Monday, December 12, 2011

Well, I knew it was coming...

...but still.

Harriet stopped by to visit briefly on her way out Christmas shopping. We were in the middle of eating dinner when she arrived, so made her sit down and eat with us. She confessed that she had just eaten a cheeseburger from BK, so we were content to have her nibble on some garlic bread.

The news was on and a story came on about my favorite Cornhusker, Rex Burkhead. Let's just call him the perfect man.

Harriet looked over at Bing and smirked. "Does she always salivate when she sees Rex?" she asked. Bing laughed and shook her head.

"Pretty much," she answered. "Pretty much. Even in front of me. The woman has no shame. But, what the hell? I mean, sometimes even I want to salivate over him too."

After Harriet left, Liv and I were doing dishes.

She looked over at me and I could see it coming. The question.

"Mama, have you always been bi-sexual?"

I thought for a moment. How far did I want this conversation to go? To be honest, Liv has never asked me any sexual questions. None. Nada. I decided to just be truthful, but not detailed.

"Yes," I said.

Deep, I know.

"How old were you when you first had sex?'

I swallowed.

"18," I said.

I know, such a jabbermouth.

Liv looked at me, questioning.

"With a woman or a man?" she asked.

"A woman," I answered.

"Was it Bing?"


How old were you when you had sex with a man?" she pressed.

Another swallow.

"18," I said.

She was quiet. Then she said, "It wasn't at the same time was it?"

"God, Livvy. NO!" I said, probably too forcefully. I sighed. Knew she needed just a little bit more but there was this line that I don't think parents need to cross. I want to be truthful. But my private sexual life is just that. Private. I expect her to respect that, just as I will respect hers.

When she is about 30 and has sex for the first time.....

I leaned against the counter. Dried a dish. Spoke.

"I started having sex with both men and women when I was 18," I told her. "But, I didn't sleep around that much. I was just...curious. One day, you will be too. Hopefully, you will also remember to keep yourself safe."

Liv wrinkled her nose. I don't think sex is even much on her radar. She has told me that she hasn't even really been attracted to a boy (or a girl) yet.

"So, did you have sex with both men and women to see which one you liked best?" she asked.

"No," I told her. "I knew that I liked them pretty much equally. I just..well...I had sex with people that I was attracted to and that was both sexes. Liv, are you concerned that you might be bi-sexual?" I asked.

She shook her head, thoughtfully. "No," she said. "When I get that swirly feeling in my stomach, it is always about a boy. Haven't felt that with a girl yet. I just wondered, because you comment on both cute men and women. Like, Rex Burkhead, for example..."

I nodded. "Liv, you DO know that this is just a silly crush thing, don't you? I will NEVER be with anyone but Bing."

"I KNOW!" she said, irritated. "I'm not stupid, Mama. I know you and Harriet just josh around with Bing. But, I just....wondered, you know?"

I knew. Tinton, her father, told me that when she visited him this summer, she asked him if he was bi-sexual and when he said no, that he just liked women, she asked him if it bothered him that I liked both men and women. He told her that no, it didn't bother him. That he thought lots of people in the world were bi-sexual, but just were predisposed to be one way. She hadn't pushed it.

"Liv?" I asked her, tentatively. "Do you need to know anything else or are we done here? I want to answer your questions, and I am happy to do that, but I am your parent and you are never going to know the specifics of my sexual experiences, okay? Because sex is a private issue. For all of us. But, on the other hand, I never want you to feel that you can't discuss things with me."

Liv shuddered. "GOD, NO! I do NOT want to know the details. I just...I think it is interesting. You comment on both men and women. I don't know whether you are unusual or not. I think Dad is right. I think maybe a lot of people could go either way, but are just more interested in one sex, don't you?"

Yes, I told her. I agreed.

I braced myself for more questions.

"So, can I have some ice cream?" she asked.


Yes, I told her. Have some ice cream.

How will YOU answer those sex questions if they come?

Because, honestly, I would have rather died than talk to my mother about sex when I was Liv's age. I once heard my mother say the word orgasm when talking to one of my Aunts, her sister, and I blushed even though I was sitting in another ROOM.

So...tell. If your children are older, did you talk about sex?

If your children are younger, do you plan to have a sit down with them or just wait for the questions, if any?

And how was the topic of sex dealt with in your family?



kristi said...

Sara and I are very open and talk about WHATEVER!

sybil law said...

I think you handled it perfectly, and I hope to handle it pretty much the same way: Just enough information, honestly, and open. I have been asked the question, but once I said it involved the penis and vagina, Gilda immediately said, "Ew! You put it in your mouth?!" and I don't know WHY her mind immediately went there (maybe she simply can't picture the other), but it shocked the hell out of me and she changed the subject. I admit - I was grateful! She was 8 or 9 at the time. I imagine I'll get more questions soon.
Sex in my own family - I knew what sex was since before kindergarten, but it definitely wasn't always talked about so openly all the time. There was the basic underlying, "sex is for married people" message.

Earth Muffin said...

I was raised by parents who gave me general birds and bees info when my mom was pregnant with my brother and again when I was approaching puberty. They always let me know they were "there" if I had questions, but I was NOT comfortable asking them any.

Big M. has asked some questions here and there, mostly about stuff his friends have said. For a short time he had a LOT of questions for Mr. EM regarding erections, but that seems to be off his mind for the time being. Right now he seems particularly interested in the actual biology behind sex and reproduction, rather than the act between 2 people. We just answer his questions until he doesn't have any left.

