For the third time this week, Anna, the budding sexaholic, has wakened me by lifting the bedclothes and peering underneath. With the other hand she holds a flashlight gleaned from the nightstand. Another sign of the times: Kids used to dive under the covers with a flashlight to read secretly after “lights out.” Now they do it to spelunk their parent’s privates.
Obviously, the days of sleeping in the nude are over, gone the way of casual profanity and nose picking. Otherwise, the only way I could prevent this early bird--- routinely up at dawn to watch Zoboomafoo--- from catching the worm from now on would be to rise before her, and nothing short of TNT could ever accomplish that.
Not that I’m a stranger to the importance of sexual appropriateness around kids and the confusion that results from disregarding it. My own parents’ casualness in such matters makes me wonder how I made it through kindergarten without a paternity suit. With the Age of Britney undulating its bare midriff all around me, I’d prefer not to stir the gumbo of desire prematurely.
Of course, as with anything else, the best-laid plans of sexually paranoid parents can collapse in a heap quicker than you can say “genitalia.” Not long ago Anna came into the house after playing with a boy her age in our woods. Around this time, especially, I’d been congratulating myself on being the Responsible Parent, making sure I had at least a towel around me at all times, keeping our Erotic Art book out of sight, etc. So it was with some consternation that I heard her ask Marsha, “How can Moose make peepee standing up without any toilet paper?” Whether or not the incident triggered this week’s spelunking behavior, we look forward to seeing this kid’s mug shot in the paper one day for a suitable felony.
For the record, Anna already is practicing serial monogamy, having used and discarded Tristen, Alex, Cameron, Bradley, and Dominic, one of whom, she said, “squeaked” (farted) too much. Eliminating a partner on the basis of flatulence seems a fairly good way to begin selecting a mate. We rather wish, however, that the process had begun a bit later, so that by the time it’s in earnest it won’t have acquired the momentum of a runaway elevator.
I can remember screeching with laughter a few years back when humorist Dave Barry wrote of “male friends whose daughters are approaching puberty at speeds upwards of 700 miles an hour, and when you say the word ‘dating’ [they] get a look in their eyes that makes Charles Manson look like Captain Kangaroo.” Now the laughter is fading but the screech remains as I search for ways to brake Anna’s burgeoning boy interest. Meanwhile, time menarches on. (By the way, would someone please come up with a sexual vocabulary that doesn’t make the subject sound like gum disease? Funny, how Latin is supposed to be dead yet it provides the only “correct” way we have of talking about sex. Either that or update Pee Wee Herman’s old Word For The Day, with all the furniture in the room shouting “Cervix! Vas deferens!”)
Asian girls supposedly go through puberty later than girls in the west, because they eat less meat. Naturally, we’re hoping that date with destiny can be postponed till age thirty, perhaps through gentle nudging in the direction of Jain Buddhism. “Anna, can you say macrobiotic vegetarian?” Unfortunately, we’ve as yet been unable to find Happy Meals offering baked tofu as an option. By the time Anna’s thirty, perhaps, bar code technology will have advanced to where suitors have character traits encrypted on their forehead, to be scanned on the first date on a device in her foyer. That way she’d know right away if someone who shows up with long fingernails is merely into smegma or also plays scratch-and-sniff with strippers’ thongs tacked to his office wall, and eliminate him accordingly. Before we do.
Marsha and I recently took a backstage tour at the theater festival in Stratford, Ontario. In the prop department our guide held up a decapitated “head” used in the production of Pericles, Prince of Tyre, a Shakespeare play in which suitors of the king’s daughter are dispatched if they can’t answer a question.
“What an excellent idea,” I said.
“Spoken like a true father,” said Marsha.
So long, Captain Kangaroo.