Ben Tanzer wondered if he was really the right one to deliver “the talk” to his son. Turns out, he was.
At this point I have been thinking about sex a lot longer than I wasn’t thinking about it, much longer. And no, the repetitive use of longer was not intended to be subliminal.
Or was it? Think about it.
With thinking about sex comes questions of course, many questions, and yes, I just used the word comes, yo.
For example, how to get it? Where to get it? When will I get it next? With who? How often? How long will I last? What state will I add next? How many people will I sleep with? And how many could it have been?
Also, why couldn’t I get it up at the prom? Will that happen again? Why hasn’t that happened again? And when can I finally stop worrying about whether that will happen again? Is there a whiskey dick half-life or statute of limitations? Seriously, is there?
Further, was that real? And do I care? I do, of course I do. Totally. Really. Why didn’t that thing that worked last time work this time? And did it actually work?
And, could I really have had sex that time at the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and if so, was that my one chance to add Rhode Island to the list?
Finally, is it normal to think about sex this often because it doesn’t feel like it could be, despite the fact that my favorite, and easily most knowledgeable, therapist said it is?
I always have more questions than answers, though I think most of us do.
We do, don’t we?
So much about understanding sex is about mood and timing, knowing what you want, and then being with someone who knows what they want.
Of course not everyone does, nor are they reading 50 Shades of Grey when you get into bed with them, so it can be confusing, sex, all of it, which is not exactly an original thought, but remains a reality for me after trying, and at times succeeding, to have sex for over thirty years now.
And yes, we will pause for a moment here to let that register for a moment.
Now, is it true, however, that no one in a position of authority ever spoke to me about sex?
Not a sentence. Nor tip. No warnings. Nothing about mechanics or how anything works, or at least might work in generally ideal situations.
And is it also true that when I was twelve I read about a book titled Boys and Sex and then asked my father to drive me to a bookstore so I could buy a copy of said book?
The cover was blue, of course, and the topics covered included among other things pubic hair, masturbation, and homosexuality, all of which I had a passing knowledge of, which is to say almost none.
You might wonder if my father thought he should ask me some questions about the book, what I had read, or thought, did I have any questions for him, and he might have thought about that, but if you were to wonder if he actually asked me any of those questions, the answer is no, not at all, never, not once.
In fact, the only discussion I recall us ever having was about how he had once dumped a lovely, flat-chested Jewish girl from his neighborhood to pursue an Irish girl with prematurely large breasts who went on to dump him even as the Jewish girl blossomed in all areas.
I’m sure there is a lesson in all of that, I’m just not sure if it was one of valuing a woman for who they are inside and out; one of valuing patience, that good things come to those who wait, and there’s the word come again; or if he was very subtly encouraging me to stick with Jewish girls, and to go with what you know, something both I and Jews everywhere around the world would ultimately benefit from.
In the face of stories like that I chose to read Boys and Sex repeatedly, hoping to glean whatever information I could, about anything, at all.
All of which it to say, that whether I am equipped to have sex, much less discuss it, or offer advice on it, is questionable, very questionable, but not optional as the father of a ten-year old boy who is friends with girls who apparently are wildly misinformed on the topic.
Case in point, dinner party, our house, we’ve ordered-in from Old Jerusalem on Wells, you should try it if you haven’t, great hummus and falafel, but I digress, people are over, the boys are running around and someone swears, possibly me, not that I would ever curse in front of one of my children, that is wrong.
Everyone stops speaking however and said curser looks at my then nine-year old son Myles sheepishly, who in turn responds, “It’s okay, I’ve learned all the bad words at school.”
“You did?” I say.
“Yeah,” he says proudly, “like the d word is dumb.”
“The s word,” he says, “stupid.”
More laughs. And some relief.
“And the b-s word,” he continues, “bed sex.”
Everyone smirks. It’s cute, sort of.
“Bed sex,” you say trying not to sound too dad, “who told you that one?”
“Melissa,” he says, “she watched the movie Australia while her grandmother was sleeping on the couch, and she told us everything.”
Melissa, of course, I knew that, who else could it have been? Who else talks about sex on the playground with the frequency that she does?
