No, you didn’t read that title wrong. In fact, it’s probably causing you as much confusion as it caused me when I was eight.
I grew up in the 1960’s, in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I started Kindergarten in 1962, a year before JFK was assassinated. Wyoming has always been at least ten years behind the rest of the country — “the 60’s” wouldn’t begin for another fifteen years. We were still buried deep in the 1950’s, maybe even the late ’40’s. The closest thing we had to “pornography” was Playboy Magazine, which in those days was just a tiny bit racier than a pin-up calendar you might find in the mechanic’s office: bare breasts, maybe a glimpse of a patch of pubic hair peeking out from behind a draped towel or a silk robe. The hardcore magazines weren’t easy to come by: you had to know someone whose father kept a stash in the footlocker in the basement where he kept his gun.
As a result, everything we actually knew about sex (and girls) came from older brothers, who were not very much more knowledgeable than we were. On top of that, they enjoyed tormenting their little brothers with misinformation. “Santa Claus” doesn’t even amount to a sno-cone shaved off the iceberg of misinformation we carried around daily.
I didn’t have any older brothers. But I had plenty of friends with older brothers, and those friends were the “worldly” kids in our school classes. They were the ones who taught the rest of us how girls got pregnant, and how babies were born, and what kissing was all about.
It reminds me now of the old joke:
Q: Why do blonde women have bruises around their belly buttons?
A: Because blonde men are dumb, too.
Yes, when I was in third grade, belly-buttons had something to do with sex. We weren’t entirely sure what, but we were sure of that much. After all, Craig Johnson’s brother had told him so. And he had a girlfriend.
So I think it was around third grade — I’d have been eight, going on nine — that the term “tittiebone” entered into our vernacular. Not a single one of us knew what it meant, so it quickly became an all-purpose pejorative. It’s something you’d shout at the opposing pitcher in a Little League game: “You TITTIEBONE!” School cafeterias served up tittiebone sandwiches. We’d call someone we didn’t like a tittiebone. Anyone who touched a tittiebone got girl germs.
Within a year, the word was gone, swallowed up into the etymological void from which it sprang. It’s a word that will bring a faint smile to the lips of anyone who was in third grade in Cheyenne in 1965. Anyone else will scratch his head in befuddlement.