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Lessons From 6th Grade Health Class

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The other day Monkey came home wanting to know how old I was when I learned about HIV/AIDS.  (He’s learning a lot in his 6th grade Health class.)

I told him I learned about HIV/AIDS at the end of high school, that I vividly remembered the Surgeon General at the time, the white-bearded C. Everett Koop, coming on television in 1985 to talk to the American people and explain how scientists believed the disease was being transmitted.

“It was a scary time,” I said. “People were getting AIDS from blood transfusions and worrying you could get if from kissing.”

Monkey started schooling me about how HIV/AIDS was a virus that attacked the immune system, that it was not passed via “kiss-spit,” but by blood and urine and other bodily fluids, like sperm. Frankly, I was pretty impressed by what he had learned in school.

“You know,” I said, “HIV/AIDS is still a huge problem in Africa and in other communities. It hasn’t been cured.”

But Monkey didn’t want to talk about the world’s AIDS crisis. He had other designs. Squinting at me from the opposite side of our kitchen island, he turned on me.

Monkey: So when you met daddy you both knew about AIDS?

Me: Yeah, it was pretty big news back then.

Monkey: And you met in what year?

Me: We met in 1990 and started dating in 1993.

Monkey: And when did you get married?

Me: In 1997.

Monkey? So you were together for 4 years before you got married?

Me: Yup.

I could feel his wheels turning. He was going to ask me something big. I held onto to kitchen counter trying to steady myself. Was I going to have to confess that his father and I lived together in New Orleans, that we shared an apartment before we married? And where would that take us? Would he assume we had separate bedrooms? The questioning continued.

Monkey: Did you get AIDS tested?

Me: Can we talk about this when daddy gets home?

Monkey: Answer zee kveschun!

(Actually, he didn’t say it like that. It only felt like I was being interrogated by the Gestapo.)

Me: Yes, we both got tested.

Monkey: Before you got married.

This came out of his mouth as a statement, not as a question, so I didn’t feel the need to tell him that his father and I were AIDS tested about 3 months after we started dating –  waaaaay back in 1993.

But Monkey was satisfied and announced we had acted responsibly and added he planned to wait to have sex until he’d married, too.

I smiled at my 11 year-old son who had grabbed a plum and wandered off to do his science homework. Here, I thought he was about to grill me about safe sex practices and demand to know if his father and I had remained chaste until our wedding night.

I am not ready for that talk.

That same night, I saw an episode of Glee where the father, Burt Hummel talks to his gay son, Kurt, about sex. His monologue was short and sweet and brilliant.

Frankly, I think all parents should be required to memorize this speech before leaving the hospital on the day their child is born so they can use it later.

Here is what Burt Hummel said to his son (with a few gender changes):

For many people, sex is a thing we want to do because it’s fun and it feels good, but we’re not thinking about how it feels on the inside or how the other person feels about it. But it’s more than just the physical. When you’re intimate with someone in that way, you gotta know that you’re exposing yourself … You gotta know that it means something. It’s doing something to you, to your heart, to your self-esteem, even though it feels like you’re just having fun.

When you’re ready, I want you to be able to do everything. But when you’re ready, I want you to use it as a way to connect to another person. Don’t throw yourself around like you don’t matter, because you matter.

Here’s a link to the whole video, if you care to see it.

Watch: Kurt and His Dad Have a Gay Sex Talk on ‘Glee’ Video.

At some point, probably sooner than I think, Monkey might ask me to clarify the status of my virginity prior to marriage. Lord knows, that boy can ask me answer any question that might be roiling around in his brain.

I think I just bought myself a little time.

And next time, we are definitely waiting until his father gets home.