Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Keep it Low and Slow: from Rad Dad 18

A movie script about a father, three kids, the evil media, and the perils of sex education

I always thought this would be easy. I humored myself with assurances that I wouldn’t handle the subject like my parents did, that I would be a beacon, a guide, dare I say, a confidant for my children.

Ah, the bullshit we tell ourselves when we’re rocking babies about how we will parent in the future. Let me tell you right off what the moral of this story will be: humility.

Scene 1: I was driving in my car with my thirteen-year-old son; I discovered a few days earlier he’s acquired some pornographic material. I know what you’re thinking. What’s the big deal about some adult magazines tucked up under a mattress. Oh, how I long for those good ol’ days. You see, if only I discovered a dirty magazine. Nooooo. Thanks to the Internet, instead I discovered 45-second clips of hard-core group sex on my computer desktop.

It’s time for The Talk, which I’ve had many times before, so this should be easy.

Hey, I found some…stuff…on my computer I think we need to talk about.

Awkward silence.

Really? What? he asked.

More awkward silence.

He continued, do we have to talk about it?

Cue cheesy music.

As I pulled over, I mumbled something like, well, if you’re gonna look at it, I guess we need to talk about it

I‘ll spare you the gory discomfort (though if you are really interested, check out Rad Dad 3) but admit that: Joking about sex with him when he was ten, was nothing like having the first real conversation with him about the seriousness and the responsibilities of sexuality.

Flashback: I was standing with my father in the garage. It’s dusk. I was about fifteen. I rarely had time with him alone anymore because he’s a busy man, he’s a silent man, but I knew he loved me, I knew he tried the best he could. He didn’t look me in the eyes. He called me out here because he caught me the other night getting down like only teenagers can in the horrifically uncomfortable backseat of my ‘76 Toyota Corolla.

So now was my The Talk.

Listen, he told me, and waited, the pause pregnant with anticipation.

He said, keep your willy in your pants. I’m serious. Then he walked away.

And I’m serious; that’s what he said, the extent of our birds and bees conversation.

Of course, soon his advice became my way of joking with my girlfriend about getting it on, it’s time to release the willy; it was funny until at the age of eighteen she becomes pregnant.

Non-sequitor Flash Forward:
The horror and accompanying popcorn gag as my son and I were getting ready to watch Aladdin (don’t ask why my son was invited to a three year old’s birthday party at a movie theater) when I witness for the first time the preview for the movie Free Willy.

Scene 2:
After having a difficult discussion about drug use with my fourteen year old daughter, I jokingly asked her, well anything else we should talk about, like are you having sex?

Now, of course, I joked with her too from around age four about sex, but once again not really prepared for her response.

No, dad, I mean I‘ve made out with a few hot boys that’s all.

I stared blankly at her.

And, once again, in a moment that highlights the generational differences between my teenage years when you had to have a girl/boyfriend to free willy, today’s young people are more empowered to be sexually active without having to have a significant other; the wisdom is shocking.

I stuttered something like, I didn’t even know you had a boyfriend…

I don’t.


Picking up on my mental conundrum, she explained, there are boys you want to be your boyfriend and then there are hot boys you just wanna kiss.

Still stuck somewhere in the1950s, I asked, but don’t you want your boyfriend to be hot?

Yes, but sometimes you just want to kiss a hot boy. Can you leave my room now?

The third time really is the charm. I understand that now. From the sheer horror at the need to talk with my son about masturbation and pornography, to the disorientation of generational changes with my middle child, to finally the self-reflection, the epiphany of oh I’ve been here before with my youngest. Now some people may not need three children to see the light; unfortunately, I did. Of course, my cynicism almost makes me blow it again. And here’s where I blame the evil media. I hate all this faux female bisexuality (it’s almost never male) that has became a pop culture trend; it’s all over YouTube videos, hip-hop songs, and Facebook groups, but then again who am I to judge or question Lady Gaga’s sexual dalliances.

Scene 3:
When my youngest daughter informed me that she’s joining the Gay Straight Alliance at her middle school, I almost missed it. When I was twelve, I was still playing with tractors and thought my willy was indeed a whale.

Uh huh, I mumbled while trying to decide what the hell to make for dinner for two daughters who never want the same thing.

But after a second, her words reached me. I remembered my father, the dark garage, the silences. I stopped what I was doing, and I looked at her. I told her how proud I am of her. I asked her questions, and I just listened.

