Shortly after discovering I was to be a mom of two boys, my first thought was, at least I won’t have to give them the menstruation talk. While there a number of other pitfalls I’m not looking forward to: teenage boys, idiot girlfriends, man-buffoonery – it still seemed better than female rivalry, wardrobe battles and the subtle confidence undermining games that my mother went through with me.
My mom never really taught me about “the birds and the bees.” Heck, she won’t even tell me how to pick fresh fish. I learned about the facts of life at nine, when my best friend, Jen, put a naked Ken on top of a naked Barbie and said, “this is what parents do.”
But even without Jen’s figurine demonstration, growing up in the 70’s – sex was pretty much everywhere. It wasn’t about birds or bees at all. It was about cigarettes and tampons and 42nd Street. Instead of “The Talk,” my mom took me to see Midnight Cowboy because to her, it was a coming of age story.
“This is what happens when a potato tries to make it in the city. Don’t be a potato.” She’d say.
By “potato” she meant “bumpkin.” A country bumpkin, which oddly enough, my father would label her as being. After all, she grew up surrounded by fields and he was from downtown Tokyo where they’d roll a house on logs to move away from the burning one next door.
My mother’s own childhood complaints were about having nothing but sweet potatoes and barley to eat and his retort was, “at least you had something to eat.”
When it came to war, starvation and American soldiers – my parents would tell me everything. Boys and love and where babies come from, on the other hand, they’d make a run for it and leave me to speculate from the Motown and Engelbert Humperdink records they’d play.
Considering my boys are subjected to my husband’s taste in music: Nine Inch Nails, Tool, Manson and Metallica – I can’t really send them down that road. They became curious why Beyonce was prancing around in high heels and a leotard, singing about a ring and I groaned, Birds and the Bees these days. I prayed to be spared the “talk” for at least another five years.
But this is the world of flash advertisement. When they saw a banner on my computer that said, “Support Same Sex Marriage,” they asked what it meant.
So I explained, “It’s when a man marries a man or a woman marries a woman.”
And Samu said, “So, I can marry Ping and he could be my brother!”
Yes, it’s mixed up but the funny thing is, there are times I feel like my husband is more like my baby and my sons are like my partners when it comes to mature conversation. Besides, my husband’s family is so big and intertwined, they’re still trying to figure out everybody’s relationship to everybody – so I just simplified it with, “Same sex marriage is when gay people get married.”
Samu furrowed his brows. “But isn’t gay like…a pink shirt.”
Deep breath. Then I asked them, “You know how you feel nervous and shy around Kate or Ninelle?” They both nodded – which I took as a sign that they’re currently heterosexual. Then I continued, “Well, for some boys, they have that feeling about another boy.”
They both quietly thought about those feelings for a minute. Maybe they understood – maybe they were thinking about Legos. Who knows. They’re boys. When I thought I was in the clear, Samu asked me a tough one.
“Why did it say “support gay marriage”?”
“Because some people are against it. They think marriage should only be between a man and a woman.”
In unison, they asked “Why?”
They may as well have said, “Checkmate.”
Either I go on a rampage about religious hypocrisy or I create a ripple in the waters of sex education. Seeing that the only figurines available for demonstration were Mario, Ninja turtles and Sponge Bob, I just made a run for it. Hey, it worked for my parents.