There comes a time in every father’s life when he has to put on his big boy pants and explain to his son the facts of life. Recently, I had to put those pants on and explain “the birds and the bees” to our 12-year old son. Gus described the whole experience as “totally awkward.” Yeah, how did he think I felt?
I recognize that I’m not the first dad in history to have this conversation with his son. But there is a big difference for me: I’m gay, and my son is straight. What I know about women, their bodies and how everything “down there” works could fill a thimble with plenty of room leftover.
The “your body is changing” portion of our discussion was easy. Along with already having lived through puberty myself, he and I attended his fifth grade maturation program together a couple of years ago. It was a mass of little boys trying hard not to giggle. Of course, when the facilitator announced that men’s erections are all pretty much the same size, I audibly guffawed.
As he squirmed, and I kept my eyes locked on my shoes, I explained to him about everything from body hair growth to acne. I warned him to be prepared to be unexpectedly … um, excited at the most inopportune times. I alerted him to the crazy rushes of testosterone.
I spoke from experience. But that’s where our similar paths to manhood ended. Back when I was his age, no one told me how to be intimate with another man. I had to fumble through the mechanics, learning along the way. So I asked him if he knew how babies were made. The next thing I knew, without being overly graphic, I was explaining the mechanics of heterosexual sex.
The words that came out of my mouth would make any self-respecting gay man lose his lunch. But I persevered. What really amazed me wasn’t so much what I was saying as much as the fact that at no time did Gus look at me and ask, “How in the world would you know?” The truth of the matter is I really didn’t. It was all an educated assumption.
However, there was one aspect of becoming a man that I believe is truly the same for straight and gay men alike. It’s the need to connect love with sex. Yeah, a great selling point for gay men is that we’re wired to have noncommittal sex, and a lot of it. But there’s something amazing when the sex is connected to love.
So I told my 12-year old son that it’s best to wait until he is married before being physically intimate with a woman. Had I left it at that I would have been a hypocrite. Now quite honestly parents are hypocrites most of the time, but this was important: I had to provide him with options.
We made a deal: Every time that the opportunity to be intimate with a girl presented itself, he should decline. He needs to determine if it makes as much sense for his heart and brain as it does other parts of his body. And when he is convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that having sex is the right choice, because it makes sense for all his organs, then he’s to come to me so we can purchase condoms.
I went one step further. I promised that when he was ready to use those condoms, I’d show him how they worked. The look of utter horror and disgust on his face left me only one response: On a banana, dude! On a banana!