Tuesday, February 14, 2012


When I shared my Spotify Valentine's Day playlist on facebook--this was like January 30--there was not much interest. I said to Matt, "Why doesn't anyone like my playlist?" He was like, "Well honey, people don't really listen to music for Valentine's Day."

But they totally do!

And I said, "People need to understand, this playlist contains everything I know about love!" And he was all, "I'm sure it's wonderful, baby."


Back in the summer, one day I had The Talk with Laura. The Talk about Sex and Babies. Laura and Mom and I were driving in the car and my mom and I said, of a couple expecting a baby, "I think they were trying for a long time." Laura piped up and said, "What do you mean they were trying, isn't it just natural?" Yes, she was ten years old, and I had been adhering to my policy of Don't Answer Questions That Haven't Been Asked. But a wise friend countered with The Child Who Does Not Ask Must Be Told. And I realized that her innocence was shading into ignorance, and that I needed to get in there.

Laura Buried

So I did. We sat at the sound-side beach under that umbrella and I gave her what I thought of as the entry-level picture of the situation. First I figured out how much she knew already, which was nothing. So I told her. Bless her heart, when I got to the actual facts of actual intercourse, she was like, "Do what now?" And she was a little sad. She said, "I thought that I wanted to have like four kids, but now I'll maybe have just one."

I just told her that, believe it or not, when she was grown up she would want to do that.

So I left it there, after a brief PSA about teen pregnancy. And I felt like I was leaving out the biggest part, because though I had told her the facts of sex, I couldn't tell her its real significance. She wouldn't get it, it's like a melody she can't hear yet, how central it is to human life and how important to who we are. I guess that takes years to figure out. Or, as they say, a minute to learn, a lifetime to master.

Matt and I were talking about this a couple of weeks ago. Remember that movie Witness with Harrison Ford? And the beautiful Kelly McGillis? He's hanging out with the Amish, and there's that scene where she's bathing herself in her room and he sees her and she turns around and sees him seeing her? It is something. I was twelve years old when that movie came out. I remember watching it with a room full of adults, and when that scene happened, they gave a collective gasp, they were so absorbed. I had no idea what was really happening. I was like, "Uh oh, he saw her boobs!"

Fast forward to when I was nineteen, reading Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night. A book I still love. It was an education to me to realize that a man would cheat on his wife with a woman who was not as beautiful or desirable as his wife. Sometimes I think of the part where the narrator says, of the doomed Dick and Nicole Diver, and Dick's dalliance with the girl Rosemary, "Back at two o’clock in the Roi George corridor, the beauty of Nicole had been to the beauty of Rosemary as the beauty of Leonardo’s girl was to that of the girl of an illustrator."

That gave me a lot to think about for a long time.

Fast forward again, twenty years, to the other night. We talked of this and that, women and men. Matt, musing, said, "I want a woman who's easy to please, and I want to work hard to please her." I laughed that it sounded like a line in a blues song, but I knew what he meant and what he meant by saying it. This sentiment might have been unintelligible to me as a girl, and even in my twenties. But here in my late thirties, well absorbed in the unfolding of what is becoming a long marriage, it makes complete sense to me. I couldn't add anything to that and just nodded. Amen, brother.

Happy Valentine's Day! I hope you're having a sweet day with those you love. xoxo


Emily said...

My dad, for some unexplained reason, took me and my brothers to see the 1981 The Postman Always Rings Twice. I was 11. A very, very innocent 11. A minute into the kitchen table scene my dad came to his senses and marched us all out of there! I was mortified on so many levels.
I wish he had marched us out of American Werewolf in London that year too! Let's just say I'll never go hiking in the fog ever.

Nina said...

I don't recall ever really having that talk with my mum, and I think that's kind of a shame. I bet you did it very nicely. We were shown some weird animated educational videos at primary school (aged about 10), in a dark little room where we all sat on the carpet, and the boys giggled all the way through except for at one particular bit about the penis. Not the best introduction to sex. Of course it was easy enough to get better nuts-and-bolts (teehee) information from teen magazines, and somehow a couple of Michelle Magorian novels stand out in my mind as having made an impression about the emotional side of it all. p.s. Emily, do not go hiking in the fog. Not just because of werewolves.

