My girls and I left the diner at which we had lunch on Saturday and were making our way to the bus stop, when we walked by the Museum of Sex. Yes, there is such a thing here in New York City, in case you’re interested, and it has one hell of a gift shop. In the window were two placards advertising their current exhibition, The Sex Lives of Animals. My daughters, who are almost 6, stopped short in front of the one of a silhouette of one elephant mounting another, right there on 27th and 5th. It looked like an Eric Carle illustration with an adult theme.
“Do you know what they’re doing?” I asked.
They shook their heads. I said that the elephants were making a baby. When Sasha and Vivian started asking questions a year or so ago, I read them a pop-up book about the sperm and the egg and what married people do when they really, really love each other and the daddy remembers to take out the recycling without the mommy asking and the mommy doesn’t emasculate the daddy by making snide comments about his earning potential. We’d gone over the mechanism by which the sperm traditionally gets to where the egg is hanging out, and how an embryo is formed and becomes a fetus. There were lots of questions about that, because Viv was concerned that she’d at some point have to lay the egg and that it might hurt. (There was also the whole side conversation about how because there was something screwy in mommy, mommy had to pay thousands of dollars to have a doctor pump her full of synthetic hormones and create embryos in a lab and stick them back in mommy, which is why mommy has twins and no savings…yay!) In the end they came out with a vague idea of the biology of the whole messy business, which was the goal.
So, elephants…the main thing Viv wanted to know now was about was how anyone could be sure the elephants did it that way. Had anyone actually seen them do it?
“Well, sure,” I said. “Elephants just walk around in the wild and do their business. It’s not like they go into the bedroom and shut the door or anything.”
“Yeah,” Sasha added, one minute older and wanting to assert greater her life experience. “And it’s not like the girl elephant had a chance to put on anything nice.”
That made me laugh–the idea of a female elephant slipping into the elephant equivalent to a Victoria’s Secret balconet bra and thong before seducing her sweetie is funny–but it also gave me pause.
One of the reasons I’m frank with my kids about sex is that I want them to understand that sex is a natural, normal part of being a (much older and more mature) mammal, so they won’t think it’s this big forbidden mystery and feel they need to sneak off and do it under the bleachers somewhere without birth control. But like any good parent, I also try to control how they get their information. I want them to know from me what sex is, not from some kid in their class who probably has it wrong.
And one thing’s for sure: they did NOT find out about getting all dolled up for some hot bedroom action from me. I’m a Formerly. It’s sweatpants and a T-shirt to bed, or maybe a tank top and underwear; my lacy negligees were worn out long ago and never replaced. I could be wrong but no one seems to have noticed. Certainly there has been no outcry from my husband. He’s a Formerly, too. The idea of putting something nice on just to take it off again (or, more likely these days, to roll over and go to sleep, too tired to scratch an itch on my ankle, never mind anywhere else) seems like energy better used for other things.
I’ve written about sex for women’s magazines for a very long time, and I know what the “experts” would say: that someone, like me, who makes next to no effort at keeping the spark sparkly is on the fast track to dried up old ladydom. But I don’t know if I agree. The elephant, as Sasha pointed out, didn’t get all hooched up and she’s getting some, right? Maybe as Formerlies, we can just, you know, be, and not try so hard. And that will be more fun in bed and out.
Or, perhaps like other things I’ve been writing about here, passing on the crotchless panties (good Lord, what’s the POINT?) is yet another step toward, as a 20something put it to me when I was also a 20something, “giving up and getting old.”
What do you think? And more important, what do you wear to bed?