I'm in the pickup line at my son's middle school, and I have fifteen minutes before dismissal to go through today's mail, which I grabbed before leaving the driveway. The latest Popular Mechanics came today, and my eleven-year old will be all over it. Determined to preserve his innocence a bit longer and limit his exposure to erectile dysfunction ads, I rip the Cialis ad out of the magazine. Between Pop Mech and his favorite BBC series, Top Gear, I'm just waiting for the day Aidan asks, "So what is ED, Mom?"
Because I believe in taking the mystery out of such body questions, I will say, "Y'know that puberty book I gave you, the one full of cartoons? Well..." Most moms would probably say, "That's a question for Dad." That won't be me. I want my sons to feel comfortable talking to me about anything. Like when Aidan told me about that sixth grade girl who flirted with him. If I send out the vibe that one subject is taboo, then how can I expect him to come to me with more important questions down the road?
See, we never talked about this stuff in my house. Judy Blume and my clueless fifth grade friends taught me all I needed to know, so when that "special" moment came along in seventh grade, I was the one to have the conversation with my mother, and not the other way around. Her response? "Well, this is exciting!" No, no, it's not. Not exciting. Why do women think this stuff is exciting? All these things were embarrassing, mortifying, confusing and unpredictable. Puberty was far from what I considered exciting as a teen. My first Springsteen concert? That was exciting.
By the time my sister Carrie needed to be brought shopping for her first bra, my mother had had enough. "Here's money. You take her. Keep the change." I was seventeen, and I was horrified. But I needed gas money, and it was clear that our mother, now laughing at my red cheeks, was not going to take her third daughter on such an errand. So I took Carrie to the only place in New Canaan that sold women's underthings: Isabel Eland. No Internet in the eighties, no discreet boxes from amazon.com.
We opened the store door and I cringed when the tinkling bell announced our arrival. We hurried to the counter and I whispered to the short, stocky blonde, "My sister needs her first bra." I looked around to make sure I didn't see any moms I knew.
"How exCITING! A first BRA!" Stocky Bra Lady exclaimed for all to hear as if we had won a raffle prize. I expected confetti and balloons to drop from the ceiling.
"What style do you like?" she asked my twelve-year-old sister as if Carrie knew about bra styles. Duh, lady, like she’s going to know what a front closure racerback is. My patience wore thin.
"Three training bras will be just fine, no styles, nothing fancy." I tried not to hiss. Stocky Bra Lady made Carrie try some on, kept walking uninvited into the dressing room "just to see how we were doing", and wouldn't keep her voice down about the matter. It was awful. Our mother had a good laugh for days.
I watch Aidan navigate a few icy patches on the sidewalk before he reaches my car in the pickup line. He slips a little but catches himself. I crumple up the Cialis ad and put it behind my purse. He knows what the E is...no need for him to worry about what the D means in fifth grade. When he opens the door he sees Popular Mechanics and then smiles.
"Cool, Pop Mech. Thanks, Mom."
I smile, too.
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