Pomonok and Love
It wasn’t easy coming up with an appropriate title for this entry. ‘Pomonok and Sex’ is too lurid and ‘Pomonok and Romance’ too dreamy. ‘Love’ probably isn’t the right term either to describe something that was closer to hormone-induced yearning.
The thing about Pomonok is that there were thousands of members of the opposite sex densely packed and stacked on top of each other in a mere tenth of a mile square area. It was a veritable Walmart of potential partners. This, of course, was not important to us as young kids, as boys and girls tended to regard each other as separate species. We played separately, at first, but then at some point we started playing together.
I was a late-comer to the birds and the bees. I was finally enlightened about the making of babies by an older boy in my building. Because it was such a taboo subject, he had to illustrate the procedure through hand gestures, poking the finger of one hand repeatedly through the cupped fingers of his other hand. I had no idea what he was doing, so he finally had to explain it to me using some very vulgar terminology. This kind of valuable peer instruction was just one advantage among many of growing up in a housing project.
Post puberty, we began ‘hanging out’, mostly on the benches or the stoop. This daily ritual of flirtation and sexual competition became so addictive that it eventually superseded skelly as the main pastime in Pomonok. Inevitably, couples would begin pairing off and there was a general acknowledgment the pair were “seeing each other.” The title of “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” meant that you were “taken”, no longer available for conquest. Possessiveness and jealousy reared their ugly heads. Break-ups became important news.
I never had the experience of having a “girlfriend” while living in Pomonok. I wanted a girlfriend, but I lacked the requisite self-esteem and confidence. I tried getting girls to like me by entertaining them with humor. If I could get them to laugh at my jokes, that was as good as a kiss for me. One time, the girl I liked most in Pomonok actually did give me a kiss. I was tutoring her in algebra and she must have gotten carried away. One kiss over math homework. No “making out”, “necking”, “petting”, or, god forbid, “doing it.” All that good stuff came later on in college.
I have it on good authority though that many of my friends did a lot of the good stuff while in Pomonok, especially in the stairwells, where the sound of the heavy doors slamming on any floor served as a early warning system that someone was about to appear and spoil their fun. From the supposedly innocent 50s through the supposedly free love 60s, there was a definite movement towards more sexual freedom. Kids today don’t even know what “spin the bottle” is. They go straight from play dates to sexting.
Then there are the true love stories of Pomonok, the lasting romances between those kids who grew up together in the brick towers, became sweethearts at John Bowne, Jamaica High, or Francis Lewis, and eventually got married. I was in awe of those couples. In the 70s and 80s, they’d bring their toddlers to the Pomonok Softball League night games at P.S. 201 and the little ones would climb up and down on the same cement bleachers where their parents had once held hands.
Here’s to “Pomonok and Love”, to those couples, those little kids, and those romantic summer nights in the park.