Interesting article from today's New York Times...It's Time for the Truth, When Body Clock Strikes 13By PERRI KLASS, M.D.August 16, 2005"You've probably noticed that your body is changing," I said to the 13-year-old boy. "If you have any questions about it - about your body or the feelings which come with growing up - you can ask me."Don't be embarrassed, and don't worry, I'll keep it private."Most of the time, the adolescents just shake their heads. No questions. Sometimes they tell me they have already gone over this in school.Not this boy, though. He looked at me with fascination. "Really?" he said. "You won't tell my mom?""No, that's one of the reasons we ask your mom to wait in the waiting room now that you're older," I replied."Really? I can ask you questions and you won't tell her?""I'll keep anything you ask me or tell me private," I said. "What's your question?"I got ready my most common stock answer: "Yes, wet dreams are normal; they happen to all teenage boys."The boy was sitting on the exam table, still wrapped in the paper gown."So, ma'am," he began, "is it true ... "He broke off and took a deep breath. He started again. "Is it really true that if you drink a lot of Mountain Dew it makes all your sperm go away?"I didn't laugh. I asked him where he had heard this, and he assured me that lots of kids told him it was true.I told him it wasn't true. He stared at me suspiciously. "How do you know it isn't true?" he asked.Routinely, I do physical exams on preadolescent and adolescent girls and boys. Routinely, I invite their questions, trying to be as matter-of-fact as possible, presenting myself as someone who has seen it all and heard it all.Sometimes, if they seem uncomfortable about being examined, I reassure them that I do this all day long, boys and girls, all parts of the body.Regularly, I embarrass my own children. I tell stories that they view as mildly (or not so mildly) inappropriate, or I use words they feel should not be used in polite company. It's a regular consequence, I think, of the repeated presence in my daily work of other people's personal bodily functions. So I tell my young patients to go ahead: ask me anything.Funny feelings in your body? Shame or embarrassment about your appearance? Sexual yearnings toward a person you think is inappropriate? Sexual advances from a person who scares you?When I actually get those questions, I do my best to help. Sometimes I end up asking for permission to call the parent back in and get the parent involved.When a 13-year-old girl tells me she's scared of an 18-year-old boy who follows her home every day, she needs more than a friendly talk about puberty and body image from her doctor.I try to take all of their questions seriously, and I try to be both sensitive and respectful. And many of the questions are intelligent and even moving.A teenage girl recently asked me how she was supposed to decide whether to start having intercourse with her boyfriend. She wanted to know what you're supposed to do when your body really wants to do something, but your brain isn't so sure.But it's not all seriousness and sensitivity. Sometimes it's more about trying to keep a straight face.What I do learn, over and over, is that all the old myths are still out there, along with some I've never heard of.There are good programs in many schools. There are excellent books on the market. There are plenty of parents who are having carefully open conversations with their children.But in every classroom, there still seems to be some boy passing the word that masturbation can make your penis fall off.Going from being a child to being a young adult has never been easy, and it still isn't.It's scary and confusing and embarrassing. My patients are embarrassed by their questions, embarrassed by my answers - and often desperate for information."Can I ask you another question?" the 13-year-old boy said."Sure," I said, thinking, O.K., hit me.We both waited. I was beginning to think about other patients in the waiting room, about my schedule backing up."I will keep anything you ask me private," I said again."O.K.," he said, and took a deep breath. "My question is this. My question is, When you have sex with someone ... " and then he interrupted himself, horribly embarrassed. "Oh, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean you personally. I really didn't."It's O.K., I told him over and over. It's really O.K. They teach us all this stuff in medical school, I told him. You can ask me anything you want.