Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Talk

"Son," I called into the next room, "would you come in here, please?"

"Coming!" His reply made me sigh unconsciously. The falsetto squeak of my young teenager's changing voice was just another reminder of how quickly time goes by. "What is it, Dad?"

"Put your game down," I told him, and he could tell right away I was using my "serious" voice. I remembered having the same feeling of anxiety he was feeling whenever I heard that voice from my own parents. Fortunately - or unfortunately - for both of us, I wasn't going to yell at him, or question him, or punish him.

No, as his sixteenth birthday loomed, and soon he'd be taking girls to prom, asking to stay out all night with friends, and driving his own hovercar, it was time to have "The Talk."

I gestured for him to come sit next to me on his hoverbed. "Son," I began, clearing my throat, hoping my own nervousness wouldn't show through, "it's time we had a talk."  I gave him a meaningful look. "THE talk."

"Aw, Dad," he hung his head down, kicking his feet, "We have the googlenet, I know about sex and stuff."

"I know, but it's not enough to just know the mechanics. Pretty soon you're going to be going out with girls or attractive robots, and I've got to make sure you understand there's a big responsibility that comes with it."

"What do you mean?"

"Well son," I took out the box I'd been sitting next to, the awkwardness of the moment startling even me. "if you're going to have sex, you've got to use a condom."

"Daaaaaad!" He was just as embarrassed by the whole thing as I was, but I knew this was important.

"This is important," I pressed, letting the box of hovercondoms float next to him, even while silently wondering if maybe mankind had gotten overzealous with hover technology. "Sex is a wonderful thing, but it can carry some heavy consequences. If you're not careful, you can get a girl pregnant."

"What?" He seemed genuinely shocked. "Babies come from sex?"

"It's true," I affirmed, "but these will help prevent that from happening."

He took the box and looked it over, quickly putting it to the side, clearly feeling uncomfortable. "Okay, okay, use condoms, I got it. But, why, Dad? I thought women could choose when they can and can't get pregnant?"

"Oh ho ho," I laughed heartily at the youth's ignorance. "No, son. And don't say that around women, it's very offensive. See, they have no control over it - unless they get raped."

"Really?" He seemed confused, but I could understand why. No one had really thought that way until Senator Akin, many years earlier, had brought light to the scientific fact.

"You see, son, when a woman really gets raped, she secretes a certain secretion and keeps herself from getting pregnant."

"What do you mean, "really" gets raped? And aren't you thinking of ducks?"

"Well, to answer the second question first, we all used to think so, but a very smart man named Todd Akin, who was a Senator in Missouri, showed us all we were wrong using testimony from a real doctor. When he first said he heard that from a doctor, even I thought he meant like, a chiropractor, or maybe someone whose last name just happened to be "Doctor," but no, it was a real, actual doctor. And he taught us all a valuable lesson about how women get pregnant. If a woman is forced into having sex, she can't get pregnant."

"But - how does that work? If babies come from sex . . . "

"Ah, but going back to your first question, a woman's body is an amazing thing. If she doesn't want it, her body will shut down the baby-making stuff and she'll be alright. That's why, thanks to Senator Akin, we outlawed the morning after pill. It was just one more way for women to think they could have sex without consequence."

"Wait a second," my son said, mulling that over in his teenage head, "there are other ways to prevent pregnancy and we outlawed them?"

"Of course," I said, "sex is a huge responsibility, and making it safer for everyone involved just encourages more of it. Since we know women who are legitimately raped can't get pregnant, it means that all those women who had abortions or took emergency contraception were lying about being raped in the first place. And that's terrible son, rape is a horrible crime and those women are bad people for lying about it."

"Is that really true?" He seemed more confused than ever. I felt bad for him - I knew this was a lot to take in, and a young, hormone-addled mind could become overwhelmed by all the science.

"Hey, Senator Akin was on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, so I trust him to know what he's talking about. It was thanks to him that we finally got rid of birth control being covered by health insurers and passed that Constitutional Amendment banning all forms of abortion."

"So, so . . . " I could hear the gears turning in his head as he tried to wrap his head around it, "women have no right whatsoever to choose when they want to start a family? If they want to have sex, it's all up to luck?"

"Luck and condoms, son," I told him solemnly, "luck and hovercondoms."

"But . . . Dad, that sounds really, really unfair to women."

I shrugged. "I used to think so, too," I recalled, "because no matter how strongly I felt we should be focusing on making a nation where women had enough options that they'd never feel like abortion was all they could do with an unwanted pregnancy, I knew at the end of the day, it wasn't my choice to make. But since Senator Akin made it clear that way of thinking just encourages women to lie about rape, I had to change my mind. That's why you wear a condom, son, every time." 

That wasn't the whole truth, though, and if nothing else I wanted this talk to be thorough. "But," I started to clarify, "if you maybe find a girl with enough money to pay for her own birth control, then it's okay not to use protection."

"Really? But . . . aren't there like, diseases that come from sex?"

Now, this was an important question, and I wanted to make sure that my son and I were on the same page here. I looked him square in the eye, putting my hand on his shoulder. "My boy," I was using my "serious" voice again, "you know I'll love you no matter what, right? No matter what, I'll always be proud of you, and I'll always support you." He nodded, though he was clearly confused. "Son, are you gay? Or . . .hoversexual?"

"No," he said, shaking his head, "I know I like girls. I mean, I REALLY like girls."

"Good," I breathed a sigh of relief, since that made this next part of the talk a whole lot easier. "In that case you've got nothing to worry about, since you can't get AIDS through heterosexual sex."

"Is that true?!" He exclaimed, looking more surprised than ever.

"It is," I assured him. "If you were gay, we'd have to talk about all kinds of safety precautions and preventative measures, but as long as you stick to girls you'll be okay."

"Wow," he was trying to process everything he'd just learned. He took the box and looked it over, the flush of embarrassment coming back to his cheeks. "Okay, okay," he said, his teenage irritability surfacing, "I think I get it. Can I go now, Dad?"

"Alright son, but remember everything I said today."

"I will, I will!" He dropped down to the floor, scooping his game off of the dresser. He stopped at the door, looking back at me with a smile. "Hey," he offered meekly, "thanks, Dad."

I smiled as he walked back out into the hall. Parenting is a big challenge, but knowing I'm sending my kids out there with the right information made me feel pretty darn good about myself.

When it comes time to tell my daughter how it is, though, I think I'll leave that up to her mother.