Church Ladies

“Can two women mate?” came the late night question from Gerald.

I sighed with exhaustion.

I thought we’d covered this back when Gerald was three and wondered if since he had a birthmom he also had a birthdad.  And again, when he was four and asked why I looked so much like my dad if I grew in my mom.  And then again when he wondered how it was that his friend with two moms had a half sister living in another state.  And yet again when he kept checking Kate and Rosie’s cage for a litter of mouselets.

“Well, do you remember we talked about how it takes a man and a woman to make a baby?” I said.  ”Two women can’t make a baby, not without help,” I added trying to be inclusive of the dual-mommy families in our circle or friends.

He shook his head. He wasn’t asking how babies were made, he was asking about sex–the rest of it–and so he tried to clarify his question.

“I mean, like, can they try to mate. Like what would they do? Would they touch vaginas?”

This was clearly going to be a longer conversation, so I made myself comfortable and answered without even quivering, “I suppose they could.”

“Yeah, I know they could, but would they? Like, would they want to?” He had other questions, other ideas about things they might do.  He made Vs with his fingers and used the word “scissors.”

“I guess, maybe,” I said hesitating.

“But why, why would they want to do that?” he persisted.

In retrospect, this is when I should have asked him why he was asking, but instead I just shrugged my shoulders, played stupid, and stared back at him blankly.

Realizing he wasn’t getting any more information out of me, Gerald went back to listening to his ipod.

Although lesbian sex wasn’t my particular area of expertise, it was clear that what he was really asking was why, if not for children, did people have sex?  That was a question I could have answered.  Eventually I would answer it, but at the time I pushed aside that uncomfortable conversation and turned my attention to trying to figure out who had turned my sweet boy’s innocent understanding of sex as a means to a baby into something people might do for… reasons I wasn’t ready to get into.

For all my comfort talking about the mechanics of sex, I wasn’t ready for this side of the conversation–the emotions and pleasure of it.  That’s more, personal.  And, I was enjoying the fact that he seemingly didn’t like the idea of sex.  After all, just last month he said he wanted to adopt his kids so that he didn’t have to “do that” just like his parents didn’t “do that.” And now somewhere he had gotten the idea that some people “do that” even if they don’t want kids? Where did that come from?

Quickly I reasoned that the idea must have come from one of the neighborhood kids, and then I obsessed over which kid to blame.

Even though Gerald’s best friend might seem a likely suspect since he has two moms, I knew it wasn’t him.  There no PDAs (public displays of affection), or even just DAs we joked, at their house.  Also, when they’d tried talking to their son about sex, he told them he’d text them if he had questions in college.

It had to be one of the other neighborhood kids. There was the kid a couple doors down. His parents were divorced. Though his mom seemed nice who knew what was going on at his dad’s. Or, maybe it was the kid at the end of the street who always wanted to play ninjas. He was crazy. And violent. Or, maybe the precocious first-grader down the street who stole (and later returned but that’s another story) my husband’s watch.  It could have also been the girls across the street who went to an annual women’s only camping festival.  Who knows what goes on in those woods.

Lenore Skenazy be damned. I was going to start hovering over my boys like a hawk–drag out the old baby monitor and hide it in the yard.

On the other hand, I had to remind myself that it was great Gerald had asked me. I wouldn’t have braved asking my mother.  My mother and I only had one awkward conversation about sex.  She told me that for boys, sex was like baseball–fun but they had no real emotional investment in it.  For girls, she warned, sex was an emotional nightmare and physically so overrated that I might as well wait until marriage.  I stayed embarrassingly innocent for a very long time.  In high school a friend of mine got kicked out of her house because her parents suspected she was a lesbian.  I remember trying to listen intently but was really just anxious for her to leave so I could look up the word “lesbian” in the dictionary.  It was years later still, maybe even after college, that I understood lesbians could have sex.

Gerald’s world is so different from the one in which I was raised, but he’s still in a bubble.  His bubble is diversity, understanding, openness and acceptance, and with that comes more awareness, less innocence.  So, maybe there was no one to blame exactly, but I still wanted to know the source of Gerald’s questions and keep myself established as someone who could give him the facts.  Who knew what else the neighborhood kids were discussing.  I waited until a quiet time later to bring it up.

“So, about that question you asked earlier? Girls and mating? What got you thinking about that?”

He answered dryly, “Church.”

“Church? Really?”

“Yeah,” he continued. “Shannon and Janie kissed on the lips at peace, so during communion I was just thinking about what else they might do. Like, do they…”

“Oh, oh, yeah. I get it,” I interrupted. Shannon and Janie were friends of ours. I didn’t need the rest of that sentence.

“Well, then, I wish I had a better answer for you. I don’t really know what they do because people usually keep that private, but I guess they have sex for the same reasons as anyone else.”  I thought he might ask, “And those reasons are…?” but he didn’t.  He was tired and ready to sleep.

Leaving that conversation for another day, I was relieved that it was the sweet, loving kiss of two church ladies that launched the inquiry, and that he had sought me out for the answers.  I also realized that for all my smugness about being open with my kids about the mechanics of sex, pleasure was a whole different and much for difficult topic of conversation.

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