My Lover and I were talking the other day about his twelve-year-old son having his first girlfriend. And I realized I’m not sure I can remember what girlfriend and boyfriend meant in seventh grade.
I do know that I went to my first co-ed party, played spin the bottle and prayed that it would get too late in the evening to play seven minutes in the closet. I was pretty shy in the romance department back then.
In any case, I asked my Lover if he was going to have a father-son talk, including favorites like, “It’s perfectly normal to masturbate, but class it up a bit and don’t use a friggin’ sock.” He said that it wasn’t necessary. Huh? Not being a full time parent, I was confused.
My parents had those talks with me. Or were those my TV parents? Parents are supposed to talk to their kids about sex and, more often that not, how to avoid it, right? They say things like, “I’m here for you, if you ever want or need to talk.” Mine did.
Apparently, my Lover (I want to see how long it takes before you get nauseated by the word) didn’t think so. He’s the youngest of five kids from a working class family in Portugal. There weren’t a lot of sit-downs with his parents – unlike my hippy dippy-consciousness raising-pot smoking-macrame plant holder making-denim cap wearing-Three Dog Night listening-free to be you and me-parents. He never talked about sex, bodily functions or anything too personal, with his parents, unlike my parents.
I wish I’d been from Portugal.
Most of the time I didn’t want to tell my parents anything, but in some perverse and distorted way, I felt compelled to talk because they said that I could and I didn’t want to hurt their feelings. I wanted it to be like the families on TV. I wanted to be on the receiving end of that glorious undivided parental attention. I soon learned that it was best to get that attention from an anonymous audience, while singing and dancing on stage.
Flashback to 1980:
I was in eighth grade and babysitting at a neighbor’s house. I hated babysitting for this particular family. There was never anything good to eat, the kids were dorks (and that’s coming from a dork) and the husband creeped me out big time. I remember him driving me home one night and when he pulled into my driveway, he said, “Okay, pussy, thank you for your help.” Ew on every level. I convinced myself that he didn’t mean it in a vaginal way and that it was a throw back to his generation, when pussy actually meant pussycat. But even at 13, it sounded gross and inappropriate. If it happened today (and I’m not sure why I’d be babysitting and getting rides home, since I have a car), I’d report him to the authorities and see if his name was on any public sex offender’s lists.
So I got my menses (gotta love the word) for the first time that night. My mother was beside herself. She didn’t know what to do first. Um, how about finding me something so I don’t soil my Carter’s. (It would be a few more years until I discovered thongs!)
And what she came up with was…. wait for it, wait for it… a goddam belt, which was like suspenders for a sanitary napkin. What the f? What is this 1870? My mom told me that I was too young for tampons, and wanted to ask the doctor first, just to make sure that it was okay to shove something up inside of me. That was thoughtful of her.
I begged and pleaded with my mom not to tell my dad. She promised and I went into my bedroom. Not ten minutes later, there was a knock on my door. It was my dad. He sat down on the edge of my bed, and I swear, I think he had tears in his eyes.
“Congratulations. I’m so proud of you. You’re a young woman.”
Okay, first of all, thanks Mom, I hate you, and I’m never ever going to tell you anything ever again, ever, as long as I live! And secondly, really, Dad, congratulations? For what? I had no control over this. It wasn’t like I studied hard for a test and got an A!
I didn’t see this happening as an accomplishment or something to tick off of my To Do list. And I wished that he didn’t say woman, because at that age, certain words – like woman – sounded icky to me and made me uncomfortable. Don’t try to figure that one out. Suffice to say, the whole ordeal was embarrassing.
But a few years later, even after all of the menses drama, I trotted back to the mommy after losing my virginity, because “You can tell me anything,” and I’m an idiot and I wanted to share. Again. My mom wigged out. It wasn’t in a, “I’m so disappointed in you. How could you have done such a thing? I’m not taking care of it, if you get pregnant” sort of way but rather in a “I’m not ready for this” sort of way.
Cut to: Present Day
This is a cautionary tale, kids. Think twice before you tell your offspring that you want them to be completely open about stuff like this. My belief is that parents don’t always want to hear about it, if only because it re-enforces how ill equipped, ill-prepared, and utterly clueless they are. So don’t ask your little angels to shove your faces in every last detail of these kinds of things. They can go tell their grandparents instead.