(This column originally posted January 7, 2011)
People who read my column might be surprised to know that I have mastered the art of compartmentalizing.
My friends, co-workers and, yes, readers all know that I love talking about sex, men, women, body parts and just about any other taboo subject that either stirs up anger in the prudes or stirs up juices in the vibrantly open.
After all, I write for Two and a Half Men. I spend my days in a room with hilarious men writing penis, masturbation and fart jokes.
However, what might be surprising to many is that at home, with my daughter, I am completely different. My daughter has never heard me talk about sex. NEVER.
In fact, in all my years of being a single mom, she’s only met two men that I’ve dated. And only this year did she hear me for the first ever time drop the f-bomb.
I suppose a lot of this carefulness on my part has to do with the fact that as a child I heard and saw way too much too soon. So, as often happens when we become parents ourselves, we go to the extreme opposite direction of whatever crap we were unfortunately exposed to as a child.
My friends know this about me and they marvel at it,
How do you do it, Susan? When your daughter’s around you are a total prude, a complete Pollyanna and when she’s not around you turn into the love child of Sarah Silverman and Howard Stern.
How do I do it?
I don’t know. I see my little girl and it’s like one switch goes off and another one goes on. The switch that wants to protect my daughter from everything —sex, violence, racism, drugs, vulgarity, hatred and that creepy house at the end of the block that in my dark, scary mind I’m convinced is rented by a paroled pedophile.
Yes, I’m afraid of the world because as a child the world swallowed me up. So, as a mom, let’s just say I’m a bit overprotective. Okay, a lot overprotective.
I monitor what she watches on television, on the Internet, at the movies, books, games, what friends she plays with and on and on.
No one did that for me when I was a kid. I was watching Last Tango in Paris at 9 years old on Z channel because I could. That messes with you, people!
Children get to be children for such a brief period of time. I’m not in a rush to move that along for my daughter—even if the world is.
So, on the days my girl is with her father that’s when I get all my crazy out. I use every creative combination of four letter words as much and as often as I can. I flirt and say completely inappropriate things. I watch dirty movies, blast music with explicit language and talk openly with my girlfriends about sex.
Yes, I’m super bad. It’s awesome.
And because people know that side of me they sometimes forget I’m not like that around my daughter.
This was brought to my attention the other night. My girl and I were at my best friend’s house for dinner because she was leaving town the next morning.
Our daughter’s wanted to have a sleepover but because it was my buddy’s last night home before leaving town she said no.
Well, my daughter does not take “no” for an answer until she has explored every possible angle, scenario and scientific theory. After a good hour of my kid trying to break my friend down her husband stepped in and said,
The reason you can’t sleep over tonight is because I want to have sex with my wife before she leaves town.
My jaw dropped. My best friend slapped her hand on her husband’s mouth and all the kids burst into laughter.
I was stunned. My girlfriend saw my red face and turned to her husband,
Honey, Susan doesn’t talk like that around her daughter. I know it’s a shock, but it’s true.
I looked at my kid who couldn’t stop laughing. And, I must say, she seemed to completely understand and accept that reasoning behind the “no” to the sleepover and didn’t bring it up again.
Later that night I asked my girl,
Baby, do you know what sex is? Did you know what he was talking about?
She looked at me, rolling her eyes,
I was shocked. I mean, yes, a few years earlier she asked me how babies were made and I carefully described it using as many Disney terms and sprinkles of fairy dust as I could, but the word “sex” has never come out of my mouth in front of my daughter. So, I wondered, what else does that little kid know?
Apparently, a lot.
How naive am I to think that just because I’m not saying these things that means she isn’t hearing them. She is. On school playgrounds, from friend’s who have older siblings, and adults who aren’t as neurotic about this crap as I am.
So, I was faced with a decision—do I start changing my ways? Should I tell her about all these grown up things now before she hears some twisted version of it somewhere else or do I continue doing my best to let her be a 9-year-old kid?
I decided to go with the latter—let her be a kid and just keep doing what I can to protect her.
So, the other day we went to Universal City Walk for some good, clean, innocent kid fun.
As we skipped inside the gigantic candy store, each heading to the bins we like, me on one end of the shop and my daughter on the other, suddenly, at the top of her lungs, I hear my kid shout,
Mommy, what’s an STD?!
Everybody in the store looked at me trying not to laugh. I walked over to my little girl and softly asked,
Um, honey, why on earth do you want to know that? Did somebody say something to you? Did you hear that somewhere? Why, why, why?!
She looked at me, then innocently held up the chocolate candy bar in her hand and said,
Because this chocolate bar says EAT ME IF YOU FIND OUT YOU HAVE AN STD.
I looked at it and for the second time in my daughter’s life she heard me drop the f-bomb.
I put the candy bar back on the shelf and as we left I found myself having to re-cap what sex was and explain what can happen if you’re not careful.
Where’s the candy bar that says, EAT ME IF YOU’RE NOT READY TO EXPLAIN THE BIRDS AND THE BEES AND THE STD’S ?!
I don’t know, it’s strange. It really doesn’t matter at the end of the day how hard you try to keep your kid protected from the adult world. The adult world is going to find them.
Still, I’m going to stick to the two sides of me. The mommy who writes letters from the Tooth Fairy, makes cookies for Santa, doesn’t turn the news on, forbids her from seeing the Twilight movies, and won’t let her have a cell phone. The one who is going to go to any and all lengths to make sure she has a childhood for as long as she can.
And, the other—the one who writes a column, talks dirty, speaks her truth, asks the shocking questions, shares her secrets, flirts with the guys at Trader Joe’s, has sex and stalks Viggo Mortenson.
I can live with that.