When my daughter turned 10 three years ago, I had “The Talk” with her and here is roughly how it went.
I chose a beautiful summer day on the beach as the venue. I wanted to talk about sex and intimacy in an open and sunny place. I know that I wanted to do this on my own term and I was happy to do it. I felt just a little nervous about the whole thing and I kept telling myself, “Rio, don’t be weird. Act natural. Put a smile on your face, but not a stiff, forced one. A natural and subtle one.” Right.
My daughter and I were lounging on the beach at Asbury Park when I abruptly said, “So do you know how babies are made?” To which she said, “yes.” I kept my cool and asked her to tell me what she knows. She said that people have sex. I asked her if she knew what that meant. She said no. I explained what happens. The logistical part of it. I told her it’s OK to have sex, eventually (very important word here, lol), when she feels like she is ready but pleeeease protect herself. Make sure that her partner wears a hat. At all time. It takes one time to really change the course of her life. We can always recover and regroup from pretty much anything but if she can avoid adding challenges to being a young woman of color, then, I think she should strive for that. It’s already hard enough.
Also, because of the anatomical differences, sex is immediately enjoyable for boys for the most part whereas it takes numbers of years for us women to figure it out. Apparently, young boys and men think about sex all the time. I told my daughter that boys will say anything and do anything to get into your pants. (Not that I would have listened back then, but I wish someone had really tried to tell me this…. lol.) I said, “You are absolutely beautiful and an amazing person but when boys tell you that, you gotta give it like 75% discount.”
Then I talked about what I really wanted to tell her:
Sex is like eating, like foods. There is a range to the experience. When you are hungry and desperate, you might go to McDonald’s. It happens. We have all been there. But you really want to aim for farm-to-table organic experiences; a kind of experience that makes you glad that you are alive. When you have sex with someone you really connect with and under the best of circumstances, it is the absolute best thing in the whole wide world. This ultimate experience is what people write books about, write songs about, paint paintings about, make movies about…. The world revolves around sex. (So much so that I think if everyone is getting some all the time, this would be a much better world but that’s a whole nother topic. ) It is an amazing and beautiful thing to connect with another human being this way; to express love and affection on multiple levels. There is an episode in Star Trek Deep Space 9, in which they show a lovemaking of Shapeshifters. Two Shapeshifters put their palms together and their skin (?) fused and lost boundary where they touched and they became literally connected. They were one in that moment. Then their contents/energy were exchanged and flowed freely within the physical unity they created. What a beautiful and amazing metaphor.
I don’t want my daughter or any young women to think that sex is dirty and it’s bad to want it. Because that is not true. It is a huge part of being a human. Purity is in your heart and not in your container. I don’t want her to feel awkward about her body. Because there is nothing awkward about it. I’m weary of the current direction of conversation that revolves around young women and sexuality. I read an article about how some high schools in the US ban girls from wearing yoga pants because boys can’t focus on their study and they don’t know how to control themselves. There is a very thin line between that kind of thinking and putting women in full burqa. It’s not our responsibility to make sure that boys/men behave like human beings. It is not our fault when they misbehave. It is theirs and that’s what we should be teaching to young men. If we, women, want sex and if we ask for it, that is OK. Sometimes things don’t go well, and that’s OK, too. We regroup and we’ll try and do better next time. Trials and errors. Lots of it. Such is life.
Learning to love better, emotionally, spiritually, and physically takes practice. It takes courage and patience. If we stay on the cliff yarning for the sky, we’ll be mildly happy and we won’t get hurt. That’s a choice one can make and that’s all good. But if you want to soar, you have to take the leap. Jump off of the cliff with no guarantee that you’d fly. You might be successful or you might totally crush. I want my daughter to know that it is okay to jump. I want her to be courageous. In life. And in love. It’s OK to mess up and it’s OK to try again. It’s OK to want to experience everything.
It’s a hard thing to watch your child grow. I can’t grow for her. She has to do it herself. I have to let her try and fail. All I can do is to love her and to offer what I have learned from my mistakes. She most likely won’t hear any of it right now but I’m hoping that she’d keep it somewhere in the back of her head: Eat Well.