I was listening to This American Life for the umpteenth time today (it's telling when halfway through Ira's opening lines you're aware that you've already listened to that particular episode and have become way too dependent on it for entertainment). And as I've been whittling down the list of episodes I haven't heard I finally listened to one I'd been avoiding--and if you're curious what episodes I've gobbled up the fastest, it'd be anything surrounding the wars in Iraq, past presidential elections and religion. I like hearing how people were so convinced of a belief, a candidate or cause ten years ago. It soothes me to know other people are waaaaay off in their perceptions of the future.
However, I avoided listening to a particular topic. And after getting tired of replaying my favorite episode "Heretic" (Evangelical man goes from Pop-star-dom to being broke and getting his feet washed by LGBT-accepting parishioners), I finally shrugged and I remembered the Golden Rule:
Ira won't know either way.
The episode was entitled "How to Talk to Kids" and for some reason I was shying away from it--I don't want to know how to talk to kids. I'm still reeling from the fact that I am steadily no longer being viewed as a kid--nothing makes you feel like a grownup faster than having interns look to you for advice. I feel pride and happiness at having achieved that new step in life, but I also feel in those moments that I'm slowly, starting to say goodbye to an old friend (my youth).
Mortality, fear of age, and the standard "I didn't realize this was going to happen to ME?" waxing aside, I did give in, I did listen to the episode--I mean it was either that or their Thanksgiving themed episode "Poultry Slam," which, the title alone causes one to cringe internally. (Sorry, Ira--wait, wait, I forgot. Golden Rule. Golden. Rule.)
The majority of it was as I thought it would be--a world removed from my current life, yet uncomfortably familiar in the way that makes me want to get some more years under my belt before returning to it. There were, as you might guess, stories from the perspectives of kids trying to be listened to, stories of grownups failing miserably at talking to kids, and the in-between stories of grownups and kids learning less-than-savory tactics to communicate.
There was, however, one story that struck a cord inside of my nervous system. One story that truly, utterly broke my heart. And I realized right then and there, at age 26, filing away the umpteenth photocopy I had made that day (the printers had a cruel sense of humor at work that day) I had a sudden premonition--a surge of emotion, fear, anger and insecurity well up inside of me:
I will hate whoever my kid has sex with for the first time.
I will hate them.
With every inch of my being I will hate them.
I Don't Think I Can Explain Away This Unprecedented Level of Hypothetical Hatred, So I'm Moving On.
What was the story that sparked this outcome? A mother who knew her daughter was having sex with her boyfriend goes as far as to allow her daughter to have him come over for sex and then at one point even buys them a hotel room.
I can't quite explain it.
In fact, I don't know if one can explain passion of any kind. But, the rage. The rage I felt at the idea that some dirt-bad teenage boy with probably gross acne and a terrible sense of hygiene would actually attempt to use my fear of my hypothetical daughter sleeping around in less savory conditions so that he can get offAND WHY WOULD SHE WANT TO SLEEP WITH SAID DIRTBAG ANYWAY? DID I NOT MENTION THE ACNE? THE SMELL? WHY? WHY?!
This is when my hypothetical daughter suddenly became a nun in a convent far away in the middle of a desert.*
And this is also when hypothetical teenage beau was mysteriously kicked into the pit of death.
First of all, I'd like to say a couple things on parenthood:
1. While I don't know what it's like intimately, I'm pretty sure a lot of it is being tired from the emotional/physical drain that is making sure someone more helpless than you doesn't die for eighteen years. Let alone the fact that you have a hard enough time on your own not dying, but when you finally get good at not dropping them onto hard surfaces or stabbing them with a diaper pin they're pushing you away and saying you're embarrassing them and stop calling them Boo in front of their CEO.
2. If you're a sensitive human being, and you have kids, you will fall in love with them.
And therefore, you can't be trusted.
Being infatuated with anyone, as I've learned over the years, leads one to do stupid things. Say stupid things. Believe stupid things. Like how I believed Alyson Hannigan would in fact ditch that Wesley guy when I was in high school if she just knew how much I had memorized her lines in Buffy. Because that's not creepy.
I'm just saying--more or less, I'd like to put this worry out there now. I've got around ten years or so before I should be seriously considering having an infant on my hands. If I just get this one big I WILL KILL urge out onto the internet now, I figure by the time we get the iChip implants and my future offspring read this I will have calmed down somewhat. Or perhaps I won't have calmed down but I will pretend as if I have and in secret stab a voodoo doll of my hypothetical son's future girlfriend.
Because if she hurts him she will pay.
Ah, I feel better already.
p.s. If you listen to (and like) This American Life I urge you to donate $20 right now. It's two burritos at Gordo's or three beers (plus tip) you don't need to consume this week and it doubles in its value to promote good, heart-filled work.
p.p.s. I may have just put that urge to give above so as to balance out the negative karma of describing hurting future hypothetical lovers of my future hypothetical kids. Whatever. You should still give.
*I know. I know already all of my smart, find-the-weakpoint-in-your-argument friends are going to internally debate me, probably along the lines of, "What? Just because she wants to sleep with a guy? Are you afraid of men?" Or, even better, "So, you're a prude and don't want to admit your kids will have sex..."
FIRST of all, let's say that daughter of mine brought home a woman. Yea. It would be dyke-shish-kabob on the menu that night. I was just going with what statistically is her more likely sexual preference. And remember, this girl is non-existant. I'm allowed some leeway with hypotheticals. And secondly, I think I'm going to want to actually talk to my kids about sex, go through the motions of them hating me for it just to make it clear there is nothing to be ashamed about sexuality or sex--it is what it is, and you can't change how you feel. But, you can choose when and where to act--no matter HOW tempting it is to ignore that you usually have a choice. And that I don't mind beating into their heads whatsoever, whether they like it or not.