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February 08, 2009

The Urge to Merge: Sex Ed in the Fast Lane

Sex ed The summer I turned 8 years old, I had what I will always recall as the "snake in the grass" moment. I was playing stickball with the neighbors at our family's summer cabin. We were sprinting through waist high grass, kicking at the weeds to find our lost ball. Then, without any warning, there it was. I saw a snake. I was on my knees searching for the ball, and the snake hovered shockingly in front of my face.  Mere inches from my nose. I might have screamed.

I wasn't particularly afraid of snakes that summer.  We had a family of harmless garden ones that liked to sun themselves on the rocks by our porch. I'd even picked up a snake or two, on a double dog dare from my college aged brothers.

This snake in the grass was a different type of animal though. It was the flesh-toned favorite pet of an unusually precocious little boy who was rumored to have a crush on me.

"C'mon!" The boy said. "Let's DO it!

"Do what?"
I forget the boy's name. Derek something? Gavin? I wasn't interested in him. He was a little pest. Younger than me, and unimportant. I wanted to be BFFs with his big sister Bridget, who my mom called a "bad influence". Bridget was a year older than me, with hair to her butt, hoop earrings, and fabulously embroidered tunics. She had no bedtime, and her parents never made her wear shoes at the lake. She could walk on sharp gravel without flinching. She knew how to hold a cigarette convincingly. She was impressive.

"Don't you know how babies are made? Don't you know anything, stupid!?" Derekgavin asked, thrilled to finally have one up on me.

His little thing dangled as he hobbled after me through the tall grass, shorts around his ankles, ready to impart his wisdom. I thought it best to run at this point. I could hear his sisters, calling. I only half listened to the nonsense he yelled out after me as I ran ran ran. It was completely crazy nonsense, after all.

Many months later though I found myself recalling it. It was winter already and my mom was flipping through a copy of Sunset Magazine in our groovy shag-carpeted den. I remember she looked beautiful, draped on the mod black naugahyde sofa.

I'm not sure why I chose that moment to blurt out the tale of the snake in the grass. Perhaps I was expecting a big laugh. Or a "that's utterly preposterous!" Or even an annoyed "I really don't know why I let you hang out with those trailer trashy kids!" Anything but the silence that I was greeted with. Silence followed by the solemn delivery of a stack of books from the slightly outdated Life Cycle Library. I was asked to please read these books quietly in my room.

Let me tell you, the Life Cycle Library may have had 4 volumes, but it only took about fourteen minutes to skim all the "interesting parts".

And after reading I was pissed. Royally angry. I marched out to the living room and waved a fistful of my mother's tampons in her face. Up until then, she'd tried to sell me on the idea that they were for crafting. She'd even encouraged me to use a crummy box of rejected Kotex tampons as blanks for making stick puppets. Which I'd shown off to everyone in my class.

"Seriously, I get why you wouldn't want to talk about the baby making. But you were afraid to tell me about these? So afraid you let me take vaginal thingy tampons to school?!"

It was at that moment I swore not to do this to my daughters, should I ever have any. I swore to honestly and factually answer every and any question to the best of my ability. No matter how difficult. I considered it an oath.

My own children delight in shocking me. The only problem is that I am not easily shocked. Which is why they save the fun questions like, "Mommy? What's a BJ?" for those moments when I am merging onto the freeway in the heaviest rush hour traffic. Usually there is also pouring rain. I am making a run across four truck-filled lanes to get to the carpool one. Then whammo! They get me! Because what's a good sex question, without a little drama?

These questions also seem to appear without any warning. Much like Derekgavin's snake. Naked non-sequitors sent to test my nerves and my driving skills. It's such a habit that if they asked me a question in my own den, I would still instinctively look over my left shoulder before answering. I wonder if it is too late to get a Naugahyde couch to drape myself on. So I could field questions without flashing my brights and using indicators. 

To date, I've discussed the basics of human biology, the meanings of assorted vulgar hand and tongue gestures, and the mechanics of the main "act", all from behind the wheel.

Sometimes I think perhaps we need a bumper sticker, to warn those who would tailgate. Instead of "CAUTION! Driver's Ed Vehicle" it could say "CAUTION! Sex Ed Vehicle". 

I'm truly glad that my girls are comfortable asking me anything. Every once in a while though, I wonder what happened to Derekgavin and his sisters. And I think of the old Life Cycle Library.  It was, after all, a pretty good read. Far easier on the brakes. Perhaps my mom was onto something.

This is an original post to LA Moms Blog.

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