Jenni said...

Oh, Laura. You have to love that innocence. You know three years from now that kid is gonna be boy crazy and things will start to make a little more sense.

Lovely post. Happy Valentine's Day, B. Smooches to all your loves.

AlGalMom said...

Have you heard Julia Sweeney's "The Talk" talk? Because it is required watching:

Veronica said...

You and Matt are awesome, and your sweet innocent kids are pretty cool themselves.

Lisa Lilienthal said...

So that Matt, he's keeper, huh?

Keely said...

My mom saved that talk til I was 16. I was like, Um...been there, done that. But you're right, the mechanics are totally different than the soul of it.

I love that you edumacated her at the age of 10. And that she didn't already know it all.

Michele R said...

Great post. I bet your talk went really well--and future talks will as well. I never gotta do The Talk. Hubs handled it. Handled it well--it included the deets plus the love expression part.
I think I have Tender is the Night up in the attic from 11th grade. I loved Fitzgerald back then. And also Cosmo magazine.

Elle said...

The secret to happiness is a low-maintenance spouse.

When I graduated from high school, my grandmother was visiting. She said to me, Les hommes ont des pistolets: lorsqu'ils tirent, vous devenez enceinte. I think I was 23 before I realized she was telling me this earnestly, as a bit of what she thought was useable information and not, in fact, making a poem for me. To paraphrase Steve Martin: when I was 17, I was a virgin, but my hand was not. One day, when I was 35, it occurred to me that men have a pistol: if they shoot you, you get pregnant was all the sex education my mother received in her home. I sometimes, in spite of everything, hold my mother's parenting in high regard. That was one of those times.

I have a complicated & ongoing attachment with everyone I have loved & I feel lucky my husband doesn't take it personally, that he sees me relationships that precede him as an obvious reflection of who he knows me to be, who has yet to reveal her whole self. We were talking about *that* here tonight. Love! xoxox

Casey said...

Happy Valentine's Day (a day late!), hope you had a lovey dovey day. Sorry you had to have the uncomfortable s-e-x talk but it if makes you feel better, we've already had it with our five year old. Graham would NOT STOP asking follow up questions to how he got here and no amount of redirect would stop him. We finally ordered an assload of "how babies are made" books on Amazon and now he uh, knows. Gross. Then he told Elliot all about how he makes sperm and that's when I almost died.

Beth said...

We are currently navigating the waters with the 8 year old. I think it's going to be a Laura situation, though, because he's not terribly interested. Steve had a talk with him the other night and basically told him he could ask us anything about it whenever, and he asked Steve one or two simple questions and then was done.

I love Laura's reaction about not having that many kids anymore. Maybe you should try the gun metaphor?

jeri said...

Once I was driving the boys home from school when I heard my oldest son ask his younger brother, "Hey, M (their little sister) hugged me yesterday and she wasn't wearing shirt. Was that some sort of sex?" The younger son responded with, "No. Sex has something to do with a slot." We had THE TALK as soon as I was able to get the minivan back on the road.

Becky said...

Jeri, OMG! I'm so glad you're not wrapped around a tree! I would be. Also, hilarious!

Hootie said...

I tell my sons that since they're boys, they don't have to worry about any of this. We're all cool with that, right?

Star said...

Very sweet post, thank you for sharing.

Aimee said...

What a great vision you've given, sitting by the sound, going over things that will only make sense in a very long while.

I've had a few "talks" with Nicky, and he's learned most of what he knows from books. Now and then, I bring something up, something I've heard other kids in school were talking about, just to make sure he knows what's going around. I was so naive...so naive. It was embarrassing how much I didn't know, even with the good information I was given, so I educate him on the slang for everything, so he's not caught with his foot in his mouth, using phrases with double meaning, or not understanding a conversation.