Year 9 boys smell of badgers

21st October 2005 at 01:00
It was the sore, sensitive nipples that threw me. Contact sports are excruciating when they are at this stage. No, not my nipples, adolescent boys' nipples.

Mr M confirmed this to me in his office. Apparently his were agony at that age. Hence pupil A refusing to do games. He is crying as he thinks he is growing breasts. No, the pupil not Mr M. Do keep up.

The adolescent male. A breed apart. That strange smell they emit in Year 9 like damp, musky badgers. Every holiday they come back bigger, stronger, taller. Overnight voices crack and wobble and reading aloud becomes an embarrassment to avoid.

Pupil B announces proudly that he has already got "puberty hairs all over".

Perish the thought. He has also got his mother to pluck his monobrow, giving him a new, startled look.

Another asks to borrow my Space NK catalogue to look for moisturiser. What happened to Clearasil and Brut? When another tells me the reason he cannot stop fidgeting is because he is wearing a fellow pupils' pants and they are too tight for his bits, I ask Nursie for advice. She whips out a plethora of leaflets.

Acne? Do not squeeze under any circumstances. Sudden erections? Boys are advised to sit down and think of their favourite food until the moment passes. The lunch hall suddenly takes on a whole new aura.

I know, but do not really want to know, that they are becoming sexually active -especially if they are more active than I am. The leaflets tell me they are making 172 million sperm a day. Good grief. No wonder they cannot sit still in class and their attention wanders.

If that's what is happening externally, I dread to think what is going on in their minds. Then I know. Pupil C asks for my advice on writing erotic fiction for his coursework. Sorry? Did I miss the training on how to handle adolescent males telling you they spend their spare time reading Black Lace novels? Clearly.

Hormones surge and traverse the classroom. Theirs and mine, with encroaching middle-age flushes. Too many of us are trying to be assertive in such a small space.

Suddenly I crave white chocolate and Sean Bean (dressed as Sharpe). I open the window, gulp water and sit down waiting for the hormones to subside.

Then I wonder if Nursie has a leaflet for me.

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