I’ll never forget it. I was in fourth grade and we were coming home from the county fair and my mom, for whatever reason, decided it was time for me to have ‘The Talk’. When we got home she mixed herself a drink and she started asking me if I knew certain anatomical names of certain anatomical parts. My mom was in nursing at the time, which meant we spent the next hour going over every aspect of sex, fertilization, pregnancy, anatomy terms and even the dreaded PERIOD.
I was mortified, but she remained calm, cool and collected as she laid it all out for me. When she finished, she asked if I had any questions. When I didn’t have any, she jingled her glass and told me to go make her another one.
Fast forward a few years. I was sixteen, and that evening was a distant memory. It was like so much water under a bridge. I had been given ‘The Talk’, and by all counts it was a good one. Except that coming from a set of divorced parents who rarely talked with one another, my dad wasn’t privy to the fact that I had ‘The Talk’ already. So, there we were, in his pick-up truck driving down the road in silence.
He turned to me and said, “Son, I know you’re getting to that age where you’re startin’ to like girls. (Pffft…if he only knew. I’d been liking girls for YEARS!) And…well, there’s some things you need to know. You…uh…Well…IF-YOU-GET-A-GIRL-PREGNANT-YOU’RE-GONNA-QUIT-SCHOOL-AND-GET-A-JOB-TO-TAKE-CARE-OF-THAT-BABY…Because that’s what a real man does.”
His knuckles were white from squeezing the steering wheel so hard. His face was red. He was scowling. And all I could think was, “Why is he mad at me?”
As I got older I realized that he wasn’t mad. He was uncomfortable. He was embarrassed at his discomfort. He had so many other things to say, but his old-school sensibilities wouldn’t let the words come out. He looked like a fool. And he knew I knew he looked like a fool. And yet, he stammered through what parts of the speech he could.
We were both relieved when it was over. I walked away from it with a great story to tell my friends about just how dorky my old man was. And, yes, we all had a great laugh about it. Every kid I knew swapped stories about ‘The Talk’ and how theirs went. For years, I held my mom’s version as the high water mark. It was ‘The Talk’ that I wanted to give my kids.
But now, I’m not so sure.
You see, I can’t remember any one thing my mom said that night. Sure, I can spout off the names of body parts, and the medical phrasing for sex etc…so I learned from her. But I can’t remember her actually physically telling me any of it. I just remember the ‘The Talk’ happening. I have no way of knowing my mom’s mental state at the time. I know she’d had a couple of drinks, so I’m going to assume she was nervous about it. But it never really showed in her delivery. And, yet, I remember my dad’s version almost verbatim all these years later.
Why is that?
Why is it that when I got to the age where all I wanted to do was sex up some girls in my class, I didn’t? I refrained from sex even though I had one girl telling me that all I had to do was show up and she’d do amazing things to me. Why? Because I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if I got this girl pregnant, my hopes for going to college were gone. I knew that if I got a girl pregnant, I was going to be relegated to working in the oil patch because that’s what my dad said would happen.
His ‘The Talk’ was so absolutely overloaded with emotion that it stuck with me. Hard. And will for the rest of my life. While the topic of ‘The Talk’ doesn’t pertain to me any longer, I can still remember the two of us sitting in that truck, driving through downtown as we both suffered through the best worst ‘The Talk’ ever.
Having any talk with your kids could be one of the worst, most uncomfortable talks you could ever have. And because they are so uncomfortable, they are the most important. So, go out there. Have those talks. It doesn’t matter if the talk is about sex, religion, politics, racism, or why they are growing hair in weird places. Sweat through them. Stammer through them. Blink, stutter, and feel like you’re going to barf through them. But have them. They’ll stick. I promise. The worst ‘The Talk’ you could have with your kids is the one that almost happened.