This evening, in my cold-medicated state Arthur and I padded over to the movie rental store to find the kind of entertainment that we could enjoy from the sofa.
I picked up the first disk of the series True Blood because everyone keeps telling me I’ll like it. I’m two episodes in, and it’s definitely sexy, but I find some of the writing a bit weak. I’m already attached to a couple of the characters though, so what the dialogue lacks is made up in development. I’ll keep watching. I’d forgotten that the show is an Alan Ball creation, who I love.
Completely and totally randomly, I picked up Towelhead. It was recommended by the movie store, and I always like their recommendations. I didn’t even read the synopsis. I just saw that Toni Collette was in it, and figured it must be good. I popped this into the DVD player after episode two of True Blood.
The story is about a thirteen year old girl with a white mom and Lebanese father. She gets shipped to her father’s home in the U.S. suburbs after a complicated scenario arises at her mother’s house. At first, this starts as a quirky coming-0f-age story.
As the tale unravels, my heart starts to break into a million little pieces. I can’t get into the nitty gritty details of why this affected me so without spoiling the plot, but this movie is such a raw take on the idea of female sexuality. It’s amazing that I randomly selected this, because this exact topic has been on my mind a lot lately.
There is a real disconnect between how women are expected to feel about sex, and how they themselves would like to feel about it. This mass confusion and hypocrisy affects both genders too. For all our feminist efforts, things really haven’t changed that much, and sometimes I feel like my attitude towards sexuality is what will always make certain aspects of my life challenging.
I don’t just mean the act of sex, either. I mean sexuality at large; maybe even sensuality is the word to use.
This particular entry is long overdue, and this movie really drove it home for me.
I began to ask questions about sex at about eight years of age, if I remember correctly. My questions were met by my mom, who very calmly gave me a book to read and then told me to ask any and all other questions I might have after reading it. I don’t remember the specifics here, but I know I felt comfortable, and fascinated, and not really embarrassed at all.
I also remember finding my dad’s Playboy collection, and being intrigued. When I got busted for that, I think I was only told that they were magazines for grown-ups and that they were private.
Then, my search led me to the original edition of The Joy of Sex. I still love men with beards and shaggy hair because of this. I hid that discovery for weeks under my bed, until my mom asked if perhaps I might know of its whereabouts. I fessed up, and as I recall, she told me she would prefer that I leave this book on the bookshelf, and ask any questions I might have about what I’d read there.
Several other discoveries were made, always through snooping through my parents’ bedroom, which proved to be something of a treasure trove. Each time, burning curiosity, and my mother’s open nature led me to confess my invasion of their privacy so I could ask the questions that were begging to be asked. Each time, I was gently admonished for my snooping, because private time and privacy were very important, and then I got a clear and honest answer.
I never, ever heard or walked in on my parents having sex, but at least once a week, after we were tucked in, the lock on their bedroom door would click, and the entire house would smell like lavender massage oil. It was easy for me to piece this mystery together.
I’d always taken this for granted, assuming that everyone I knew had learned about sex by finding interesting things in their own homes, and having at least one parent who was comfortable explaining what was going on.
The more people I talk to, the more I learn that this is not the case.
I was never, ever, ever ashamed of my sexuality. Any awkwardness or embarrassment growing up was a result of feeling like I didn’t fit in with the other kids, or feeling like they thought I was strange, and ugly.
Once puberty was full swing, and all of my girlfriends started getting it on at the tender age of fourteen, I knew I wasn’t ready, and really wasn’t interested. Everything I’d read sounded interesting and important, and the boys I knew at that time were mostly really awful. If it was going to happen, I wanted to be ready.
When that time came, I was almost eighteen. I’d switched from hanging out with gun-toting Jamaican drug dealers to really granola actors and musicians. I made my own appointment with my family doctor to discuss this matter, have my first pap, and go on the pill. I told my mother about this after the appointment. I bought condoms, and lube, and announced to my twenty four year old boyfriend (yikes, I know) that I was ready. I still think I deliberately chose this boyfriend as my first because I knew he’d know what he was doing.
My mother’s straightforward, open approach to sex gave me the confidence I needed to make clear decisions, and made me really curious and interested in understanding this aspect of my personality. I credit this for saving me from some pretty stupid decisions growing up. When I kept company with the aforementioned dealers, the pressure to drink and do drugs was constant at first, and I was interested in neither of those things. I quickly figured out that I could weld my virginity like some strange kind of trademark, and even went so far as to frequently wear white outfits. Soon, I was really novel in these circles, and some of the meanest mo-fo’s had my back (side). Nobody pressured me anymore, and in fact, they kind of found it endearing, I think. Every now and then I would throw them a bone and pretend that they had hot-boxed me, but I never got stoned with them. I later found out there was a pretty significant cash pool on who would take my virginity.
All this to say “thanks mom”. There’s so much more to learning about sex besides the basic biological function. They are still not allowed to teach sexual confidence, self-exploration, or the dynamics of sexual power in schools.
Towelhead made me realize, once again, how essential this really is.
I was so enthralled, and moved, that I Googled this movie after it ended, only to find that it was written and directed by Alan Ball.
Universe, I love your clever sense of humour.
Be advised, Towelhead is not for the faint of heart…it’s also based on the novel by Alicia Erian.
Happy to hear that I was such a good influence on your sexual powers (I think) and great to hear that it helped you make some good decisions while growing up.
Rest assured, I use my powers for good, and not evil…
I love this post so much. You obviously have a phenomenal mother. We can all learn from this – how best to parent our own daughters and teach them about sexuality, sensuality and all the rest.
You’re such a strong, brave woman, Cat – I’ve admired all of this about you since I met you.
I suppose that I also owe a similar thank you to the parental units even though I simply can’t recall ever getting a ‘sex talk’. I however did the same snooping, hid the same books for later reading and smelt the same massage oil. I don’t think any sort of talk was actually necessary and was smart enough as well to put it off until I was ready, which was a few years even after yourself (something to be said for making up for lost time?). I may have also been the only 14 year old who would buy Playboy to read cover to cover, and to this day that is still the main reason why I love reading really well written interviews and biographies more than anything.
I think sometimes the best parenting is the parenting you don’t do and just let life happen. My insanely inquisitive nature likely stemmed from the fact that I was left to figure out a lot of the simple things on my own, which I’m grateful for. I may have been very young when I figured out that the church was a joke, but I was still allowed to walk away from it, its pretty great to have such respect for the opinion of such a young person.
Yes, indeed we got very very lucky my sister. I don’t think I ever really appreciated or understood the value of good solid parenting until I reviewed my last relationship in hindsight. Its amazing what a bent and broken person someone can become when they have no positive influence on the home front. We got lucky indeed.
Thank you son for the positive feed back on our parenting skills. Not sure that we did everything right but we did what WE thought was right. I guess that is all that parents should do. We are very proud of both of our and hope that you both find your niche in life.
Always remember that we love you and we will always try to be there for you.
Mom & Dad