Thanksgiving is the time that we traditionally take to thank the Native Americans for so graciously allowing us to name our high school sports teams after them. This longstanding tradition also helps to reveal how important traditions are, as our once-a-year, one-size-fits-all thank you for giving us such good deals on their land means that relations between Native Americans and later immigrants have always been nothing but the friendliest.
There are other traditions in my family that are quite important, a favorite in the father- son relationship is the “surprise sex talk”, a tradition that began about 12 years ago after I advanced my elementary school theories about reproduction (it involved “formulas” and throat glands).
A couple of rules about the surprise sex talk tradition.
1. it must happen in a space with no ready escape route: moving cars are the best, but elevators and bicycle desolate country roads will also suffice.
2. The talk itself must last no longer than 30 seconds, with the rest of the time devoted to oblique referrals back to the content of those first 30 seconds.
3. The element of surprise is absolutely vital. The talk must happen apropos of nothing, a veritable blitzkrieg of sex education. This is to make sure that both speakers stumble through the conversation, which gets harder with every year that this tradition happens.
Anyway, we begin in media res, because, as you may recall, there was nothing to provoke this conversation:
“I hope you use condoms”
We were on the way the the grocery store, and my father had waited until the red light we were at turned green, so as to prevent me from jumping out. It’s not that this conversation makes me uncomfortable, its just that I find it almost insulting, given the regularity with which this advice is reiterated.
In the back of the mind, I thought, well, I certainly have all the information, and if I did not want to use condoms, I wouldn’t. However, I prudently decided that asserting my right to unsafe sex, however, surprising and therefore traditional, would be a bad turn for this conversation to take.
Another friend suggested that I just claim to only have “relations” or as the medical community calls them, “bumpin’ sessions”, with people who are sex educators, but that too, seemed like a suspiciously bad turn to take, much like signing another treaty to give up vast swaths of your hunting grounds because of the promise “this is like, totally, the last time we do this. We didn’t realize there were so many people in Europe”.
With the thirty seconds up, and my father hopefully satisfied that I would be having safe sex at least until next thanksgiving, we spent the rest of the time trying to make jokes about it. Its hard to make the point to your father that you certainly should have figured out safe sex awhile without making your father feel compelled to extend the conversation, something that neither of us wants to do (because it goes against tradition). So we just made jokes, with my father trying to come up with alternate, often rhyming ways to say “wear a condom” such as “if you’re going to whip it out, then wrap it up”.
The best part about this is that my father is a pediatrician, so in theory, part of his job description is to discuss safe sex with his patients. I hope he does it the same way he does with his sons:
1) make sure examination room door is firmly closed.
2) distract patient with reflex test
3) “hope you use condoms!” “Check for bumps!” “Get any rashes checked out!” “See you next thanksgiving!”
4) and out the door, unless the patients, as I have unwisely asserted in the past, make the wholly un-reassuring point “You’ve given me this talk so many times that, if I didn’t want to have safe sex, I wouldn’t “.
Wrap it up!