Is the sex talk a thing? Because movies, TV shows, and books have told me that this is a common parenting practice, but I’ve personally never experienced it.
Growing up, sex was never a topic that was discussed to any extent in my house. My father, with his quiet and reserved demeanor, and my mother, with her anxiety-prone personality, would rather die than mention anything remotely having to do with sex to my siblings and I.
Sex was always alluded to through verbal smoke and mirrors.
When I turned twelve, I think my mom attempted to give me some version of the talk? I had asked her if I could sleep over at a friend’s place and had received a firm no.
“Look, Tanya, you’re a girl,” she said, noting a fact I had known my entire life.
“So?” I asked.
“There are certain things that girls have to be careful about,” she said.
“OK, like what?”
“There are just some things that we can’t do, because of safety.”
“What does this have anything to do with going to my friend’s house for a sleepover?”
“Go play outside and let me cut the vegetables,” she said, as she cut up the cucumber more quickly and aggressively than before.
Last year, for my story on the SAAN conference, I had the opportunity to interview comedian Hari Kondabolu. When I asked him what the most challenging part of his set was that day, he said when he would talk about sex, he could feel some tightness and discomfort from the older Indians in the audience.
Sex isn’t something that’s amiss from Indian culture. It’s a part of our religious mythology and now, there’s an upward trend of open discussion and positivity toward sex in Indian society.
However, most diaspora Indians generations back from mine were raised in a household where sex was a taboo topic and have, unfortunately, carried that idea with them.
In fact, for the longest time in Indian cinema, seeing two people kiss on screen was a rare occurrence. It’s why we have so many song-dance sequences in our movies — that’s our answer to the on-screen kiss.
Once, when I was ten and my brother was seven, we were watching a movie that I can’t remember the title of and snacking on a giant, family-sized bowl of popcorn.
Things were getting good in the movie, I remember, because the main couple was professing their love, the music was swelling in the background, my brother was yelling about it being a “stupid, girly movie” and everyone in the room was becoming hyperaware of each other.
The camera zoomed in on the couple’s faces, which were moving closer and closer together, when suddenly my mom lunged for the remote on the opposite end of the couch and popcorn flew in my face.
“SKIP FORWARD, JIGNESH,” she yelled at my dad.
My father, alarmed and horrified by the idea of my young eyes witnessing two people kiss, fumbled with the remote and skipped forward so hastily, that the DVD popped out of the player because it thought we had finished watching the movie.
Neither of my parents wanted to risk skipping backward to find the exact spot we could resume watching, so we just went to bed and, to this day, I’m not entirely sure if things ended up OK in the movie.
Most of the sex education I received for much of my life was a combination of public school mandated-ed, Judy Blume novels, and the Internet. Unlike the movies and TV shows I watched with them, my parents never thought to censor the ones I watched or the books I read alone.
I could check out anything I wanted from the library and my parents wouldn’t bat an eyelash or even take an interest in what I was reading. In their minds, reading books means gaining more knowledge. Tanya likes books. So, by transitive property, Tanya is gaining more knowledge.
And most of the time, they were exactly right. Most of what I was reading wasn’t explicit material, but rather classic literature. But sometimes, like when Judy Blume’s “Wifey” and “Forever,” slipped into my 11-year-old hands, I wished they had kept a little bit more of a close eye.
Here’s to hoping my parents don’t read this column.