The birds and the bees. All of us found out about them at one point or another. For Dennis Fried of Osprey, Florida, that point was the age of ten. In front of a TV. He ended up writing a whole book about it: A Tongue in the Sink: The Harrowing Adventures of a Baby Boomer Childhood. Here’s a fun excerpt.
I was ten years old when my father got trapped into telling me the facts of life. One night he and I were alone in the house watching Medic, one of the first doctor shows on television. The story involved a young couple who wanted to have a baby but were having no luck. So they went to the doctor (played by Richard Boone — remember Have Gun, Will Travel?) to find out what was wrong.
Everything made perfect sense to me, until it came time for the conference in the doctor’s office. The doctor was telling the man that something was wrong with him!
“Dad,” I said, “I don’t understand this show.”
“What don’t you understand about it?”
“Well, the woman can’t have a baby, but the doctor’s saying that something is wrong with the man.”
“Keep watching, maybe it will all make sense to you in a little while,” he stalled.
So I kept watching, but it didn’t help one bit. Now the doctor was giving the man all kinds of tests and even talking about surgery, while his wife was merrily chatting it up in the waiting room.
“Dad, this doesn’t make any sense.”
My father now had little choice.
“Do you know how a woman has a baby?” he asked.
“Well, when she gets to a certain age she just starts having them.”
“Well, that’s true, a woman does need to reach a certain age, but there’s more to it than that. The man has to do something, too, to start the baby.”
“Well, the woman carries an egg inside her, which has to be fertilized by the man in order to start a baby.”
“The man has to put his penis inside the woman in a place between her legs, and a seed comes out and fertilizes the egg.”
And with those words the world as I knew it went directly to hell in a bullet train.
“Oh, no!” I moaned.
“What’s the matter?” my father asked.
“THAT’S CALLED F—ING!” I screamed.
Now it was my father’s turn to show emotional distress.
“Where did you learn that?”
“From the Big Kids on the playground. They talk and tell jokes about it.”
I was almost in tears. The implications were crashing into my consciousness like waves:
- It wasn’t just traveling salesmen and farmers’ daughters!
- Every person in the world represents two people doing it!
- My very own parents had done it twice!
- I’d probably have to do it myself someday!
“But who’d want to do that?” I was desperate for my father to tell me something that would make it all comprehensible.
“When you get older you’ll understand. When you fall in love with someone it will just be something that you’ll want to do.”
I was clinically depressed for a week. The whole world seemed like a traitorous place to me, not to be trusted any longer. What else might be going on out there— maybe in my own house even— that I wasn’t supposed to understand until I got older?
Some time after that I was riding my bike on the outskirts of town when I spotted a magazine page lying in the weeds. I hit the brakes and fetched it.
One side of the page featured a photo of a beautiful lady. She was dressed like a cowgirl. That is, she was wearing a western hat and a holster and nothing else. And it was at that precise moment that finally, finally I became old enough to understand.
My father was right.
When you fall in love with someone it’s just something that you want to do.