My son is typical male; at least I think he is. He seems to have all the standard insights and blind sights of the gender. He’s on his third real girlfriend (according to him) and this time he feels he is in love. As he said the word, I swear I saw it leave his lips perfectly formed in Jane Austin romantic script. I watched as the words wafted across the table and entered my ear, they rumbled around my head and came out the other side decrypted as “You’re going to be a Granny soon!” If the hallucination wasn’t shocking enough he asked for a few pointers. Pointers? Did he mean pointers as in understanding her or communicating better, or did he mean pointers as the quickest route to making out? Like I said, my son is a typical male and I assumed it meant both.
So we talked and I slipped in as much caution and sex education as his hormone-ridden mind could hold. Where was my husband for this? Sitting in the adjacent family room playing Jenga with my daughter. Not that I mind but I sort of feel like he should be getting the male perspective and not be Oprahsized by his mother. Not that there is anything wrong with house breaking the lion you just have to be careful not to turn him into a permanent cub. Before I could continue trying to lecture the proper amount of testosterone to manageable levels he asked what is love.
What is love? Within Buddha’s teaching is the concept that we should accept love and not define it. These are easy concepts to understand when you look at the love between parent and child, but harder when you look at the connection between desire, affection and the person who is embodiment of these feelings. As his eyes began to glaze over, I said let's just look at romantic love.
Before I continued, I started thinking about painful love, a love that demands a sacrifice of self and often not in a good way. I have been reading lately on Hemmings and Jefferson in particular The Jefferson Hemmings Myth: An American Tragedy by Eyler Robert Coates Sr. and Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings: An American Controversy by Annette Gordon Reed. Both authors take different sides of the debate and rely on far too much anecdotal and outright hearsay to be factual beyond a doubt. That of course doesn’t stop me from having a personal opinion. I believe slave owners brutishly dominated those they owned and come to the conclusion that they did have a relationship, and that he raped her for as long as he owned her. Sorry Buddha, but if love doesn’t have a choice then how can it be love? I’m sure she loved him later on but like I said if it’s not freely given at the start then it grows from something else. I will admit that it is still love but its darker root taints everything. During Japan's empire period, my people enslaved many others particularly Koreans and our history is replete with similar occurrences although none rose to level of Emperor that I know of.
I recently watched a film called "The Death Of Love." It was about a concentration camp survivor who formed an intimate and twisted yet loving relationship with one of the doctors performing experiments. I don’t regret watching the film, but I warm you its not for the faint of heart. If you choose to see it you will certainly have something to think about and discuss around the water cooler. As you can imagine the repercussions of that liaison don’t create ripples but tsunamis later in her life.
After I got over my anger at the over-the-top, ham-fisted sledgehammer ending, I decided it was worth seeing but I would have appreciated a directorial touch that respected the audience's ability to recognize the point without forcing the closing shot down our throats. Is the love like the ones mentioned more Stockholm Syndrome than real? Of course those examples did not offer choice, at least the kind of choice that comes from being free to say no and not be brutalized, killed or both. Maybe love becomes a coping mechanism for some in those cases.
Back to the conversation with my son, what is love? I told him any definition was insufficient but it was about caring and needing someone for obvious and mysterious reasons. Sorry Buddha I have nothing profound on the subject just more questions. Sure I gave him the standard parent speech about respecting her wishes and a few more arguments as to why sex is not love. Not being stupid, he of course said well, they call it making love. At that point I took the emergency flashlight out of the infamous kitchen gadget drawer and shined it in his eyes until he was blinded and his pupils went crazy. In my best "Law and Order" voice I causally offered him a soda or a candy bar in case he was jonesing and then swiftly pushed my nose up against his and in my best bad cop voice I asked, “Have you’ve been thinking about making love"? I hate that term personally. When sex talks are handed out, I use words like intercourse and masturbation while my husband says making love and throws out fuzzy codes for sex acts. Speaking of codes, I’ve heard my son around his friends saying “I’m not hittin it.” I thought he was referring to a game of baseball or something until my husband illuminated me. So I suppose, "Tappin' it" isn't about dancing? What’s wrong with the slang of my generation? These new terms are too aggressive for my taste.
Of course, once I was educated I made an effort to use these terms around my teens. If you haven’t tried it, I suggest you do for the pure evil comedy of it. I always do it after mealtime while we are gathered as a family for an all too brief moment discussing the remains of the day. I’ll look at my kids and say,“I’m gonna be hittin dat” as I point my finger at their father. The owl eyes and disgust on their faces brings tears to my eyes every time while my husband just moans his disapproval. I know where this need to torture my children comes from- it's my parents! Too many times to relate my staid traditional parents would rise up and bid goodnight to me and my siblings thirty-five minutes earlier than usual. My father would command, "Turn on TV, turn on TV or listen to rocken roll." My mother would say,"Cross your fingers you might come out of this with a baby brother." Of course she would say it in Japanese. My father would shoot her a stern look, and we would sit mortified in silence at the thought, and my oldest sister would run for the radio volume knob. I would just sit there feeling queasy. Sometimes the radio didn’t help enough even though we had the volume way up and one ear against the speakers, my mothers vocal styling often pierced our pretense of music appreciation. In the morning my dad would sit red faced in silence and my mother would be humming. Seems Dad knew the lay of the land pretty well, and my mother was an evil, evil woman whom he could not resist.
Some twenty-five years later (last year), I asked my Mom why they did that. My Mom said," Simple your dad is sleep without fail by 10:45 every night of every year since I have known him. So if he is to do his duties, I insisted we go to bed at 9:30. I would have rather waited until you kids were asleep but trying to wake him for his responsibility was impossible." She smiled, looked right into my face and said,"Tonight is an early night for us!" I immediately got the shivers and a flood of nausea washed over me. Like I said an evil, evil woman.
Ah, the tortures of my childhood. Noticing the far away look, my son said," Mom, I hear you. Thanks for the talk and I’m not having sex yet." With my face still an inch away from his I looked deep into his eyes. I couldn’t tell if he was lying or not. Men often lie about sex; they do it so much its like telling the truth. I said,"Good and remember no babies! I’d rather be disappointed and angry that you had sex too young and kick your ass, thanto have to kick your ass 'ause you gave me a grandchild. Ten I leaned in even closer and said,"Seriously, Negro these are two entirely different ass kickins!" I looked over at my daughter in the adjacent family room blissfully playing Jenga with her dad. "Off to your room," I yelled into the air. Both kids looked up startled and cried its only 9:30. Their dad looked up at the clock and said, "You heard your mother." I spoke the word tappin just loud enough for them to hear. They dragged themselves up the stairs mortified and owl-eyed. I could swear my daughter was holding her stomach. All I could think of was that the apple seldom falls far from the tree, and despite our promises to the contrary, in many ways we become our mothers. Yes, I am also an evil, evil woman. Actually all I really wanted to do was have a glass of wine and play Jenga but let them think what they want.
Camile Ryerson is our regular contributing writer. Her column appears every Wednesday. Read her views on politics, world affairs, pop culture, family and what she's reading. Her favorite genre is sci-fi.