From what I’ve gathered from pop culture and being the child of parents, parents seem to live in constant fear of one day having to have The Talk. While some parents start out by talking to kids about sex, bodies, consent, and that whole gamut early on so that it’s not The Talk so much as Many Conversations, some parents seem to have this idea that upon turning a certain age, they’ll need to sit their child down for the worst thing that’s ever happened to either one of them. Even if it's one of the most important things you can do for your child.
I’m not going to pretend that it won’t be awkward to talk about sex with your kid, although it would be significantly less so if you start early instead of one day hitting the on switch. It doesn’t have to be some terrible experience, but however you do it, just make sure you do, even if it makes your uncomfortable. If you’re feeling nervous about The Talk and need some perspective, let’s take a stroll through ten scenarios that would be infinitely worse than having The Talk, and give you a kick in the pants to get going.
1. Having fifteen pap smears in quick succession performed by seven rotating doctors (one gets lucky and does one extra), and one is Dr. Rick.
This might not be the most plausible scenario you could find yourself in, but hey, this is a vast universe full of limitless possibilities. Actually, I was recently reading up on science (watching TV), and I became fascinated by the concept of parallel universes. You see, there are more possibilities than we can possibly conceive of and the universe is bigger than we can possibly imagine, and therefore it’s not entirely impossible that somewhere, a version of you is having fifteen pap smears in quick succession while Dr. Rick flexes his muscles and drops the speculum, every single time. When you think about it that way, telling your kid what goes in what holes and to make sure everyone enthusiastically says yes first seems like a walk in the park.
2. Listening to acquaintances tell you in depth synopses of their dreams.
Look, unless you are one of my best friends (who always have really funny dreams) or you're an attractive acquaintance who had a sexy dream that involved one of our friends/college professors/ex-boyfriends/girlfriends me, I literally could not care less what you dreamed about last night. And I promise, I really am a person who loves to hear people talk–one of like four things I’m good at is listening. But I just can’t muster up the energy to hear about how your mom was a talking horse at your old high school, but different. I would literally rather put a thousand flavored condoms on a thousand bananas.
3. Singing happy birthday at work.
It’s lunch time, and everyone is awkwardly corralled into the work kitchen where you sing “Happy Birthday” with the enthusiasm of a funeral dirge, desperately trying to find a place to direct your gaze that will prevent you from locking eyes with anyone else in the room. The person next to you is vigorously harmonizing, and you become terrified that your coworkers will think it’s you. You start to slide back towards the wall, hoping to disappear entirely. Then you’ll have to jockey for the piece with the least frosting and make small talk with Kevin from sales while you wait, and he keeps calling you “Bra.” If you can get out of this interpersonal death trap unscathed and go eat your cake alone at your desk in peace, you can almost certainly pull of saying “here are different types of birth control.”
4. Thinking someone is waving at you when in fact they are waving at the more attractive person behind you.
There’s no coming back from that. If you’re any kind of human, you’ll spend the rest of your day/week/life feeling completely dejected and awful, and embarrassed whenever you see your own sad reflection. Are you telling me you can do that, manage to get up the next day, and continue your life? You’re a fucking superstar, and answering your kid’s questions about swimsuit area stuff should be a snap.
5. When someone tries to talk to you while you’re in the bathroom.
Look, as far as uncomfortable conversations go, there is no subject matter than can be comfortably discussed while you’re in the bathroom. Be thankful that The Talk doesn’t have to happen while you’re trying to pee gracefully.
6. When the bartender asks you how you want your drink but you can’t hear over the music so you're like “yeah, sure, I’ll open a tab,” and he keeps asking the same question and you just keep trying to hand him your credit card and eventually you just turn around and go home and drink in bed.
These types of miscommunications are increasingly common for me, and I consequently spend a lot of time drinking in bed. I find these to be stupidly painful–the confused expressions as you try to suss out the what the hell the other person wants from you, the flailing as you try to mime your point, and all the while knowing that you’re just digging yourself deeper and deeper into a hole of shame. Thinking about that shame, you should do your best to make sure your kids don’t feel the same shame about their bodies and natural curiosity.
7. Trying to play it super cool when your doctor is like “are you sexually active” but instead you say “FUCK YEAH HIGH FIVE” and your doctor is like “I can’t high five you I’m holding a speculum.”
So you sit there, your pride over your sexual prowess dwindling, while a person in a white coat pries open whatever orifices you have while saying “hmmm.” Being unable to play it cool is one of the many indignities of being a human person, and as such, we all experience them with unfortunate regularity. Having the talk has nothing on this.
8. Getting a text that says “who is this?”
Nothing smarts quite like sending a text–it can be as impersonal as “see you tomorrow” or something like “I’m really sorry I started crying about my ex-boyfriend, and it was really amazing of you to take care of me like that. If last night wasn’t a massive deal breaker, I think I at least owe you a drink”–only to receive a cement wall of “who the fuck are you?” There’s just no way to come back from that one. No way at all.
9. Liking your former boss’ mother-in-law’s Instagram from six months ago
I’ve long suspected that all social media is an elaborate plot to humiliate us all, especially given how easy it is to turn innocent scrolling into the lives of people you pretend not to care about into liking a post from six months ago. Even if you unlike, they still get the notification, outing you as the person who scrolled through their entire social media history, alone in your room drinking (see number 6). That flash of realization of the magnitude of what you’ve done the moment you click “like” isn’t something I’d wish on my worst enemy (who, incidentally, has a great Instagram that I’ve spent a lot of time perusing). Being like “yeah, ejaculate is kind of weird but it’s normal to look like that” is way easier, and it actually helps someone as opposed to ruining your own life.
10. Walking in on someone actually having sex
You know what’s way worse than talking about sex? Sex that you aren’t a part of but accidentally observe. And worse still–what if it’s your kid? And he or she is just fumbling aimlessly and doing it completely wrong, because nobody gave him or her actual information? For example, I definitely did sex wrong for the first few years as a consequence of inadequate information. If you’ve been looking for a reason but can’t muster up the energy, the mere thought of walking in your on your kid and his or her high school paramour with genitals akimbo should be the kick in the pants that you need.
Talking to your kids about sex doesn't have to be difficult or painful. Maybe it won’t be the most comfortable conversation you and your kid have ever had (especially if you haven’t been planting these sex-positive seeds for years), but I guarantee it’ll be better than even one of the above scenarios. And the critical difference here is that you need to do this–this is your job as a parent (and the one time I will ever tell you categorically that your parenting needs to include something in particular). Protect your kid. Provide information. I promise, it won’t hurt.