Oh. You thought I was going to explain ... ?
This is a little awkward. You see, I was hoping you would know and -- you're new here, aren't you? Or perhaps you have not been paying attention?
I can't imagine what I could have said or done in the past to indicate a source of useful advice here. The fact is, when it came up in my living room recently, I found myself panicking. Then obfuscating. And finally, careening wildly into the shoals of too much information.
The soon-to-be sixth grader and I were watching a PG-13 rated movie that seemed safe enough. A mediocre romantic comedy like a dozen others the girl has seen without incident. I like to screen movies in advance when I can, but occasionally if the movie jacket indicates something relatively tame, I will forgo this ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL STEP in favor of watching it with her, which, if you are the type of parent prone to panicking, obfuscating or careening wildly into the shoals of too much information, is actually worse than simply letting your child watch it alone.
In my defense, I can only say, that up until this moment, I truly did not see myself as the kind of parent prone to panicking, obfuscating or careening wildly into the shoals of too much information. In fact, I am now embarrassed to admit, I even imagined that I was an enlightened sort of parent on these topics. "It's just biology," I may have said once or twice over cocktails with the slightly condescending air of someone bemused by the inexplicable squeamishness of others. You know who you are, you prudish, myth- and ignorance-propagating others.
Then comes the scene where a grandmother ties a set of what are referred to as "thunder beads" around her neck, mistaking them for a necklace - to the great amusement and shock of the other guests at a bridal shower demonstration of what are sometimes coyly referred to as "marital aids."
"What are those?" the girl asks.
PANIC: "What are what?" I say. The scene drags on.
"Those," she says. "The thing the grandmother has tied around her neck like a necklace."
OBFUSCATION: "Hmmm? I wasn't paying attention. I didn't really hear."
"Thunder beads," the girl says. She shifts her attention from the television screen to my face with the perfect instincts of a child who suspects she is being misled.
MORE OBFUSCATION: "I'm really not sure," I say. "I have never heard of 'Thunder Beads'." I give myself one point for truthfulness, even if it is a hair-splitting sort of truth.
"Yes, but what do you think they are?" she says, demonstrating one of the pitfalls of Take Your Daughter to Work Day in a family full of journalists.
Her newsroom skills are impressive. She rephrases the question, hones in on the ambiguity in my answers and pushes me to the wall. She is relentless. "I have never heard of thunder beads," I repeat. She allows an uncomfortable pause to build into silent pressure, until finally, I find myself CAREENING WILDLY INTO THE SHOALS OF TOO MUCH INFORMATION.
The discussion that follows includes the following: masturbation, orgasm, batteries. I cannot tell you exactly how I managed to bring it to an end, except to say that there was very little in my soliloquy to recommend my skills as a parent, as a native English speaker or as a sexually-literate adult.
Later, I recount my ordeal to Mr. Kamikaze, who is as sympathetic as always. "Jesus," he says, "you were one stammer away from describing double penetration."
That is ridiculous. It never even came up. And I have learned my lesson, which is this: As a parent you must anticipate every possible question, compose eloquent, age-appropriate explanations and be ready to give them at a moment's notice, possibly from 3 x 5 index cards that you have prepared in advance.
I am just kidding of course. I have only prepared one card. It says: Go Ask Daddy.
from the Sex Ed archives: Sex, Lies and Pomeranians