Enough talk: Fly away, “birds and bees”

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Enough talk: Fly away, “birds and bees”

By Alex Wise / Staff Writer

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In our adolescent years, the specter of “the talk” loomed large. 

Everybody knows “the talk.” You know, the one where Mom and Dad sit you down because “soon, your body will be going through changes, and that’s OK!” and finally reveal that an ugly, white bird didn’t magically drop you in a straw basket on the doorstep. The one where you’re forced to sit in pure anguish as your parents throw around words such as “penis” and “vagina” as casually as if the topic of conversation was baseball. The one nobody wanted but everybody saw coming.

But for how many of us did it actually come?

I, for one, never got the horrific, sit-down, birds-and-the-bees lesson. My parents abbreviated their version of the sex talk to the much shorter, “Why did you use our rewards card when you bought condoms at the grocery store, you stupid idiot?” talk. Looking back to that moment, I see my parents as having had three options: A, thank me for the extra half-cent off gas my purchase had probably earned them that month; B, have “the talk”; or C, pretend like it had never happened. 

Seeing as options A and B would have created an even more awkward situation, we collectively and silently went with C: Sweep it under the rug and not talk about it. I thought I was unique in this regard. After all, everybody gets “the talk” at some point, right?

Apparently not.

This week, I asked a number of college students whether or not they’d endured some version of this ghastly experience at some point, and most said they managed to avoid it. Those who did have some sort of exchange about sex with their parents said that it was limited to something terse: “You’re a teenager, which means you’re having sex, so you’re going to the doctor and getting birth control,” or, “If you have a baby, I’ll kick your ass.”

But, in every situation, it appears that parents are skipping the scientific segment of the conversation, opting instead to assume that we already know we weren’t delivered via Stork Air and taking what my Catholic school teachers would’ve called “the public school route”: guiding young adults toward safe sex in a hands-off manner — letting the kids try to figure it out for themselves.

Who or what is responsible for this change? We know “the talk” is — or was — a thing. Otherwise we wouldn’t have been so afraid of it taking place. So why didn’t our generation endure the awkwardness that begins with, “You see, son, when a man and a woman love each other very much … ”?

Like everything else in the world, we could explain these questions with the Internet. We could blame television and video games for being unnecessarily sexualized or we could fault the pop music industry for creating stars based less on talent and more on sex appeal. But, in my mind, these are cop-outs. We all know who’s responsible for killing the lineage of awkward sex talks between parents and their kids.

It was your best friend.

If we didn’t gain our knowledge of sex from parents, it had to come from peers. Everybody had a friend with older siblings who repeated everything his or her older siblings said. When that friend repeated something an older sibling said without knowing what it meant and you asked, they replied, “I’m not telling you.” This friend is probably the same one who informed you that Santa Claus isn’t real, that your parents ate the cookies you left out for him and that the reindeer bells Santa hung on the tree could be purchased at Walmart for a quarter each.

I had one of these friends. I’ll leave him unnamed, but he fits the bill entirely. He had an older brother. He acted exactly like his older brother. He repeated everything his older brother said. He’s the reason I knew what it meant to get to “third base” when I still thought girls had cooties and the reason I’d heard the word “boner” 1,000 times before I was old enough to get one.

Looking back, he’s a hero.

I’m glad I figured it out this way. I love my parents dearly, but I think I might love them a little less if I’d heard them use the word “intercourse.” 

To the rest of you, to what appears to be the vast majority, call your best friend from elementary school. Thank them. Ask them to thank their siblings. Because of their efforts, we, ourselves, are free from the responsibility to teach children where babies actually come from.

And that is a freedom that money can’t buy.


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