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?
L: GO READ YOUR BOOK.
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 comments.