And a few weeks later, I listened again as she shared with me her frustration that even people who are members of the alliance use the word gay derogatorily.

And later still, I apologized to her when she overheard me joking with a neighbor about a friend of ours who is a self-proclaimed fag hag. I saw her face; I knew immediately she only heard me saying the word fag.

Scene 4:
We are watching the movie La Mission; it’s three teenage girls and me. At first they wanted to see Hot Tub Time Machine. To be honest, I did as well, but I knew that it’s not often we get to see movies that bring up issues critically. It’s true though that even bad movies are opportunities to discuss the way things are fucked up: sexual violence, gender rigidity, racism; but tonight I wanted to go the high road. We’re in the dark, and it’s the scene in which the father is refusing to listen, to know about, to acknowledge his gay son’s desires. It’s the familial version of don’t ask, don’t tell. We’re in the dark, and my daughter reached to grab my hand; she leaned into me and said, I can’t believe there are still people like him.

It’s then that I am thankful for the privilege of being a part of communities in which the homophobia I remember as a teenager seems surreal, seems like Hollywood exaggeration to my teenage daughters.

I rented The Life and Times of Harvey Milk and planned on watching it with my kids, but now they’re busy, now they have so many other things to do that they just wanted to watch the funny parts. Funny, you might ask. They simply loved the scenes of street life in the Castro. They commented on the clothes, the hair-dos, laughed at the Castro street parade footage, the dancing. But as the story shifted to the spontaneous memorial that moved down Market Street after Harvey Milk was killed, they watched silently; I saw their sadness, felt their disbelief. They soon left and returned to their rooms. I didn’t have to say anything. They knew.

And when I tell them about the event I’ll be reading at a few weeks later to celebrate the city’s first annual Harvey Milk Day, they smiled and one added, that’s cool, but just don’t embarrass me, ok.

So it’s come to this. Even though I don’t have to explain things anymore and even though I am so clearly the last person they want to confide in about anything sexual, I still ask questions. And they still hate it.

I still ask if they are having drugs and doing sex. They just roll their eyes and look utterly offended. My mantra now to them is low and slow; I’ve stolen the line from La Mission. I tell them in my best vato accent to have fun but keep it low and slow.

I think it’s better than telling them about willies and freedom.


lolaforpresident said...

Beautiful post. I look forward to the teenage years. They are like the final test for parents. I sounds like you did well :)


Thanks for this wonderful post. My daughter is almost three and I worry about her adolescence already. When she was a baby I assumed, as it sounds you did, that I'd do everything right because I love her so much. We'll see...I remember not wanting to talk to my parents about sex and dreading having The Talk with my Dad. He had one with my brother and I guess that was enough for him. Sure to have been embarrassing for both of them. I just found out what I needed to know at the library and from being curious.

kozad said...

I was lucky. I sent my girl to the Unitarian/Universalist sex ed program when she was 12 or 13 and they show graphic B&W slides of EVERYTHING and talk about love and sex and diseases and commitment and all that, boys and girls together in a small group.

In public school, she got a perfunctory talk in 5th grade and asked me later: "Daddy, how does the sperm get to the egg?" So much for public school sex ed. (I told her.)

Later, when the subject of weed and booze came up - from another parent - I asked her and she answered me honestly that yes, she had tried it, but was not into that stuff. I lied to my parents, so I was proud of her. She never got into drugs, we let her sleep with her boyfriend in our house when she was 18, and she has been the best kid you could hope for, now in college.

Antonio Perales del Hierro said...

I am pleased and satisfied that you read my letter, and know what's on my mind, whether you choose to publish it or not--what I wrote my fellow San Franciscans should know--our social movement came and went--and left a lot of dross behind, not the least a good number of social climbing "notables" and poseurs-for a variety of excellent reasons my message will reach my communities--I am little concerned about --thanks for your attention.

Antonio Perales del Hierro said...

I am pleased and satisfied that you read my letter, and know what's on my mind, concerning the bigoted anti-family/anti working-class cartoon in the June 1979 issue of Lowrider Magazine and it's promo in a burgeoning (like Lowrider) Latino institution--an art gallery. Whether you choose to publish it or not--what I wrote my fellow San Franciscans should know--our social movement came and went--and left a lot of dross behind, not the least a good number of social climbing "notables" and poseurs--for a variety of excellent reasons my message will reach my communities--my 'zine is in my blog-I am little concerned about exposure. . Low and Slow indeed. And thanks for your attention.