no idea. In Moscow I was trying my best not to see anybody or be seen. On Sunday it was the opposite. I was dressed up and was mixing with the elite in the film industry."
"But you were dressed like that to fit in, not to stand out. If you'd worn clothes similar to what you wore in Russia then everybody would have been looking at you."
"It was so different from what I've done before that it didn't occur to me until I realised that nobody was paying me any attention."
"The school is a place of learning. I'm sure you will be getting a lot more experience of different things before you leave."
"I'm sure," I agreed, giving a wry smile.
"Sorry I made you sick earlier, but I'm afraid I've got some questions."
I sighed. "Go ahead. I hate the thought, but I would hate to be sick over Helen ... again."
"Let me recap, to make sure I'm remembering things correctly. You only get sick when you get thoughts of sex?"
"No, when I think that sex is a possibility. Do you have any ginger biscuits?"
"Did they help you last time?"
"Not really, but it is something to munch on if I get hungry."
Rachel laughed a bit. "It's good to see we've got a good honest dialog going here." She wandered across to her cupboard, brought out an old-fashioned biscuit tin and placed it on the table. "Don't have too many, or you'll spoil your lunch."
I took off the lid and peered in. There weren't just ginger biscuits, but a wider selection. I took a Garibaldi biscuit and looked expectantly at Rachel.
"For the rest of today's session I want to talk about sex. Nothing you say will get you into trouble, so feel free to be open. If it gets too difficult for you then please say so. My aim isn't to get you to the point where you get sick, but to try and understand what you know and what you think about things. If you want to add a bit of how you feel, then please surprise me."
I thought about saying something sarcastic, but I could see that Rachel was trying her best to help so I just nodded and braced myself.
"What is sex for?"
"Sorry?" I instantly responded. I just couldn't help myself. I was expecting something a lot weirder than that.
"What is the purpose of sex?"
"To procreate?" I responded tentatively. I tried to be as formal as Rachel often is when discussing things. At this school I didn't have to hide a bit of learning.
There was a pause and I noticed Rachel looking at me like she was expecting me to say more.
"You know, to make babies," I added, wondering if perhaps I should keep things simple.
"I know what procreation is," responded Rachel. "Is that the only reason people have sex?"
I thought for a moment and realised that Rachel meant more than just the biological purpose. "Passion and pleasure. I suppose from some books I've read, also a sense of duty, for money and power."
"Now that's a more complete answer. If you don't mind I'll leave duty, money and power to your Life Skills class. I'm sure you will have interesting discussions on that topic there. For now I want to look a bit at passion and pleasure."
I nodded, glad that Rachel was guiding this conversation because I really had no idea what she was up to.
"The other month you got into trouble for inappropriate behaviour. What did you two plan? To make a baby?"
I shuddered at the thought of being a parent so young. "No. Anyway, Helen has an implant to stop that."
"Yes she does. But remember, no birth control apart from abstinence is totally fool proof. I'm not convinced that at the time you remembered that Helen had birth control implant. So if you weren't trying to make a baby, then why were you having sex?"
I thought about that night and frowned. I knew what had driven us to that situation, but it wasn't something I could share. "We weren't trying to make a baby," I eventually responded in the hope that would be enough for Rachel. It wasn't though.
"So what was the spark then?"
I shook my head. I hated saying no to a member of staff, but there wasn't any way I could answer. "Sorry, but there was many reasons which led to it. This doesn't just involve my feelings, but also Helen's. I don't want to talk about this without Helen being in the discussion."
I expected a backlash, but Rachel actually gave me a smile. "Thank you for your reason, it helps. Remember there are times when you have to break confidences, especially when someone's life depends on it. However, I hope that isn't something you have to worry about yet. I'm going to ask some questions that are a bit personal. I'm sorry if they offend you."
I nodded my consent.
"Have you ever masturbated?"
It's a good job I wasn't chewing on a biscuit or I think I would've choked.
"No," I spat out, embarrassed at her asking me such a question.
"You've never even tried it?" she persisted.
"No," I again responded, this time more quietly. "Do you?"
"Sometimes," she responded, without batting an eyelid. "Especially if I've been left hanging."
I didn't know what Rachel meant by that last statement and I wasn't sure if I really wanted to know. I think there is something worse than hearing your parents have sex and that is your psychiatrist admitting they sometimes masturbate.
