Love and Sex and Parents: Some Notes

My parents, as I’ve mentioned, read my blog. Also, as I’ve probably also mentioned, I talk to my parents. A good amount. We talk about our daily routines. The latest subway delays. The latest in family gossip. What meals we’ve eaten and cooked. We talk about the weather.

We do not talk about my blog.

Occasionally (and with diminishing frequency–though, to be fair, my posts have diminished in frequency, too), my mother will comment that she found something “funny” or “cute.” Also occasionally, my father will leave a cryptic comment using the pseudonym of one of their chocolate labradors’ names.

But besides that, the subject of my writing–or, more broadly, my dating life–does not really come up.

Now, I don’t blame my parents for this. No one wants to think their parents or children have sex at all, much less know the particulars.

And yet, I, and perhaps one, would think they’d have gotten used to it. It’s been about eight months since I’ve been writing this thing. Longer since I began publishing essays about love and sex. I would think, by now, they would have grown accustomed to the enterprise: that my dramatic openness with the virtual world about my romantic life would have–at least, a little bit–expanded the openness I can have with them on the subject.

It has not.

This past weekend my parents came to visit. They generously took S and me on a three-day vacation in northern New Mexico. We stayed at nice hotels and ate pricey, wine-laden meals. They bonded with Bonita: even babysitting her one night when S and I stayed out late. It was an excellent, relaxing, altogether lovely trip.

The success of the trip may be partially due to the fact that I do better with my parents when someone else is around: a buffer, if you will. Do not get me wrong: my parents are lovely, friendly, warm, smart and interesting people. S, like all my friends, adored them. But, in the end, they are my parents. Which means that they have the unique capacity to drive me crazy for reasons that are the opposite of rational.

Anyhow, we ate a lot of meals together, us four. There was a lot of conversation. We talked about sports, food, wine, family. My brother’s somewhat impulsive wedding for which I am soon going home. We did not talk about my love life.

A couple of times it came up: my mother did ask if I still spoke to the son of a family friend who I dated in the spring. (No.) I told them how things went when, more recently, I attempted to date the relative of another woman they’ve met. (Badly.)

Reader, I tell you this based not just on my own (clearly, paranoid) assesment but on S’s as well: they looked stricken. They looked like the only pair of agnostic Jews at an Orthodox bar mitzvah. They were silent. They looked distressed.

“Why were they so uncomfortable?” I pleaded with S later on.

“I don’t know,” she replied, equally perplexed. “They really did, though.”

The next day, I checked in with her on how she was managing the 24/7 parental presence.

“Fine! Your parents are awesome!” she assured me. “It’s so amazing how much they adore you,” she continued. “It’s really obvious.”

And then: “Maybe that’s why they get so freaked out when you talk about dating. Like, they just don’t want you to have to deal with those ass holes anymore.”

“Yeah, me neither!” I said, dismissing, for the moment, S’s thoughtful assessment.

But it didn’t take long for me to conclude that S is exactly right. My parents do adore me: I’m the youngest, the only girl, I’m a decent person. I’m their daughter. And like any good, adoring parents, they want me to be happy. And like any good, adoring parents, they know that there is only so much they can do to ensure my happiness. It’s the inconceivable tragedy of parenting: you create something, you put it in the world, you give it some food, some skills, maybe some values and a few pairs of durable shoes–and then you’re out. The more you try to control them, the less control you’ve got. Honestly, I don’t know how so many people do it.

But I digress. The point is that S is probably onto something in explaining my mom and dad’s behavior. Perhaps part of it is some sort of reflexive trauma resulting from a recent post about casual sex. But perhaps, part of it is also the deeper discomfort of knowing that I want something so badly, that I have such a hard time finding it, and that there’s really nothing they can do to help.

When you think about it in those terms, they’re absolutely right: there really isn’t anything to say.

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8 Comments

Filed under Love Life

8 responses to “Love and Sex and Parents: Some Notes

  1. Nina

    Gutsy! And a loving thing to do.

  2. I jokingly have “lying to my parents” as an activity on my facebook page and when I went home for a weekend and used their computer saw from the history that they had clicked on it

  3. sally Tannen

    Amen. hugs.
    mom

  4. That was just a lovely post for a zillion reasons, mostly because it was so honest and heartfelt. One of the reasons I am not on FB anymore is that I did not want to know the details of my adult children and grandchildren’s personal lives. And I never ask them if they have been on my website.

    So I kinda think that blogs are like letters. You might leave them lying around but maybe it’s not always a good idea for others to read the contents.

    I say “Fire Away” Elizabeth. You are an adult, you are successful, and writing is your gift. It sounds like you have swell parents…they will obviously love you no matter. And it is always their choice whether to read your mail or not. (smile).

  5. suzanne

    durable shoes are certainly on my list of things to give any future offspring. Well done.

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