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The talk

by Brian Clarey

“So when are you going to tell him?” my wife asks me.

“Tonight,” I say. “I told you I would do it tonight.

We’ll go out to dinner.”

“Where are you going to go?” “I don’t know…. Where do you take a kid for something like this?” “I don’t know,” she says. “Just remember that he’s always going to remember this place and what you talked about.”

Whoa. “For the rest of his life,” she says. “I get it.”

Where do you bring your 10-year-old son to tell him about sex for the first time? Sports bars were out because of the Carolina-Duke game and the attendant crowds of drunken, shouting faithful. Maybe we could go get a couple steaks — but frankly, his report card, issued earlier this week, was less than thrilling so I don’t want to reward him too much. Burgers? Too casual. Sushi might be right — it’s kind of grownup food — but I don’t want to turn this thing into a two-hour ordeal.

Quick and businesslike, that’s my plan. I’ll lay out the basics for the kid, using the broadest of strokes, and the whole thing can be over before we’ve even started our entrées. Then we can talk about video games or movies for the rest of the meal.

I remember when my father told me the facts of life: It was exactly… never. My father never sat me down and explained the mysteries and mechanics of procreation — not that I wanted him to. I shudder now even thinking about it.

I found out the basics of sex like most other kids did: on the street, revealed to me by a kid from down the block when I was 11 or so. I remember the exact moment, walking down Avalon Road towards the dog park when Dougie (who now goes by “Dug”) just laid it out there, completely unbidden.

I was aghast. Seriously? Are you sure about this? But my father’s trove of Playboy magazines hidden in a box down in the basement started to make a little more sense… and have a little more appeal.

But these are different times, people. Modern parents talk to their kids about stuff like this. We have to —sexuality pervades our culture, from our advertisements to our music, on magazine covers, movies and just about every single prime-time show on network television and basic cable. In this modern age, I figure, it’s better he hears it from me than to run the word “sex” through Google images — which, even with the Safe Search feature enabled is still pretty awesome.

My wife brought home a book on the subject from the library — I don’t recall the title because I never read it — according to which we were already a few steps behind in the process.

“Did you read the book?” my wife asks me now. “Of course I read it,” I say. “Which part are you talking about?” “It said he should already know the basics,” she says. “It said we should have been talking about this the whole time.” She’s frantic.

I’m reassuring. “It will be fine,” I say. “I’ll tell him everything he needs to know.” We’re in the car, he and I, not yet a mile from the house when I blurt it out.

“Sex,” I say, “is where babies come from.” “Okay…,” he says, clearly needing more information that that. So I explain about the different genders, and how they pair up. I get into the eggs and the fertilization, and I’ve alluded to arousal, but I falter when it comes to describing the act itself, pausing and stammering while my 10-year-old boy watches calmly. I’m not sure how to put it, so I just say it, in bare, Spartan terms. Intercourse 101. I get him all sorted out. And now the kid is looking at me with eyes wide as fried eggs.

“I know it sounds a little bizarre,” I say, “but all animals do it.” “Yeah,” he says. “I was a little bit freaked when I found out, too,” I tell him. “But I swear, it will all make sense to you in the coming years. And if you ever want to talk about any of this stuff, you can always come to me.”

“Okay,” he says, and we are both a little relieved that it’s over. But it’s a big moment. What I’ve given him is just the barest understanding of one of the greatest mysteries and miracles of existence. If he’s anything like his father, he will dedicate a considerable amount of time in the coming years trying to figure it all out. And if he’s anything like his father, he likely never will.

“You want to get pizza?” I ask him. “Definitely,” he says, and I pull into the lot. Before we get out of the car he has a question.

“All animals do it?” he says. “What about dinosaurs?” “Yep,” I say. “Even dinosaurs.” I’m not really sure if this is true — I’m making it up as I go along.

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