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Busted Halo
feature: sex & relationships
January 2nd, 2004

Let Me Tell You About The Birds and the Bees

The problem with mom getting too candid about sex

 
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A few months back, I had a disturbing conversation with my mother. It went something like this:

Mom: You mean to tell me you’re going to marry someone you haven’t had sex with?

Me: Yes.

Mom: Really?

Me: Yes. I think it’s wrong. And I really don’t want to be having this conversation with you, Mother.

Mom: Well, I don’t want to be havingit either.

Silence. Silence. Silence.

Mom: But you are going to have some sex, right?

This was the point where I would normally leave the room horrified and with my face about 1,000 shades of red. Unfortunately, we were in the car, and it took another 20 minutes of uncomfortable silence to get back home.

I’m not sure I’ve completely recovered from that discussion, and now that I’m living at home again, I’m afraid there’s more of that to come.

Fact of Life
I think it’s inevitable. The day comes when our parents realize that we are adults, or at least adult-like enough to discuss issues of sexuality in terms more concrete than the traditional birds and bees hour of mortification. In some respects, I’m very lucky because my parents are much more liberal, open, and accepting of sexual issues than one might expect. Almost nothing is taboo with them.

But as a 24 year-old who converted to Catholicism in graduate school, I occasionally find myself trying to defend certain choices to them. My parents have always been more liberal than I am when it comes to stuff like this, and I think they were somewhat surprised when I converted at 22, after being raised agnostic.
I grew up in a household where there weren’t many restrictions. When I was younger I sometimes wished that my father, an urban planner, and my mother, an environmental scientist, had been less rationalist and secularist in their approach to life and given me greater moral guidance. In an unusual twist to the stereotype of young rebellion, it amuses me now when I think that becoming a Catholic was the most rebellious thing I could’ve done in my family. Fortunately, while they see nothing wrong with pre-marital sex or cohabitation (they lived together), they at least recognize that I do and attempt to humor my moral decisions.

My parents’ accepting attitude is great when it comes to potentially awkward situations. Who really wants to ask mom and dad if it’s okay if their significant other can sleep in their bed? For example, the first time I brought someone home overnight, all parties involved just assumed that he would stay in my room. In fact, sex issues never have to be discussed because I know they don’t really care if I’m having sleepovers, sex or doing anything, really, as long as I’m safe about it.

In other cases, however, such as the aforementioned conversation, my parents’ laid-back stance can be a cause for confrontation and discomfort. When my sister and her boyfriend decided to live together while they were still in college, I flipped out and made no secret that I thought my parents were immoral idiots for (financially) supporting my sister’s “living in sin.” (Yes, I do recognize that me thinking it’s okay to sleep in the same bed with someone while judging my sister for living with her boyfriend of four years is a bit of a double standard. To someone on the outside, it looks the same.)

Talking about sex and sex-related matters with parents is never fun, and while I (and I’d imagine most others my age) like to think that our parents know nothing about these issues, occasionally a thought runs through my head: They were my age once.

As nauseating as it is to think about it, our parents had to deal with sex-related issues at some point. They had to decide whether or not to have premarital sex, where to draw the line physically, and whether or not to live together before marriage — issues my friends and I have found ourselves dealing with.

And while the thought of discussing sex with my parents makes me want to hide under my bed, it’s good to know that they’re not going to freak out if I were to change my mind and have committed sex, casual (safe) sex, or live with someone outside of marriage.

But honestly, I hope we never have to talk about sex again.

 
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The Author : Grace Ellen Bailey
Grace Bailey writes from the Bronx in New York City.
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