In the staffroom one evening towards the end of term, Ruth and Nancy were sitting with Kathie and Peggy, and were trying to come to terms with a task that had just, very delicately and with no little euphemism, been handed to them by Miss Annersley.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Ruth said. “I’ve been slipping bits of discussion about this into my classes for years, so this just makes it a bit more official."
“I do agree it’s a good idea,” Nancy replied, with a slightly awkward look upon her face. “But I don’t think I’m the best person to be doing this. I’ve no experience...”
Kathie smirked. “I wouldn’t say that...”
“Yes, but that’s different. I don’t think I’m going to be allowed to talk about...well...that...do you?”
“I honestly don’t see why not, though,” Kathie turned to the others. “If you’re going to be talking to them about sex, why shouldn’t you talk about what two women might do?”
Nancy sighed and tried not to blush. “Because we’re not doing this to open their minds, are we? All we’re trying to do is explain to the VIth why Biddy’s not coming back to work next term. And Hilda’s made it very clear that all talk of this is strongly framed by the insistence that it’s allowed, when, and only when, you’re married. So that counts…well, you know….out...But I still don’t see why me. I’m not experienced...”
“To be fair, Nance, even if it’s not been directly relevant to making babies, you’ve probably had a lot more – and more recent - experience...than a lot of people round here,” Peggy chuckled.
“And whose fault is that?” Nancy, turning ever more steadily red, looked accusingly at the person sat next to her, while that person tried her hardest to look demure, though she couldn’t help remembering with a secret smile why she and Nancy had been so late down for breakfast that morning.
“And besides,” Nancy continued. “What I was actually going to say is that I’m a maths teacher. I don’t have any experience of ever teaching anything like this. And as a maths teacher, what am I going to say when some bright spark points out that Biddy's dates don’t quite add up?” She sighed. “Shouldn’t they get...I don’t know, Gwyneth to talk to them? Isn’t dealing with personal issues part of her job?”
“I don’t think I’d want Gwyneth talking to me about sex,” Peggy said, suppressing a shudder.
“Or what about the science teachers...Davida or Bill...”
“No! Not Davida – can you imagine what shade of pink she’d turn? And I can’t see Bill wanting to do it,” Kathie mused.
“I wonder if Bill’d even know what to do...do you think she’s ever done it?” Ruth said with a grin.
Biting back the indiscreet answer that almost slipped out, Nancy waved away the question. “Ruth! Don’t be so....anyway, just because I’m their form tutor, I don’t see why it should be me who does this. It’s science, or, at a push, it’s art and literature. Can’t we get hold of some bootleg copies of Lady Chatterley for them to read and be done with it?”
“I don’t really think that’s what Hilda had in mind,” Ruth laughed. “And I think we’d be in astonishing trouble if they started quoting some of the choicer phrases of that book!”
“You’ve actually read it?” Peggy was rather incredulous.
Ruth nodded. “Of course I’ve got a copy. You know, professional interest and all that…”
“Really Ruth – and what profession’s that?” Nancy smirked.
Ruth glared back at her.
“Well," Peggy appealed, "I do think you ought to share it. Amongst friends, at least….”
“I don’t know that I ought…I don’t want to damage your innocence,” Ruth replied with a grin.
“Well, in all honesty,” Nancy said, trying to return the conversation to the original topic. “The VIth would get a better idea about being with a man from a book then they would from me. I just can’t see the attraction in any shape or form.” She looked at Kathie. “It’s just...no...the...mechanics of it all...it just makes me...queasy. I just can’t see why anyone would want to do that. No.”
“Maybe that’s why Hilda’s asked you to do it – you’re going to make it seem so unappealing that no-one’s going to even try experimenting,” Peggy chuckled.
“And anyway, even if Kathie and I weren’t...well...surely, as a bunch of unmarried teachers, we’re all too innocent and naive to be even considered for talking about this.”
“I’m not altogether sure that one’ll stand up in court, Nance,” Ruth replied, as the others laughed slightly guiltily.
“Oh, perhaps not,” Nancy conceded. ”But shouldn’t it be Biddy who does it? She’s the one who’s started all this in the first place by getting pregnant...or Joey...I’m sure she’d know what she was talking about.”
Ruth pulled a face. “Yes, though one of the things I’m going to talk about is not getting pregnant – I think that’s something that Jo might need a bit of education on herself.”
“Well, I think it’s sweet that Joey and Jack are still going at it so enthusiastically after so long,” Peggy said. “But do you think you ought to be teaching them about – well – about protection?”
“I don’t see why not. Jo might be thrilled to have so many children, but that’s not really a lifestyle choice I’d recommend for everyone. And, you know, we send dozens of girls a year out into the world, and not all of them are going to turn out like you two,” Ruth directed an affectionate glance at Kathie and Nancy, “and so they’ll get to college and meet some boy...and they need to be informed about what their choices are.”
With a pained and slightly squeamish look on her face, Nancy said, “I think you’re going to have to inform me of what those choices are too, otherwise I’m really going to have no idea what to talk about at all.” Kathie patted her on the arm sympathetically.
Ruth shook her head and laughed. “You two!....have you never even been tempted?”
Nancy shook her head rather violently, and Kathie shuddered. “We’re perfectly happy as we are, thank you very much!” she said, reaching out for Nancy’s hand.
“Hmm. Yes, I think I might've heard some of your happiness this morning,” Peggy looked at them rather oddly. “In the bathroom! Honestly, have the pair of you no self-restraint?”