In the first part of the ninth chapter of Games Wizards Play, EVERYTHING IS CUTE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
Trigger Warning: For frank talk of sex.
I expected to spend most of this review yelling about the Javits Center, but alas, I imagine that’ll come in the next one. For now: let’s talk about Grand Central. It’s certainly one of those quintessential places to visit, and I truly feel like it’s a magical location. It’s just so beautiful inside, and the specific time that Duane references here—mid-morning—really is one of the best times to visit it. Rush hour is… well, rush hour anywhere in the New York area is a disaster. And Grand Central feels so LOUD during rush hour with all those voices and all that movement echoing off the walls. But it feels like an engineering and architectural feat once you’re inside it, or when you gaze at it from the south. There are logistical reasons why the wizards are routed through there instead of Penn Station (which is way closer to the Javits Center), but I appreciated this because everyone should get a chance to go through Grand Central. IT’S SO GREAT.
And really, while the 7 train woulda been way faster to get down to the Javits, I also loved that Kit and Nita walked there. Midtown and Times Square can be a clusterfuck; same with the Theater District and Murray Hill, all of which surround or comprise the walk that these two characters go on. They’re worse during rush hour, obviously, and I highly advise any visitors or tourists to avoid Times Square at all costs. (With one exception: it’s pretty fucking cool at like two in the morning. Way less people and the bewildering neon signs and ads have a bigger impact.) But there’s just nowhere in the world that looks or feels like Manhattan, especially that belt of it. All those towering buildings. The mix of modern next to classic. The energy, the constant flow of people, the various cultures you are exposed to in a matter of minutes, the way cafes and restaurants and clothing stores are all mashed up against one another. There’s a feeling of momentum and movement, of hope and possibility.
And it is overwhelming. Unless you’ve lived in a major metropolitan area, New York City feels impossible. It’s sometimes hard to fathom just how many people are crammed into one island, but you certainly are cognizant of it when your subway car is full and you’re all hot and miserable. I EXPERIENCED THIS A LOT LAST YEAR. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. This is exactly where I want to be.
Like Nita and Kit, I also find that the city allows for intense or deep conversations while in transit. I feel far less self-conscious about them nowadays than I ever have before. It’s easy to just fall into the fabric of the city because there’s just so much going on. Duane uses that here so that Nita and Kit can have a beautiful honest conversation about sex and expectations. It’s wonderful how much it didn’t feel limiting, especially since they manage to cover so many topics in such a short span of time. But I remember my own experience being similar to Kit’s and Nita’s, despite already knowing I was gay. That didn’t change the fact that kids my age started talking about sex, and then you had to carefully navigate conversations in order to avoid being a target. And how you became a target was just as perplexing as Duane describes here!
See, if you weren’t having sex, you were uncool and a nerd. I frequently got designated as the leader of this specific group, both because I couldn’t keep a girlfriend more than a few weeks and because everyone perceived me as being gay. Though, of course, that meant that then I got bullied because my peers theorized that I was having sex, but it was the wrong kind. If women had sex, they were shamed. If they weren’t having sex, they were shamed. If they had sex once, it was once too many; if they were still a virgin, they were a horrible prude. And this is just the surface level, y’all. I’ve thought back to some of the weird shit people believed about sex to some of the weirder behaviors I witnessed. (Like a kid getting caught in my seventh grade math class masturbating in the back row.) (Or all the bizarre homoerotic behavior I saw or participated in. I did because I was gay, but what does that mean for the OTHER guys who participated? Was it really a joke or was it experimentation?) (I HAVE SO MANY STORIES, LORD.)
There was one big commonality here, though: we had terrible sex education. And because of that, most of my conversations about sex looked nothing like what Kit and Nita say, if only because I lacked the education or knowledge! Because of that, kids sought out information in ways that weren’t exactly helpful, or they didn’t seek to learn anything and instead just had sex. It’s why I believe sex education is so vital, y’all. Kids need to be informed about it because it will help us navigate the world better. FULL STOP. It will help us figure out identities. What kind of sexual activity we may want. Whether or not we have sexual desire at all and what it means when desire fluctuates. What informed consent looks like. WHY OUR BODIES ARE NOT INHERENTLY EVIL OR SINFUL OR DESERVING OF SCORN AND CRITICISM.
There’s so much to talk about. I’m glad Nita and Kit are making the effort to do so.
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