“Mom, what’s fifty-six?””Ah, I’m not sure what you mean.””I think it might be a… a…””Mmm-hmm?”(Whispered) “…a set thing…”Long, long pause.
“Mom, What’s fifty-six?”
“Ah, I’m not sure what you mean.”
“I think it might be a… a…”
(Whispered) “…a sex thing…”
Long, long pause.
“Honey, do you mean sixty-nine?”
“Oh, yeah, that’s it.”
“Where did you hear about that?”
“Some kids at school…”
This is the kind of conversation one has when one has children on the verge of teenager-hood. The kind of conversation that’s easy if you’re up-tight and prudish, because you can just wash a kid’s mouth with soap or spank them or pretend you don’t understand. But when you actually talk to your kids and tell them the truth, it can be a little but complicated.
The truth. That’s the tricky part. What truth? How much?
I’m a dirty bastard. I write erotica. I know sexuality. But putting things like this into a context so it’s both understandable and appropriate; that’s difficult.
How do you explain sexuality, sensuality, to a ten year old?
Honestly though, here’s what happens when you don’t.
I had a co-worker named Suzy, long long ago when I worked at a poster store and head shop, a place connected to Tower Records. We sold bongs and rolling papers, pipes and coke mirrors. Plants and incense.
So Suzy was the honey of the crew. A little older than most of us, I was maybe 20, she was 23 or so. A suntanned California babe. A little dim, but not as dim as she acted. Not really as cute as we all thought she was, but you know, the cutest girl we actually had there with us every day. I wanted to fuck her desperately. So did most of the rest of us. And I realize now, I could have but I didn’t think to just ask.
So I wore a shirt back then, a kelly-green football jersey with a big number 69 on the back. People would comment on it, and I’d say “It was the position I played in high-school.” Some got it, some didn’t.
I used this joke on Suzy one day and got a blank stare. The sort of an embarrassed grin. She moved in close, all intimate-like, and whispered to me.
“I don’t know what that means,” she said.
“Sixty-nine. I don’t — uh…”
She paused and looked around.
“I don’t know what it means!” she finished, lamely.
I could have said a lot of things. Now, obviously, I’d suggest that I show her. And it might have worked, for all I know. She might have let me take her in the back room and demonstrate. I certainly would have gone if it’d played that way. But then, twenty years old, I had no idea what I might have gotten away with.
So I decided to go for the prank.
“Ask your mother,” I said.
It was a couple of days later when I saw her again; one or the other of us was off shift. But her face was red when she saw me, her body language all embarrassment and irritation.
She planted a punch in my shoulder, and then started poking me.
“You! You! Y-y-y-y-y-y – YOU!” she sputtered at me.
“You told me to ask her!”
“Ask who? What?” I’d forgotten all about it.
“You told me to ask my mother, what 69 is!”
“And I did!”
Her face was getting redder.
“And. She. Told me!”
Poor Suzy. I doubt that’s the last sexual lesson she had to learn the hard way.
It’s very important to me that my children grow up never having to say “Oh, wow, I didn’t know that.” It’s so easy to teach them, and costs so little. I want them to be the ones who can tell their peers the truth when teen-age conversation turns to adult matters. I want them to be the ones who know what STDs are, who know how you can and can’t get pregnant. I want them to know they can come to us and ask about birth control someday.
BUt still. How do you explain sixty-nine to a ten year old?
I didn’t have to, this time. The conversation above was between mother and daughter, and handled incredibly well; matter-of-factly with enough but not too much detail.
That conversation concluded, after a couple of ten-year old Eeeewwwws and Ughs, with this:
“…And I give you full permission, now that you know this, to forget it completely and pretend we didn’t have this conversation.”
Which my ten-year-old did, and went back to her homework. But now she knows she can ask a question like that and get a real answer.
I must say though, I’m waiting for the day she asks about why daddy is always kissing people who aren’t mommy. That will be an interesting conversation.