TMI

open clip. art.com by johnny_automatic

Hey Mom, Look at those cats, my son says, pointing to the front porch of an old apartment building in downtown Brattleboro. 

I take a quick look and reach toward his hand to cross the street. We’re rushing  to get to a concert.

How many cats do you see? he asks.

Annoyed, I look back and see three.

I thought there were only two, he explains. Because two of them are connected. What ARE they doing, Mom?

I take another look and notice that one is humping another–right there on the steps in broad daylight in front of my 11 year old (and another cat.)

Um… they’re… they’re… mating, I say.

Right there? he asks.

I know, right? I say; and then I yell: “Hey, get a room!” masking my own discomfort.

“Or at least go under the stairs!” my son bellows.

I smile. These kind of open dialogues with my boys make me happy. Sometimes, I’m taken off guard by their questions, but I stay ahead of them by choosing candidness, especially when it’s uncomfortable. I love it when they can hang in there with me instead of clamming up. It’s promising for our future.

That said, things are getting a bit stickier now that my oldest is 16. The other night, he and his dad were commenting on a friend’s unequal relationship; and I blurted out: What do you two know? Maybe she gives him blow jobs every night!

This was risque, even for me, but I wanted to stop them in their tracks. My husband quickly ducked into the bedroom to avoid any follow up, but not so my son. He just as quickly quipped back: That’s really shallow Mom. Maybe he wants more than that. Maybe he’s looking for a commitment.

I was tickled. Look at that. I can’t even embarrass my son any more. He hangs right in there and dishes it back.

I went to sleep that night proud.

And concerned.

Just a few days later, my teenager turned the tables on me when I asked about the dance.

What kind of dancing? I said.

The grind, he answered.

The WHAT? I asked.

You know, the grind.

You?

Everyone Mom.

But not you?

Yes, Mom, me.

Now it was my turn to turn away. I sputtered and flushed and then threatened to send him to the nearest Christian school. It’s all I could think about for the rest of the night.

Look who has the upper hand with openness now, I thought; and look who taught him.

Kelly Salasin, February 2012

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On Privacy

Vincent van Gogh, vispix.com

“Will my kids be safe?” a friend asks about beginning to blog.

I consider the age of her children. “I think the greater threat to children is not speaking up,” I say.

Yesterday, I read a piece on the Huffington Post by a highschool classmate of my son’s.  Margaret addressed our culture’s current obsession with “sharing.” Her point was well made, but I’m happy to see the pendulum shift away from secrecy. No doubt discretion is needed as this clear-headed writer suggests, but I think this rocking into the openness is a necessary step.

I grew up in an alcoholic family where the drinking wasn’t kept secret. My father told me that my mother had a disease. We talked about–what it looked like; what we could or couldn’t do to help. My father was the only one who would talk about it.

When someone got seriously sick, we talked about that too; and when the neighbor’s teenage daughter attempted suicide, my dad told me how; because I asked. As a physician, he had been the first on the scene.

My father also sat me down to talk to me about cigarettes–told me that he and my mother hadn’t known of their risks when they started smoking. He said that I could smoke. At home. In front of him. I would pester my mother for puffs, but I never started, though she died from never stopping.

I talk to my own sons in this same candid way–as things come up, or when they ask, or when I can tell the time is right. I include that which my father left out–sexuality.

Once I became a teenager myself, my father stopped talking, at least about the gritty things that I was facing in my day to day:

My mother’s  depression.

My emerging sexuality.

My exposure to alcohol and drugs.

Maybe he didn’t know how.

It’s not surprising. Most parents don’t.  How would we know?

Which is why I blog about the conversations I have with my boys. As a lifelong educator and writer and a life lover, I want others to have an example of what an uncomfortable or solution-less real-life conversation with a teenager looks like.

And I want to hear back from my friends and readers; because parenting a teen is life-defining work, and working on it in the dark isn’t nearly as rich as stretching it out in the light together.

So my opinion is that privacy is over-rated. I prefer transparency. For not only does that allow others to learn or differentiate or improve upon what is offered, it also releases the drama of “story.”

For what is essential can’t be taken away from us by sharing. Our being-ness doesn’t get robbed on a blog.  Our life’s details and woes are simply garments.

Does that mean that I think everyone should strip themselves of story for others? No. Not unless that’s your calling.

There is a conundrum however in that calling–in that the fibers of my own drama are intimately woven into the stories of those who are closest to me–like my sons; and those who grew old with me–like my friends and siblings; and those who loved me first–like my parents and aunts and uncles and boyfriends.

They may not want to disrobe with me, no matter how far apart our threads have become.

Which brings me to a line my late grandfather used to say, “When it’s your time, it’s your time; but what if it’s the pilot’s time?”

Kelly Salasin, last day of November, 2011

Not Rape, but not right

When I was 16, I met this sweet boy, Richie (not his real name.) He was quiet, and handsome, and two years younger than me so it was safe to flirt and fan his adoration. Richie was a summer kid so when September came, he returned to wherever he lived while I remained at the shore and grew up.

A handful of years later, our paths crossed again. Richie was now big and strong, still quiet, even more handsome, but no longer “too young.” We were at a small gathering one night, circling each other as we drank and laughed with friends. A few of us were talking in the bedroom. One by one people left, and soon I found myself alone, with Richie, as he leaned in for a kiss.

Vallotton/detail, visipix.com

It was our first. And it was weird. Like some kind of time warp. (How did we become adults, let alone peers?)

But there was something else. Something not right. A prickling went up my neck. Richie was leaning in too hard. He was too quiet. He had been drinking too much.

I glanced out into the livingroom and the kitchen and saw that it was suddenly emptied.

My breath caught as Richie began driving me toward the bed. I tried a joke to shift the mood, but he wasn’t budging. If I didn’t think of something fast, I was about to be… raped.

“Not here, let’s go to my place,” I said, hoping to wake him from the spell he was under.

It worked. Richie stumbled into my car and rode with me to my apartment; climbed the stairs, and got into my bed. Whoever he had been at the party was gone; and now he was only generous and gentle. But I felt dirty.

I’d never felt that before.

Afterward, I slipped on what was once my mother’s nightgown (the one she wore in the hospital at my birth), and stepped out onto the porch where I sat in the rain until it soaked me through.

Richie came out to see what was wrong. I didn’t say a thing. Until now.

25 years have passed since that night, and I can still feel the rain on my skin, and the humiliation in my bones.

Kelly Salasin

Author’s note: Do you ever wonder what makes you write something, all of the sudden, that happened long ago? And then you see this CLICK HERE. And you know. We’re all connected.