"I heard some boys at my old school talking about it, so I tried it once. Nothing really happened. I felt it was a bit sordid and selfish."
"Selfish?" Rachel asked, pouncing on the word like a lion pouncing on its prey.
"Like it was all about me. I was doing it to get pleasure, which isn't what something like that is about."
I expected a request for more information, but I didn't get it. Just another question on a similar topic.
"Have you ever had a wet dream?"
"Yes," I whimpered. "Twice. Once around November time. The other time was last week."
"What was Helen's reaction?"
"She doesn't know. When it happened I slipped out of bed, cleaned them of the sticky stuff, washed the affected area and put on clean underwear like what I'd been wearing."
"Hide the evidence?"
"I suppose. I didn't want her asking me about it. You aren't going to tell her, are you?"
"It isn't my intention," Rachel responded. "However, don't you think that hiding it like that is untruthful?"
"I didn't want her thinking I'd wet the bed."
"Have you not covered things like effects of puberty in life skills yet?"
"Then a word of warning to you. Things like what I've asked you will be covered in that lesson at some stage."
"Going back a bit. You said you found masturbation a bit selfish, because you were getting pleasure. Don't you think that you deserve pleasure?"
"Yes, and I get pleasure in other things. It's just that seems to be self-serving."
"Helen likes her food, does that make her self-serving?"
"No. It isn't something she hides and does herself. We eat together. Now if she snuck off to eat a bar of chocolate and then hid it, then that would be something I might disagree with."
"I'm beginning to see your logic. Now one that is slightly different. Do you think that Stacy was selfish in her decision for gender surgery?"
I paused at that and while I formulated my answer took a Jammie Dodger. Rachel tutted, and after taking a custard cream, put the lid back on the biscuit tin.
"Yes," I eventually said. "I think it is the type of decision that has to be selfish. The whole reason was for Stacy to finish that part of her journey. The decision had to be based on what she needed and nobody else."
"So some things can be selfish, interesting," muttered Rachel.
I was starting to feel wound up. "Rachel, you just ask me questions which I answer, but you hardly ever tell me if I'm right or wrong."
"Because often there are no right or wrong answers. I'm not here to tell you how to run your life or what to think. I'm here as a guide or to give assistance. I'm asking you these questions to help you think about how you feel on a subject that you have difficulty with. I might point things out which you hadn't thought about, which may or may not help."
"So this chat might not help me stop being sick?"
"If we don't examine the topic then a solution won't be found. If we look at the issue then we might find what is causing you to be sick."
"You think it is a mental issue?"
"Arousal upsets you, but doesn't make you sick. Only the thought of having sex. This doesn't point to a chemical causing it, but something that you feel is so wrong you react badly. Are you okay to continue?"
"Sure," I said, feeling rather hopeless and a bit useless.
"Let's jump forward a year. Andy and Stacy have left school and are making love."
I interrupted. "Isn't that a bit personal?"
"Probably, but I'm just using it as an example to help visualise things. Now Stacy can't have a baby, so that isn't why they are having sex. Who gets pleasure from it?"
"They both do?"
"I hope so. But this is how it is different from masturbation, they both get pleasure from each other. It isn't self-gratification."
"One more thing to think about and it might be a bit difficult." Rachel got up and moved the biscuit tin and put the waste basket in front of me. "If you're going to be sick, I don't want it over the biscuits."
I gave a small nervous laugh at that.
"I don't want you to think about sex at all. This isn't what it this part is about. Remember the outfit Helen wore at the revue?"
"Remember the special lingerie she was wearing underneath. Now who was that designed to give pleasure to?"
"Her," I said instantly. I saw Rachel's eyebrows rise as if she was challenging me.
After a moment's thought it was like a light bulb suddenly illuminated over my head. "Both of us. She got pleasure from wearing it, but it was also designed to be shown to me; to give me pleasure."
"By Jove! I think he's got it!"
I laughed; it was almost a quote from one of my Dad's favourite movies. I then sobered up as I thought more about it. "I spoilt it."
"It backfired a bit," agreed Rachel, "but I wouldn't worry about it. You are both a bit young and certainly too young to have sex. Enjoy your youth while you can."
I walked slowly back to the year room. There were a few minutes before lunch and I wanted to think about what had been said. Were my other issues with gender presentation also caused because I had set ideas about what I am? Did I think that I could never experience pleasure? There was just so much to think about. I wish I was closer to my brother. It would have been the type of question that a younger brother could ask their older brother.