Well, besides his friend Tina, other parents, and some of the teachers, possibly, though after hours certainly.
“And she was talking about how the girl has to be on top of the boy,” Myles continues, “for it to count, and then Tina added, ‘And that’s bed sex.’”
Tina had also told Myles how her parents scheduled their days off at the same time so they could stay home and have sex while she was at school.
Bed sex presumably?
Later that night as she is wont to do the wife says, “You need to talk to him, like post-haste, soon, now even, and don’t say you will in the same way you say you will clean the bathtub and then don’t for weeks.”
“Why me,” you say feebly, “no one ever spoke to me about it?”
“Exactly,” she says, “and look at the years of confusion and suffering that have resulted for both you and the women in your life. It’s not right.”
Which is true I suppose, so the next day after before dinner I pull him aside.
“Dude,” you say, trying not to be weird or too nonchalant, “we need to talk after dinner.”
“Can we wait until after desert?” Myles says.
Desert is consumed and the two of us head to his room.
He leans against his bed as cool as a cucumber, and you do the same against his brother’s bed, though not quite as cool, and given your advanced age, much less cucumber-like.
“We need to talk about sex,” you say.
“I knew it,” he says, aggressively jabbing his finger at me, “I knew this would be the sex talk.”
Your goal here is to be scientific, just the facts as best as you can provide them. You will be sparse, you will stick to the basics and you will try not to smirk yourself. You will also focus on the mechanics, and seek to abstain from staring too much at the poster of Jennifer Lawrence hanging over his bed.
“Okay,” you start, “do you understand how people get pregnant?”
“Yeah,” he says, “the boy puts his penis in the girl’s mouth.”
Yeah, maybe on a really good day, or like an anniversary or something.
“Yeah,” you actually say.
“And then the sperm goes down to their stomach, and the girl gets pregnant, right?” he says.
Wow, no, not at all, how can he think that?
“Not exactly,” you actually say, “the boy has to put his penis in the girl’s vagina.”
“What, ew, no way, really,” he says looking at you incredulously, and not as cool as a moment earlier.
“Yes,” you say as professorially as possible, “and then the sperm finds, or swims, their way to the girl’s eggs, and if all goes right, the sperm fertilizes the egg and conception has occurred.”
“And so that’s bed sex?” he says.
“That’s sex,” you say, “or intercourse.”
“Bed sex?” he says again.
“You know sweetie,” you say, “all sex is bed sex, because most of the time you are in a bed, not always, but most of the time.”
Oh shit, I needed to stop sooner than that, yo.
“So you’re not always in a bed?” he says
“I don’t think we need to cover that today,” you say, “but do you have any more questions about conception?”
“Can you have sex standing-up,” he says, ignoring you.
It sort of depends on the angle, and height, you don’t say, trying not to think about Less Than Zero and Robert Downey Jr. banging Jamie Gertz in that alley.
“Or in a garbage can?” he continues.
Only after a number of drinks, maybe, not likely, but maybe, sure, why not, not that you say this either.
“The important thing,” you say both wanting to move him off of this thread and not be all about science when sex is so much more complicated, and better, than that, “is that people don’t only have sex so they can have babies, it’s fun too, and pleasurable, and it is very hard to put off having sex once you want to have it, but if you can wait until you’re older and more mature, it will be better, I promise.”
To this he says nothing, and while there are a million other things I want to say, it’s not the time.
This is a victory though, I had to do something I arguably didn’t want to do, and no one did for me, and I got through it, if not with flying colors, with something.
“Hey,” you say to him while patting yourself on the back, “do you have any questions at all?”
“No,” he says, “that’s enough for now.”
And it is, though this isn’t the end of it, it can’t be, there are still so many things I haven’t talked about at all, STDs, condoms, sexuality, how no means no, always, it’s endless.
So many layers, and so much confusion, and what I hope will be so much time before any of this becomes something else, something real, and not something merely perambulated on because of uninformed friends and their grandmother’s love of Hugh Jackman and Baz Lurhman movies.
Originally appeared at The Weeklings