“Catherine, we need to talk. You know, sometimes, when you see the cats in the yard, and it looks like they’re wrestling on top of each other? Well, they’re not really wrestling. They’re…”
Ohmygodohmygodohmygod…He is NOT talking to me about this! I can’t believe this is happening. This is so embarrassing. Don’t look at him. Just look down. Pretend this isn’t happening. Think about something else. ANYTHING else.
When my older brother Eric sat me down to have the “birds and the bees” talk at the age of 12, I was mortified. Actually, there has to be a stronger word for my emotion. I wanted to disappear. An avid Star Trek fan, I never so badly wanted teleportation to be an option as I did at that moment. Somebody freakin’ beam me up! My face was hot, my body was numb, my heart pitter-pattering wildly in my prepubescent chest. And I remember being angry. What gave him the right?! Besides, I already knew all about the technicality of sex. I had an older best friend who’d already filled me in on every graphic detail, although I think she said you could get pregnant from kissing. So glad she wasn’t right about that.
There are only a few things I remember from that encounter, besides feeling completely embarrassed. I remember the drops of dried milk (or some other food substance) that were caked between the ridges on the side of our dining room table. As I sat there, head down, trying to mentally escape the awkward conversation I was being subjected to, I began scraping the white film off with my thumbnail. I can still remember running my thumb down that ridge, letting the gunk that had accumulated over the years build up under my nail, scraping it out, and starting over again. I remember being grateful that nobody had ever thought to clean there, as it gave me something to focus on.
I also remember the end of the conversation, after he’d said vague things about waiting until marriage, finding someone you love, God’s plan, etc. He was sitting on my left side, across the corner of the table. He gently touched my left forearm and said, “Catherine, you need to look at me and listen. If anyone ever touches you in a bad way, you have to tell someone. Tell mom, tell dad, tell me, tell somebody. It’s not okay. You have to tell someone, ok? Has anyone ever done this?”
“No,” I stammered. At this point, I don’t think I’d ever even kissed a boy, so my innocence was fairly in tact. I did consider telling him about the boy who showed me his penis in daycare before I was even in kindergarten. No, I didn’t think that counted. “No,” I said again, “Nothing like that has happened.”
Looking back now, I realize the enormity of that moment. My mother has no recollection of ever having asked Eric to carry out this task. I mean, how many 12-year-old girls want to get the sex talk from their older brother? No, he chose to do this on his own. It had to have been just as awkward for him, if not more, than it was for me. But he loved me enough to try and protect me. He didn’t want the same things that had happened to him to happen to me. He was 12 when he was molested, the same age I was when we had that talk. I’m so glad he was brave enough to speak those words to me. I only wish he’d been able to speak them to himself.
If you haven’t yet had “the talk” with the children you love, don’t wait. I’ve already talked with my three-year-old daughter about “good touch” and “bad touch.” No, this won’t prevent her from ever being victimized, but I hope it plants a seed in her mind that if she is, it isn’t her fault. Yes, it’s an awkward conversation to have, but they’ll appreciate it later, whether you know it or not.