I’ve decided to share my latest book (The All-Important, Well-Fed, Giant White Man) with my followers here, free of charge, one chapter at a time. So… Where were we on this read-along… Oh, yes. The beginning…
Chapter 1: “Don’t Do This. It’s Bad.”
Right about the time when my body was on the verge of transforming from pasty-white scrawny child to pudgy awkward beginning-to-pimple preteen, Dad called my brother and me into his den and sat us down for “the talk.” My brother Eric was seven. I was almost nine.
Dad was a man you learned to say yes to. He never demanded a yes sir from any of his ten children, but was more interested in complete and immediate compliance in all things. There was no debating anything. Ever. And if you tried, you’d immediately have to run and grab the paddle or a shoe and then bend over (often with cheeks exposed) for a solid whoopin’. He towered almost six and a half feet off the ground, which, when you’re a kid is way the hell up there. When he would get mad, his eyes would bulge from their sockets, he’d pierce his lips together, and he’d give you a look and a quiet huff that said, “say one more word; I dare you.”
But Dad was also often a jovial man. He played with his kids. He cherished his kids. And he did his best to always teach his kids how to find the lessons in what life was trying to teach them. He was faithful in his marriage and in his church. From what I know, he never permitted a thought to alter him otherwise. He would laugh with you. Wrestle you. Massage your legs when they cramped up in the middle of the night, and as he did, he’d close his eyes ever so, he’d half-grin, and he’d tell you it was going to be all right. And because he was a man of his word, you believed him.
But the day he brought Eric and me into his den, he was neither serious nor jovial. He wasn’t scary, yet he wasn’t inviting. His shrunk back and uneven shoulders said he didn’t want to be there. His tensed eyes said he really didn’t want to be there. Up until that point, I never knew that anything could be awkward for my father.
He grabbed a pad of graph paper and told us to come stand at his desk.
“This is a penis, you already know that,” he said as he doodled a cartoon with male genitals. He drew a ball sack hanging from the guy and explained to us what testicles and scrotums were. He explained to us that our balls would probably get bigger soon. My brother and I kept shooting awkward smirks at each other.
Then Dad got really uncomfortable as he started drawing the outline of a woman’s body. He didn’t get very far with it, just an outline of her head and shoulders. Suddenly he crumpled it up and told us to sit down. I think he realized all too quickly that he couldn’t draw a naked woman for his young boys. Drawing a dude’s junk had been difficult enough.
My brother and I sat down on the chairs he kept against the wall, uncomfortable and entertained all at once. Wanting to giggle. Deathly afraid to be paddled if we did. And then he made things really awkward by bringing Mom into the conversation. “You know how your mom is a woman and she has breasts?” We nodded. I don’t think I knew what breasts were. “She also has another private part that boys don’t have. It’s called a…”
He trailed off discomfited, and switched gears to now leave Mom out of it. “Girls,” he continued, “all girls in the whole world have what’s called a vagina.”
I can’t speak for my brother, but at that point I definitely had no idea what the hell he was talking about. I’d seen my little sisters running around buck naked enough to know they didn’t have penises, but I’d never heard of this weird vagina thing before.
Then Dad clarified that he was talking about “the peaches.” Peaches are what we called vaginas in our home, a term that gives me the serious willies as an adult. I couldn’t help but snicker at it that day, though. I didn’t even know why winkies (our family word for penises) and peaches were so funny, I just knew they were. It probably had to do with the fact that everyone seemed to get so awkward about them, including Dad in that moment.
And, with a new semi-accurate understanding of who had what between their legs, we then learned about… sex.
I was appalled. I was mortified. I was absolutely disgusted.
A man does what now? To a woman?! And you’ve done this to Mom!? And she let you? My thoughts were racing as he explained the ins and outs of it all. Pun intended.
“It’s how babies are made.”
I looked at him in complete disbelief. Not true. Definitely not true. Mom told me, God puts babies in your tummy. They certainly don’t come because you stick your winkie into a girl’s peaches. Uh uh. I won’t believe it. I can’t believe it.
Still, I didn’t debate and I didn’t argue. I just shot occasional glances at my brother to silently ask him if he was also hearing this absurdity. He shot me back more of the same.
Dad then went on to try and explain sperm and eggs, and how that was the way each of us were made.
In a matter of minutes, I went through all the stages of grief. I had lost my innocence, and I had to deal with that. It started with denial, then moved to anger, then reflection as I thought about all the times I knew my parents must have been getting it on after sending us to bed early, and finally reluctant acceptance.