I think you handled Liv's questions perfectly.

English Rider said...

When a large part of your family lives in France and your daughter spends summers there, with half sisters who could be aunts, you realize that nude beaches, frank and unrestrained conversations and a bi-continental perspective, answer a lot of questions before they're even asked.

Anonymous said...

Awkward questions, much? I remember....a distinct lack of curiosity when I was little. Babies grow in the womb, and no question as to how they got there. I remember when my mum gave me a book on sex and periods and things when i was about 11 or 12 and my absolute horror and disgust when i thought i'd learnt what oral sex was. Then all that DOUBLED when she told me that actually, what i imagined it was? Yeah...that was what it actually was. Sex was definitly a thing to ask my mum about rather than my dad, though.

B said...

I was straightforward from an early age about what sex was, using correct terminology for all body parts. We read the Care and Keeping of You book, etc. Of course, raising them to be fundamental Christians, I was deeply into the "You shouldn't have sex until you are married" speech when they were a little older. I didn't mention homosexuality, though, until they were way into their teens; it just never came up living out in the sticks. But when Rosie and Ellen came on TV, I started addressing it, pointing out "couples" they had known over the years, that they were boyfriends/husbands. I was trying to prepare them for the day I would come out. Luckily, mine have never asked me how old I was when I first had sex or any details. My sex life has been anything but exciting; not sure they would learn anything.

MB said...

My mother gave me a pamphlet when I was 12. I believe it was produced by the Kimberly Clark corporation. Then, when my stepbrother and I were both 17 and one of my stepsisters was unexpectedly pregnant, my mother sat us down and said, "Do you know where babies come from?" We nodded. "Do you want to have a baby right now?" We both shook our heads. "Then I expect you to see that you don't." I should note my stepbrother and I are only 3 days apart in age, and we laugh about it now.

My family? I'm always open to questions, and sometimes my two daughters get more information than they really want, but they know that the details of anyone's sex life are nobody's business but the people involved. At 12 and 14, we're still talking in hypotheticals. Shwew. Although the elder, who started HS this year, recently told me she doesn't have time for boys right now. I told her I'd be happy with that until she turned 30 or so.

Wally B said...

I got most, if not all of my early sexual knowledge from the graffitti on the school toilet walls. I thought a woman got pregnant by a man sticking his finger in her ear. The diagrams weren't that good.

John Gray said...

bloody hell.. the hardest conversation EVER
the bisexual conversation!!!

well done that woman!

Miss L said...

My parents never needed to have the talk with me--I pre-empted them by asking, um, extremely technical questions from a pretty young age, with pretty much no shame (sometimes you can spot a sex worker from the nursery, I guess). My folks never gave me any details about their personal life (nor did I ask, that I remember) but they were always open and gave me the information when I asked. When I was eleven, a stack of explanatory books turned up on my bed "and if you still have any questions when you've read them all, you can ask." The books were a VERY good thing for me, even though none of it became practical knowledge for a long time.

Anna said...

My family handles the sex thing really well, I think. My Dad is straight and he doesn't like to discuss much, and details will never be had! I know more or less when he became sexually active and I know he's had five real girlfriends before my Mum. But he won't even tell me what their names were! He's very private about that, although he will listen if I (or my brother) have an issue we need to discuss. And he gives great advice too. Sometimes too great. The man is always right! My Mum is bisexual, like me. She tends to be a little more attracted to women though, always has been. I know a lot more about her sexual experiences. Though she doesn't volunteer information, she will go into certain details if asked. For example, earlier this year I had a question about cunnilingus and we were able to discuss it freely and with technical details as well. My Dad always knew about my Mum's bisexuality. He's never had an issue with it. They both say they are married to each other for reasons entirely different from sexuality. My Dad has a type of woman he likes - tall, waify blonde - but my Mum is short and round. But he says he loves her more than he could any other woman and that he married her because he knew he'd "never be bored by her side" because she's "just so brilliant and creative". My Mum, I think, loves how he complements her. In many things in life, he's the (quiet, hidden) wind beneath her wings. She also appreciates his sharp intelligence. They are both their primary loves. I don't think any of them loves my brother or I like they love each other.
But back to sexuality thing. My Mum is definitely the one who's more open about all that. She has divulged secrets pertaining to my Dad and her sexuality that I know he would never, ever share but that are relevant because they relate to health issues my Dad has and that I might need to know about one day. It's too complicated and private to explain adequately, but yeah, she has done that. My Dad doesn't know I know and hopefully, it'll never become an issue.

Anyway, that's my two cents!

Ambrosia said...

My family has always been very open, especially my dad. I was always able to talk to him about sex, although we never had a sit-down conversation about the step-by-step process. He always just waited for questions. Unfortunately, he wasn't very good at drawing boundaries and knowing when some information was too much. I think you handled it superbly.

My pseudo-daughter (my sister, but I basically raised her) and I had a conversation one day because I knew my parents wouldn't talk to her about it. I did more of the 'how you have your period and why' talk. We didn't really go into sex. But we did talk about homosexuality some (and transgendered people), as she knew that I had been in a long-term relationship with a FTM transgender and knew that some of my friends are gay. I didn't go into any more detail than simply what she asked, and she seemed to be satisfied with that. By the way, my parents knew that I talked to her afterward. They were just glad that she felt comfortable talking to SOMEONE.