The Nation's Pulse

The Talk

The birds do it, the bees do it, what else do you need to know?

By 5.20.10

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"Have you had the talk yet?" the girlfriend asks.

She means THE TALK. As in, the sex talk.

I squirm and look for the nearest exit, something to cause a diversion. I've begun carrying a few stun grenades for just such an emergency.

I get this question about once a week, and it seems to come with ever-increasing urgency. The girlfriend doesn't have any kids, but I have a 16-year-old son. And, according to her, the sex talk is long overdue.

There's no denying that. I've read the articles in the parenting magazines, and, according to the experts, it's already too late. You're supposed to talk with your child about sex at "every age." Childhood is apparently supposed to be one long sex talk. Sort of like college, but with your parents hanging out in your dorm.

So I missed the boat. Darn.

This hardly gets me off the hook. "Don't worry. Better late than never," says the girlfriend.

Sex is not something I am comfortable discussing with my women my own age, let alone with my teenager. As far as I'm concerned sex talk should remain where it belongs, in the locker room. Or in really unfunny situation comedies.

Who's to say that a sex talk wouldn't do more harm than good? Imagine the trauma both me and my son would suffer if I were try to march into his room and launch into a discursive, fumbling, shamefaced monologue on sex.

Besides, what's the worst thing that could happen if I don't do it?

"STDs!" the girlfriend says. "Unwanted pregnancies! You need to talk to him about respecting women…."

Yes, there is that. But like most people over 20, nobody ever talked to me about sex. And I was perfectly okay with that. At 16, the last thing I wanted was to be cornered in my bedroom by mom and dad and told the facts of life, whatever they were.

They probably felt the same way.span>

Or maybe they didn't think it was a good use of their time. I mean, it wasn't like there was a line of cheerleaders waiting to deflower me.

I WENT TO school before schools began teaching sex ed, so I have no idea what the rest of you know that I don't. I'm still not sure how I learned about the Birds and the Bees. I suppose I picked it up a little at a time, here and there, like I learned about auto mechanics. It took a long time because there was a lot less sex around when I was a kid. It wasn't on television and it wasn't thrust in your face in the form of sleazy advertisements. It was much more subtle, or maybe subliminal.

I know for a fact that I didn't learn about sex on "the street." Nobody was giving seminars on human sexuality in the street. At least not when I was around. The point is nobody taught me anything, so I suppose I learned the same way animals and Victorians learned. By instinct.

And I turned out all right. Right?

Right?

Anyway, I'm pretty sure the Catholic school I pay a ridiculous amount of money to send my son to teaches sex ed or morality or something like that: "Okay class, it's prom night and you find yourself in the backseat of your dad's car with your prom date and Roy Orbison is on the radio and he's pressuring you to go all the way…"

"Roy Orbison is pressuring me to go all the way?"

"No! Your date. Now what do you do?"

"Who's Roy Orbison?"

"Never mind who's Roy Orbison. Forget about Roy Orbison."

"Teacher, I'm confused."

You see why I'd make a lousy sex educator.

None of this flies with the girlfriend. It's my responsibility, not the schools, she says.

I was so relieved when I had a boy 16 years ago. I thought, thank God I won't have to worry about him coming home pregnant, like my friends who have 16-year-old daughters whose baby daddies are convicted felons or worse. Of course, boys present a whole other set of challenges. And you still have to talk to them about the facts of life.

I know. Just because my parents didn't talk to me about sex doesn't mean that I have to continue the cycle. I want my son to talk to his son about sex, right?

So, no, we haven't had THE TALK yet. But I intend to get around to it. Soon. Before he goes off to college. After that, it really will be too late.

Darn.

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About the Author
Christopher Orlet writes from St. Louis.