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Hmm, Diddle Diddle

And the dish ran away with the spoon.

From the nursery rhyme

“Banish all objects of lust, shut up all youth into the severest discipline that can be exercis’d in any hermitage, ye cannot make them chaste.”

John Milton, “Areopagitica” (quoted by Ron Charles, The Washington Post Book Club, June 2022)

A few years ago a high school math teacher told me his theory about abortion.

Before my current full-time job I was a substitute teacher at secondary schools, among other gigs in a long span of unemployment, and I’d subbed for this guy, an established teacher, several times. Usually these were for half-days so he could go to appointments or meetings, so before he took off he’d explain his lesson plans in person.

Soon these moved to conversations.

He started off this time complaining about the apparent licentiousness of his students and young adults in general, the indolence and smirks and droopy waistbands of the boys and the brazenness and revealing clothes of the girls. Abortion was the reason, he said.

Excuse me?

They don’t have to worry about pregnancy. They can just go get that fixed right up, he said.

When the teacher rattled off statistics from over the decades, I realized that meant he was familiar with anti-abortion groups and their spiels.

Around these parts there’s quite a lot of that talk. You pretty much just have to accept people as they are to get along. But he gave me a light bulb moment.

“What about The Pill, you know, birth control pills,” I asked.

He stared at me, he didn’t see the connection.

The FDA first approved oral contraception in 1960, and Griswold v. Connecticut cracked open the freedom to obtain them. Contraception access is a target of Justice Clarence Thomas and of similar jurists and legislators.

Apparently I had to explain this.

Guys our age always see the next generation as lazy or promiscuous, I said. Remember what we heard? We’re about the same age. Hippies and “free love” were what our parents griped about, right?

He acknowledged that.

Don’t you think women getting prescriptions in the millions outweighs abortions in the thousands, I asked. If you must assign blame, blame scientists like Carl Djerassi, an early developer of The Pill.

I thought I had the teacher.

But after a moment his eyes darkened and he said, well maybe, but abortion is what makes these girls run wild.


The emphasis following last week’s Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is rightly on women’s autonomy, the rights of women to make decisions on their health care. But this and related matters hang on two pillars. The other one is diddling.

Pregnancy after all begins with fucking.


Following Thomas’s concurring opinion in Dobbs, stating that cases with similar vulnerability as Roe v. Wade are those that opened laws on contraception, same-sex relations broadly then in particular same-sex marriage. All have the same root in diddling:

Who I want to diddle me, and how I do want to be diddled? Who I want to diddle and how do they prefer their diddling? Where does my mind go when diddling by myself?

This barn door the conservative justice majority is closing will cripple millions of lives before common sense and democracy forces it back open. We animals have been wandering through for quite some time.

Our popular culture — TV shows down to ads and commercials, to say nothing of music — is increasingly full of interracial couples, same-sex couples and individuals who unambiguously are LGBTQ.


My childhood would have been much easier, and mine was not tough, if this much openness was around then for us.

The best thing about Facebook has been reconnecting with childhood friends from Fort Smith. Just happenstance I’m sure, but a number of them turned out to be gay. They’re thriving, going by Facebook. No one was out or open then, the 1970s, among my circle. Mom and Dad had a few friends who were gay or lesbian.

Mom’s favorite cousin was a bachelor who fled Arkansas. He remained closeted to the family. He didn’t quite out himself to me, but once I was on my own he gave me hints with not quite chance remarks.

In my wife’s and my 22 years in Fayetteville, we’ve become friends with more trans people than we would have anticipated. We’re a quiet couple not particularly social. But there we all are. Just in the past year I’ve known two people who’ve transitioned. Or let it be known they’ve transitioned.

I’ve recently resumed contact with a close friend from fourth grade through senior year. Sometimes he was sad, with a held-in rage, but wouldn’t tell me about what. He lives far away now and has enjoyed a strong career. That’s about all I know now. Everyone said then he probably was gay. I liked and respected him enough to never tell him what others said. I refused to assume anything.


How one likes one’s diddling shouldn’t matter in school or work. When I consider how I have interacted with co-workers in any of my jobs, there can be no practical reason for orientation to enter.

Because these things do matter a lot to a lot of people sex is always present, hidden less or more.

When Mom mentioned someone or repeated a rumor she’d heard, Dad always would say, “Unless you’re hiding under the bed, you don’t know.”


America is not going back, the law be diddled.

Young people now cannot help but have friends of varying proclivities. When they learn a friend does not prefer what they assume everyone does, pop culture has long taught them to not be surprised if not accepting. Acceptance will come.

I would have been a better human sooner if that had been the case decades ago. My best friend certainly would have had an easier time. I could have been a better friend to him.

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