When I opened the door into the year room, nine pairs of eyes looked up and glanced at me. Helen must have seen the look of confusion on my face as I saw her expression turn to concern.
"It was just a difficult session, which I'll tell you about later." I explained as I sat down next to her. "It wasn't bad, just a lot for me to think about."
"I find food is always good for helping think about difficult things," said Lewis. "Shall we go and get lunch?"
"Couldn't you have mentioned that before I'd sat down," I joked, getting back up.
Helen laughed. "I think Lewis is right, food is just the answer you need."
Everyone was good, they saw I needed a bit of space so didn't pry. I knew Helen would ask later. One of the downsides of being introspective was never being left alone, just in case I got suicidal again. I didn't hear anybody plan it, and there was nothing said about it, but for that day there wasn't a time I was alone.
After the evening meal I knew I couldn't leave it any longer. "I've got a practice room booked for tonight. Does anybody else want to take it?"
We all practiced when we could, but there were only a limited amount of practice rooms. Practicing in our bedrooms was possible, but it wasn't something we liked to do. There were just so many distractions there.
"Ooh, please," said Brian quickly and got an elbow in his side by Emma.
"Why, do you want it?" Brian retorted.
Emma just shook her head and then asked me the question that I'm sure they'd all been thinking all day. "You've been thoughtful all day. Do you want to talk about it?"
I snorted, and then quickly realised that I was being rude. Emma, and all the others, probably just wanted to help. "Sorry. It's just something I was discussing with Rachel. It's a bit personal. The only one I'll discuss it with is Helen."
"Do you want a joint practice?" piped up Helen. She'd been by my side all afternoon, radiating comfort, but had never suggested we talk.
I almost smiled. "I think a chat in my bedroom would be better. Why don't we let Brian and Emma fight it out for the practice room?"
I thought Helen would have dragged me out of the room, but she waited until I got off the settee and went at my speed. It was a silent brisk walk to my room and I wondered if Helen was mad at me. However, once we were in the privacy of our room she let out a sigh.
"Was it that bad?" she asked as the door shut. Her voice was full of concern and I wondered if she was about to burst into tears.
"We were discussing why I sometimes get sick."
"Hang on," said Helen. She'd taken out her PDA, after a few seconds typing she put it on my bedside table. "That should stop Rachel rushing in if you get too upset."
I couldn't help but laugh a little. I remembered when I was chatting with Andy and Rachel had burst in. After removing our shoes, we climbed onto the bed and lay down, facing each other.
"I thought you knew why you got sick," mused Helen. "When you think there is a possibility of sex."
"Sort of. Anyway, we were discussing my views on certain things to see if any ideas came to mind."
I bit my lip and looked away from Helen's gorgeous face.
"It's okay," said Helen gently. "You know you can say anything and I won't be upset."
I swallowed and looked up at her, my bottom lip still between my teeth. She looked so earnest. I blurted out, "Do you ever masturbate?"
The look of shock flickered across her face, which was too much. I rolled away and off the bed, stumbling onto my feet.
Helen was holding me before I got much further and dragged me firmly to the edge of the bed. "Yes, not often, but yes. Sorry, if I upset you. I don't know what I expected you to ask, but that wasn't it."
I burst into tears. I felt so bad. Was it my fault?
"Hey, it's okay," murmured Helen.
"I'm sorry," I cried, while trying to wipe the tears away.
"Tell me what you and Rachel discussed."
After calming down, I relayed what I could. As I poured out my memories, Helen just sat there and stroked my cheek.
When I finished, Helen said, "That sounded like a pretty intense session."
That made me start crying all over again. However, these weren't tears of anguish, but relief. Helen seemed to understand.
"And don't worry about what happened after the revue. I wasn't upset with you, but was upset that I'd caused you to be ill. At the time we didn't know what made you ill. Now that we know, we can avoid these things."
"I'm not doing it deliberately and I don't want to be ill like that."
"I know. You are discussing it with Rachel and if you need to test how you are doing, I'm sure I can dress appropriately. We are both young and have all the time in the world. Just remember, I love you and if you get worried, just think these four words – 'I love you forever'."
Anyone can log in as Guest Reader -- password topshelf to leave a comment.
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudo!
Click the Good Story! button above to leave the author a kudo:
And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks.