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02 November 2010 @ 08:06 am
[RL] Sex Education  
I have mentioned this before, but: I am the Inappropriate Adult in my family. I am the person who never remembers to watch her language or subject matter in front of the children. And while the earthling is still young enough that it doesn't matter, his cousins have been listening for quite a while now.

My sister appears to have given up on this without a fight. I don't know if she takes her kids aside after I go and gives them a speech like, "Now, the words Auntie TFV uses are not for you to use." Probably not, though. My sister chooses her battles, and I don't think she'd choose that one unless the school complained. (She also grew up, as I did, around my father, who never remembered to censor his language either, so I was saying fuck at four and discussing blowjobs with him at fifteen. Despite this, she and I figured out appropriate context without excessive difficulty, so maybe she's riding off the experience that tells her that this is possible, even for a hopeless sailor mouth like me. Certainly her kids never actually use Those Words.)

But - okay. Before I explain what happened the other day, you need to know about my sister and the difference between the two of us, so here is an instructive story. One year, our parents went to Hawaii over the Christmas holiday. My sister was left in charge; she was in college, I was in high school. (She's seven years older.) My sister was also left with my father's car, and in it, we went driving around looking at Christmas lights.

While we were driving around in a residential area, my sister saw a dip sign. "This should be fun!" she said, rather uncharacteristically. And she gunned it. It turned out to be a capital-D Dip. All four wheels left the road. There was, I swear, a slow-motion action-movie moment of actually flying through the air. I could almost hear the Wagner on the soundtrack. And then we hit the other side of the dip with an almighty WHUMP. (When we went back later, during the daytime, we saw that both sides of the Dip had hundreds of deep scars, presumably from other cars doing precisely what we did.)

Shaken, we went right back home. We had music on in the car, of course, and we kept turning it up, but it was inescapable: the car was making a loud scraping noise. It had not been making a scraping noise before the Dip.

My sister was alarmed - I mean, she'd broken my father's car. The next day, she called a friend who knew about a bit about cars, and he came over and looked underneath and observed that there was a very large part hanging from the undercarriage and scraping the road, one that probably was not supposed to be like that. He opined that anything he might do to the car would only make it worse, and advised us to wait until it could see a real car doctor.

I don't know exactly how my sister felt as we waited for our parents to return home, but I was definitely glad she'd done it, not me.

When they came home, though, it was anticlimactic. My father wasn't mad at all; he just took the car to get fixed. Later, he told me he laughed all the way to the mechanic. "It was just so fucking funny," he said. "The one time in her life she decides to take a risk, and she rips the bottom off the goddamned car. I wanted to applaud her for doing it, actually. She doesn't do the crazy stuff. It was really more like something you'd do."

I was insulted. I was an extremely cautious person! Something I proved when I got my own license and took the same damn car up to the residential foothills, turned off the motor so the power steering and brakes didn't work, took it out of gear, and took my foot off the brake. I would be going 75 by the time I hit the stop sign. On a very twisty residential road. In a car I couldn't easily steer. At an age where I had no real experience to rely on in an automotive emergency. At the time, I considered this a minor lark, one I did on a regular basis; it's far more terrifying to think now that I actually did that oh god I could have killed someone than it was to do. Oh, and also there was the sex and the drugs and so on. And the APB. And the arrest (on a totally different occasion than the APB!). I'm just saying: if my father were still alive, I would apologize for taking offense at this one. I am a cautious person now. Then, I was really, really not.

My long-winded point here is that my sister is and has always been, that one Dip excepted, Appropriate. I am not, and I never really have been. (Did I mention I once told a fellatio joke to a friend's youth pastor? At a church outing? When I was 13? Because I honestly thought he'd find it funny? So. Inappropriate.)

So it will not surprise you to hear that my sister would probably like to belong to a more polite and tasteful family. I mean, there are actually things she would prefer not to talk about for reasons of embarrassment, bizarrely enough. And one of these things is sex. Specifically, she would prefer not to talk about sex with her children. She took pretty much the same approach our mother tried: she bought them a book. (Our father filled in later, with actual words and stuff. I don't think my mother has ever entirely forgiven him for some of it. His policy, as far as I could tell, was that when we had learned enough, we'd stop listening. I have never been good at stopping listening.) Her children have thus far refused to read the book, or even look directly at it. This means anytime something sex-related comes up, she has this conversation with Z, who is now 12 and has been avoiding that book for at least two years:

Z: What's that mean?

But the thing is, Z is not entirely sure he wants to know; he just knows for sure that he can embarrass the hell out of his mother by asking. This tactic works extremely well as long as I'm not there. If I am, it goes like this:

Z: What's that mean?
L, turning to me with an evil little smile: YOU tell him.
Me: Okay! [Insert lengthy discussion of topic here.]
Z: *is clearly embarrassed and visibly wishes he had never asked but has to pretend to listen to it anyway*

The basic problem here is that if I know the answer to a question, I will give it unless I have been carefully prepped in advance not to. It never even occurs to me not to answer until way too late.

So recently, the earthling and I were at my sister's house, mooching dinner and letting the kids wear each other out, and we had this conversation:

Me, watching L's younger son eat his extremely plain hamburger: Do your kids ever use condiments?
My sister, giggling because in her secret heart she is twelve: Well, not yet, of course. They're too young. But I hope they will when they're older!
Z: Why are you laughing?
L, after a failed attempt not to explain: Well, condiment sounds like condom. [Seriously. SHE IS SO TWELVE.]
Z: What's a condom?
L, with her perfect evil little smile: YOU tell him.

I tried. But the thing is, it's very hard to describe a condom to someone who has never seen one. "Penis balloon" didn't really conjure anything useful for Z. He wasn't even embarrassed; he was just bewildered, and, I started to fear, possibly imagining some kind of balloon scenario as in Pixar's Up, just more - um, locally applied. My sister eventually said, "Well, you'll learn about this in school, because this is your year for sex ed. They'll show you a condom then."

And then we exchanged horrified looks, because we realized maybe they wouldn't. We both saw the condom demo in school, and we were unable to imagine that a health class wouldn't at least cover condoms - so healthy! - so L sent Z for his textbook. It contained a chapter on the male reproductive system, a chapter on the female reproductive system, and a chapter ominously entitled "Abstinence and Saying No." As far as sex ed went, that was it. The index, just to drive the point home, had no mention of condoms or birth control.

We were stunned. It's one thing to hear about abstinence-only education (which, of course, studies show DOES NOT WORK), but it's another thing altogether to know that they will be doing this travesty to an actual person that you are actually rather invested in reaching adulthood without getting any sexually transmitted diseases or getting anyone pregnant.

That was it. We had no choice. "We're going to have to do this now," my sister said grimly, and marched off to her bathroom. She found some seriously expired condoms and brought them to the dinner table.

I opened one and explained what you put inside (your penis!) and when (before sex!) and why (pregnancy and diseases!). After a few minutes, my sister handed me a banana. And thus it was that for the first time in, oh, a really long time, I put a condom on something. The condom was, of course, slick, and somehow lubricant is less desirable in a condom-on-banana-at-dinner situation than it is in an actual sex situation. "I shouldn't have to do this," I said, going to wash my hands. "I'm a lesbian."

And that was what made Z snap. Up until then, he had been once again wishing he had never gone there, but that, that was quality humor. He cracked up. My sister cracked up. Even the earthling started laughing, although he had no clue why; just, everyone else was laughing and he likes to join in.

"See," I said to Z when I got back and he'd mostly stopped giggling, "this is a very safe banana. It's important to keep your banana safe." I offered it to him.

"Noooooo," he said, wincing away. "I don't want to touch it!"

"See? That's how safe it is!" I said, imparting precisely the wrong message for the sake of an extremely minor joke. (I really do need to work on that thinking before speaking thing.)

And it was at that moment that the earthling, observing that there was fruit on the dinner table that, bizarrely, no one seemed to want, decided to deal with the situation appropriately.

I don't know what Z will take away from today. (USE CONDOMS IF YOU HAVE SEX, Z! YOUR MOTHER WILL SUPPLY THEM! OR I WILL ALSO BE HAPPY TO!) But I do know one thing for sure. We're still going to be telling the earthling about how he tried to eat the safe banana when he's forty.

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
I am never merry when I hear sweet music: SPN: mpreg wincest!paper_tzipporah on November 2nd, 2010 03:46 pm (UTC)
tried to eat the safe banana: UF black and whitethefourthvine on November 2nd, 2010 04:55 pm (UTC)
This one will be coming up at future holidays, I hope!
Rosfoi_nefaste on November 2nd, 2010 03:47 pm (UTC)
Your last line? PRICELESS.

Also: I don't have my own children, but I'm the "auntie" of a few friends kids... and yeah, I am EXACTLY the same sort of aunt as you are.

... I tell myself that it builds character. :)
tried to eat the safe banana: UF bluethefourthvine on November 2nd, 2010 04:57 pm (UTC)
*gives you the Inappropriate Adult high five*

I figure at least by the time they get to college, they'll be very hard to shock. *g*
(no subject) - foi_nefaste on November 2nd, 2010 10:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Stasiastasia on November 2nd, 2010 03:48 pm (UTC)
You are the best mother ever! What a great conversation.

When Merrie was little, oh 4 or so, she asked where the baby was in that (random) pregnant woman. I explained about the uterus, and that it's about the size of your fist, and so is your heart, which is a nice thing.

Over the course of the next two years, she asked more and more detailed questions about how the baby got there and how babies are made.

I explained boy-genes and girl-genes and that boys have a penis, which is not a finger, and so on until, one day , when she was 6, in the Longs Drugs parking lot, she asked how the boys get their genes into the woman vagina.

So I explained that the penis can become mostly stiff, and that he places it in her vagina.

Her loud and heartfelt EWWWWWW amuses me to this day. (She will be 18 mid next month and has a very different view of that now.)

I'm not surprised that the book your sister got has abstinance-only. Merrie got better sex-ed when she was a member of the school's GSA club.

I'm afraid you will be on the hook for this conversation for all of The Earthling's cousins.


Edited at 2010-11-02 03:52 pm (UTC)
tried to eat the safe banana: UF greythefourthvine on November 2nd, 2010 05:02 pm (UTC)
Her loud and heartfelt EWWWWWW amuses me to this day. (She will be 18 mid next month and has a very different view of that now.)

Awww. It's amazing how hormones change our perspective on these things. I want to go back in time and PAT HER ON THE HEAD.

I'm afraid you will be on the hook for this conversation for all of The Earthling's cousins.

L has made it extremely clear that this is the case. I figure she could probably do a more thoughtful and carefully-considered job, but if she'd rather go down the Inappropriate Aunt route, I am there for her.
(no subject) - stasia on November 3rd, 2010 05:10 am (UTC) (Expand)
I have a mitten and a chicken puppet!: yay - dolphin - smile - happytzikeh on November 2nd, 2010 04:02 pm (UTC)

You should totally change your lj title to "tried to eat the safe banana"
tried to eat the safe banana: UF indigo girlsthefourthvine on November 2nd, 2010 05:04 pm (UTC)
YOU ARE SO RIGHT. (My current one comes from my attempt to explain to BB who Maru is. Bye, Maru!)
can't find my drink or pantsgeeklite on November 2nd, 2010 04:10 pm (UTC)
tried to eat the safe banana: UF whitethefourthvine on November 2nd, 2010 05:06 pm (UTC)
Aww, thank you!
misspamela: Book - fairestcatmisspamela on November 2nd, 2010 04:11 pm (UTC)
*dying and dying*

Z is very lucky to have you!

Here is my question, which maybe you or your wise readers can help me with: R has never asked about ANYTHING related to sex. I thought, when I was pregnant with E, it would at least come up? NOPE. Nothing. Never asked.

I have talking points and a grimly determined expression and no way to use it! I mean....she's going to be eight in a few months, I feel like it should have come up! Do I sit her down and have The Talk? Do I just...wait? I don't know!
Kumquat Weekendkumquatweekend on November 2nd, 2010 04:46 pm (UTC)
$0.02 from the peanut gallery
Initiate the talk! Clearly, as evidenced in TFV's post above, schools can't be trusted to deliver accurate information. (I have no WORDS for that textbook.)

And if she's not asking you, she'll be getting misinformation from playground conversations, whether she asks or just overhears. At least if you arm her with information, she'll be the smart, knowlegable one who the other kids will -- eventually -- learn to go to for whatever their own parents aren't telling them.

Or: Use my parents' passive-agressive approach and leave how-babies-are-made picture books lying around the house.
(no subject) - thefourthvine on November 2nd, 2010 05:14 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - firesprite1105 on November 2nd, 2010 05:44 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - abyssinia4077 on November 2nd, 2010 05:57 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - stasia on November 3rd, 2010 05:13 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - (Anonymous) on November 22nd, 2010 10:05 pm (UTC) (Expand)
The sanest lunatic you've ever met: buffy: spiffy!sdwolfpup on November 2nd, 2010 04:20 pm (UTC)
You are the best.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV bluethefourthvine on November 2nd, 2010 05:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you! <3 <3 <3
It's a new dawn, a new daybirdsflying on November 2nd, 2010 04:28 pm (UTC)

oh god. I think my workmates think I've been possessed by a water buffalo because that's probably the only thing that would explain (to them) the noises issuing from behind my monitor.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV brownthefourthvine on November 2nd, 2010 05:23 pm (UTC)
Perhaps you can tell them you're going outside for lunch to graze, to satisfy your inner water buffalo!

Or, you know, if you'd rather they thought you sane, perhaps not. *g*
Teeny Gozer: All That Sarah Jane!teenygozer on November 2nd, 2010 04:43 pm (UTC)
There needs to be a tee shirt that says, "I shouldn't have to do this, I'm a lesbian."
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV dogtagsthefourthvine on November 2nd, 2010 05:26 pm (UTC)
Oh my god, there absolutely does. I would buy one!
(no subject) - penknife on November 2nd, 2010 05:39 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Mari: always going homemarici on November 2nd, 2010 04:53 pm (UTC)
I turned bright red and pretended to ignore my parents when they talked about sex -- this didn't mean I wasn't listening as hard as I could. Keep being the informational adult, I swear even when they're trying their hardest to look bored, they want to hear what you're teaching.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV flowersthefourthvine on November 2nd, 2010 05:34 pm (UTC)
Oh, I will. I can't help it. Whatever part of my brain is supposed to contain the Appropriateness Filter is just broken. (My sister, when we happen on something she genuinely does not want to discuss with her children as yet - this is generally not something related to sex - will POUNCE in with, "DON'T ANSWER THAT." She knows I really never think before answering at ALL.)
Lu (Not Your Average Retelling)elucreh on November 2nd, 2010 04:56 pm (UTC)
My parents didn't believe in sex ed--they didn't even sign permission forms for me to take it from the school--and when I got to high school and it was no longer a question of permission forms, it was a Utah classroom. The extent of my sexual knowledge was more or less "boys and girls have different shapes of bodies, and sex has something to do with kissing and nudity" until I was innocently clicking around Harry Potter fic sites and stumbled across the porn. It took me a month and a conversation with a friend who was reading the same fic calling it porn for me to realize that was what porn was.

tried to eat the safe banana: TFV glowythefourthvine on November 2nd, 2010 05:36 pm (UTC)
Oh my god. I am really, honestly horrified by that. I'm glad you survived your teen years without something terrible happening (um, assuming that you did), and - well. I really hope ALL children have a better sex education than you did. (But thank god for fan fiction! Just, I never thought that would be the MOST accurate information a teenager might be getting on sex. Yikes.)
(no subject) - elucreh on November 2nd, 2010 06:04 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on November 2nd, 2010 06:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
birggittbirggitt on November 2nd, 2010 05:25 pm (UTC)
\o/ YAY for Inappropriate Auntie/Adult
Seriously, I fear for the Earthling in family reunions. How he could survive to trying to eat the safe banana jokes?
But then, mine had survived to his "speech" about how babies come to the world. That speech was performed in a familiar gathering, standing on a chair, at the age of five.
Still today he's asked for a bis :P

In a more serious note, I just can't believe Sex Ed books don't make any reference to condoms. But then, I was bewildered when I learn that there are schools in USA where creationism is teach. I mean, we are a Catholic country, and not even in religious schools you get creationism and Sex Ed text books without condoms! o_0
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV Katamari Damacythefourthvine on November 2nd, 2010 05:47 pm (UTC)
Seriously, I fear for the Earthling in family reunions. How he could survive to trying to eat the safe banana jokes?

If he finds it embarrassing, I will just tell him about when I was 11 and we were having a family reunion and I got my period for the first time. My mother WALKED OUT AND ANNOUNCED IT TO EVERYONE. And I survived, although it sort of felt like I wouldn't.

In a more serious note, I just can't believe Sex Ed books don't make any reference to condoms. But then, I was bewildered when I learn that there are schools in USA where creationism is teach. I mean, we are a Catholic country, and not even in religious schools you get creationism and Sex Ed text books without condoms! o_0

George Bush wasn't just a pain in the ass for other countries; he also caused quite a lot of damage right here. Seriously. This is his fault. (Okay, not just his fault. Bastard conservatives.) When I was in school, we got tons of information, and visits from Planned Parenthood, all kinds of stuff. Now kids get abstinence-only, which DOES NOT WORK. But apparently it's more important to pretend that it does than to keep our kids safe! ARG.
(no subject) - birggitt on November 2nd, 2010 06:26 pm (UTC) (Expand)
penknife: bunnypenknife on November 2nd, 2010 05:40 pm (UTC)
This is hysterical.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV lettersthefourthvine on November 2nd, 2010 05:49 pm (UTC)
We know how to have fun at dinner in my family.
Innocent Bystanderfiresprite1105 on November 2nd, 2010 05:41 pm (UTC)
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV menorahthefourthvine on November 2nd, 2010 06:25 pm (UTC)
Laughter is the best sex education! No, wait. That might not be right.
celli on November 2nd, 2010 05:44 pm (UTC)
*hysterical laughter*

You're so good for me.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV shoesthefourthvine on November 2nd, 2010 06:27 pm (UTC)
You need more laughter in your life, and I am happy I could provide some.