By: A Philadelphia parent
I promised myself I’d talk to her. Today.
I dry my hands on a clean towel hanging by the sink, and survey the kitchen’s small white table. Today’s newspaper sits unopened on one end, and a bowl of fruit sits somewhere towards the middle.
There. We can sit there and talk. That’s where we sat for at least an hour giddily replaying the highlights of her basketball game last week, and also where we sat when she started to cry, telling me about her best-friend, Leah, whose family just found out they have to move out of state by the end of month.
I try to imagine which chair I’ll be sitting in, and which one my daughter Erica will sit in. Or rather I just try to visualize whatever chair arrangement will be the least awkward. I open and close the newspaper, so it looks more…casual.
Maybe this can wait another day…
My parents never really talked to me about sex, with the exception of that one time.
I turned out fine… Erica will be fine…
She’ll be home in 20 minutes.
I know better though. I remember when I was 17. My friend Alicia- confidante and next-door neighbor thought she was pregnant. Her period was late. We snuck out of our houses late one night, and she confided in me that she was terrified; and we whispered about what to do. She was so scared she made herself nauseous, which made us even more sure that something was wrong… we didn’t know who to ask, where to get a pregnancy test. We thought about going to one of our mothers, but weren’t sure if we could, what they would say, what they would do. So we just waited. We waited for three excruciating weeks. Day by day by day went by and I went to bed most nights practically begging for Alicia to start bleeding.
And in the end, Alicia wasn’t pregnant. It ended up being okay. It was just a missed period, which now I know is normal for teenage girls. Yea, it was okay.
Have I even told Erica that story?
And if Erica really needed to talk to me she would. I hope she would. But what if she doesn’t know that she can?
She’ll be home in 10 minutes.
I can do this. I’ll just be casual. I’ll offer her some tea. We can sit at the table. I’ll ask her about her day. I’ll ask if she wants a snack. Yea, we can sit right here at the table. Oh god, I have to move this bowl of bananas.
I remember the day my mom tried to talk to me about sex. We had been taking a walk, trying to connect. We strolled towards a bench tattooed with initials, plus signs and hearts. As I sat down I saw a condom on the ground by my feet. I felt my mom see it too. We both quickly looked up, my face hot, and I begged my brain to come up with any distracting topic of conversation.
Instead, my mom turned to me and asked, “Do you know what that is?”
I indiscernibly nodded.
“Good,” she said. “That’s what two people use for protection during intercourse.”
And that was that. That was our sex talk. I remember wanting so much more. I had so many burning unspoken questions that I wanted to say out loud. But, how, exactly does a condom work? And, what happens if you don’t use one? And will it hurt? How will I even know if I’m ready?
I can do better then that. I will do better then that. I will do better then that.
“Hi mom, what’s up?”
“Hey you, come sit down. I want to tell you a story about when I was 17.”