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Davis, California

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Column: The birds and the bees

Let me take you back to our younger years when life was simple. When we got to play on the jungle gym, paint with our fingers and make sticky messes.

This was also the time when we were most curious. During this stage in life, you asked your parents where you came from. Some may have told you the stork dropped you off. And you went on with your happy little life knowing a bird brought you into the world.

On the other hand, some parents may have gone to great lengths to tell you where you came from. They bought you books like Where Did I Come From? and Where Do Babies Come From? Kudos to your parents.

The day came when you were in middle school and the tables turned. Your parents were the curious ones. They wanted to know who you were going to the mall with and what movies you were seeing. This was their job in life – to pester you.

You knew it was coming, but of course, it happened when you least expected it. It was the most dreadful day of your life as a teenager. The day your parents or some trusty adult gave you the sex talk.

If your dad is like my dad, he probably doesn’t say too much. So my coming of age “talk” consisted of a stack of pamphlets from Kaiser’s teen clinic. Ask me if I read them. (Okay, maybe I took a glance, but what 12-year-old girl reads pamphlets about puberty her dad gives her?)

If you had a nurse for a parent, then you probably had a much more graphic experience. This is what happened to a friend of mine. At age nine, her mom sat her down, pulled out pictures and explained what was going to happen to her body. I hope my friend learned a thing or two.

Another friend told me her grandpa gave her the sex talk when she was interviewing him for a project about World War II. He talked in the third person and told her, “Your grandpa really enjoyed his wedding night. Your grandma and grandpa couldn’t wait to do that again.”

From this encounter, she gathered he was telling her to pop out as many “nice Catholic babies as possible before 30.” She was mortified and has not been able to look at her grandpa the same way since.

Imagine if your dad found a condom in your room when you were in high school. Yup, this is what happened to a neighbor of mine. After going to the doctor to get a prescription for birth control for reasons other than sex (which her dad knew about), he sat her down and told her he was worried.

She burst out in laughter and said, “Is this about the condom?” She explained the doctor gave it to her as a precautionary measure.

It gets better. At the age of 13, my friend was sitting at the dinner table with her family. Her younger sister asked what a vibrator was. Her mom proceeded with a 20-minute discussion and a diagram. I want to have dinner at her house!

For some of us, including myself, this topic was worse than learning geometry. But we have come to the age when we are teaching our parents things about the body. Just a few weeks ago my friend told her parents what a queef was. If you don’t know what this is, look it up.

As embarrassed as we were during these sexual conversations, I’m pretty sure they kept us safe, out of trouble and informed. I’d hope we are mature enough to discuss this part of our lives with some trustworthy adult. And storks don’t really drop babies off on porches.

ERICA BETNUN is happy it’s hump day. She can almost taste the weekend. She can be reached at elbetnun@ucavis.edu.


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