Like most middle class American families in the eighties we bought a VCR.
Then my mother, a nurse who worked at a women’s clinic which performed abortions, could watch her favorite soap opera in the evening. I was not old enough for soaps, but it was a small house with only one TV and VCR so I got to see whatever my parents watched. (And by the time I was ten my parents gave up trying to make me to go to bed at a decent time.) There was a lot of kissing and sex on the soaps. My mother used to yell at the television. “That’s disgusting! Can’t you people control your hormones for five minutes!” She would hit mute as she said, “No one makes that much noise when they kiss.” When I started middle school she took this as an opportunity to teach me a few lessons about sex and relationships. I guess you could call them teachable moments. “Remember this,” she lectured, “men are pigs and they are always trying to get in your pants! You can’t let them have their way!” She told me her mother always said “why buy the cow if you can have the milk for free.” I am glad she told me this. Otherwise I would have lost my virginity in a very unfortunate way. My ‘friends’ thought it would be funny to “destroy the innocence of the Sunday School teacher.” Later someone told me that had been their plan when they invited me to a gathering and slipped something in my drink. A boy then tried to get frisky with me, but my mother’s words were firmly planted in my psyche. Through my drugged haze I recognized the danger of letting a boy who didn’t love me touch me. I pulled away, got some fresh air, went home and soon found some new friends.
Meanwhile my mother’s Men Are Pigs lectures continued, but my father began objecting. “What about me? Am I a pig?” Then my mother talked about the virtues of a traditional marriage. She told me to marry someone like my father. That was sound advice. My father was a hardworking family man who went to church and brought his wife and his mother flowers. By the time I met Obadiah I had heard the same lectures so many times I could recite them from memory – with the sarcasm of a teen of course.
(I am getting to the Liberal Christian point here.) My mother’s talks were far from perfect, but they were the best she had and they were impassioned! Mothers, Christian and others, wonder what we will tell our children about sex and relationships. Chastity until marriage is not the norm and temptations are huge. Given my mother’s profession, she knew that and she prepared me to face the world. She knew that sex-talks with teens had to be frequent, brief and a little humorous. They also had to be realistic and relevant. If Mom lead me in a study of what the Bible said about sex thousands of years ago and left it with a few hints about how I could apply those principles to my modern life it wouldn’t have helped when faced with modern predators.
Soon I will have to start talking with my children. My personal touch will be much more positive and I will minimize references to farm animals. But I will caution my children that sex is still special and important. Virginity is a gift, not to be given away to just anyone. My mother also warned me not to be fooled by superficial declarations of love. She told me (or was this my Dad?) that people think they are in love all the time, but there are degrees to love and it tends to deepen with age and experience. And she cautioned that lust is frequently confused with love.
Teens do not want to talk to their parents about these things. They will tune you out and try to get away. And parents don’t want to have uncomfortable conversations either. That’s why these talks sometimes don’t happen enough. But after those teen years are over the young adults will wish they had had more guidance. Imagine how stressful it is to have to make decisions and not know what the people who love you expect from you. Even if my children listen to me and reject my advice, they will still give it more fore-thought and planning then they would have otherwise. I might start our sex talks with the Bible, since we do talk about the Bible a lot. But maybe I should just DVR some soaps.