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A Mother's Gift

2003-12-30 - 8:17 a.m.

I remember one morning in the 7th grade when I was riding to school with my mother. It was a gray, cloudy morning, something more common in Texas than the guidebooks would have you believe. We were driving the same route to school we always did. We passed what was and is and always will be the Old Ursuline Academy even though it has a new name, and even if they one day knock it down and put up an IHOP or a WalMart it will still be the Old Ursuline Academy, now with Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity Breakfast. We passed the row of fast food restaurants that led to the highway, as I dreamed of a day when I too would be able to pull up to the window of a Jack in the Box in my own car and order the greasiest, most magically delicious chicken strips I'd ever known. We stopped at the light, and as we waited for red to turn into green my mother looked up at the telephone wires in the sky, where a number of birds were watching our morning commute in the hopes that someone would decide to Mess with Texas and throw out a half-eaten Egg McMuffin. She pointed out two birds, and . . .

Okay, now before I tell you what she said, I need to describe the way she said it, because it was using a manner of speech that I was not used to my mother using. You see, neither my mother nor myself have Texan accents. It's natural, on the one hand, seeing as my mother grew up in San Felipe, the Mexican barrio outside of Del Rio (and yes, both places have Spanish names, this never stopped the Anglos from saying Mexicans couldn't use the swimming pools in the cities that they named) and therefore really didn't grow up around Texas accents. However, it's also something of a point of pride for us, as we are both well-educated liberals who have tended to disassociate ourselves from our state of origin. When I went to Penn in Philadelphia, I was relieved, nay, thrilled when everyone around me said they couldn't believe that I was from Texas. They assumed I was either from northern California or a New Yorker, which I took to mean that I sounded sophisticated and urbane but which may have just meant that I sounded gay.

Anyway, my mother says this phrase in a true Southern drawl, and not the languid Gone With The Winde fiddle-dee-dee accent of a Southern belle, but the slow, chewy, I-have-nothing-on-my-mind-but-I-need-to-exercise-my-jaw-and-vocal-chords sort of drawl found most frequently in old men who sit on their porches looking out on the world in passive disapproval, and yet, with a lilt of interest, as though these men had finally seen something noteworthy in the watery grits of the years. It was decidedly a crescendo, with every one of the four words getting louder, until the last one was a triumphant exclamation at having opbserved nature and discovered its secrets. With all this in your head, imagine my mother, a presidential appointee and a crusader for civili rights in education, saying,





Yes. That's what happened. And I will never let her live it down.

My mother was always very open about sex, something that I thank her for. Granted, it became very different once I came out to her. That was actually rather hard, at first. As much as I had been annoyed when she would ask me what girls I liked or whether I'd asked them out yet, it hurt when the questions stopped, when I realized that she didn't want to know what I was doing. I don't think that, even if I'd been having straight sex, I would have told her when I'd lost my virginity or anything, but I think I'd at least have told her that I'd met someone, as opposed to having to keep it a secret, not because I felt she wouldn't approve, but because I didn't want to face her not having that thrill of her son having met someone in her eyes.

Despite all this, I knew that my mother was someone I could go to if I needed help, someone who even my friends could turn to in times of crisis. I knew that it wouldn't matter to her what I did, and that if someone ever hurt me, that she would give me hug, make me a cup of tea or hot chocolate, stay with me until I fell asleep, and then get into her car, find the bastard, and run him over. She'd probably back over his head a few times as well, just to make sure.

I thought everyone grew up with that. Well, okay, I knew that most people didn't grow up with the same sort openness, the same willingness of parents to use the word "fucking," much less the word "sex." I did, however, believe that everyone had parents who would protect them, who would take care of them and assure the child that anything that hurt them would have to face their wrath. I thought that every mother had a little bit of Lt. Ellen Ripley in Aliens inside of her (although not in the burst-out-of-the-stomach sort of way), a part of her willing to suit up in construction machinery and face down a demonic alien beast with the well-chosen line: Get away from her you BITCH!

That's why I was so shocked to hear about a coworker's sister and the gift she gave her daughter's boyfriend for Christmas. My coworker, a tough East-Texas gal who runs our tech crew, says that her sister may be the most in need of mental help of anyone she knows, and offers their latest Christmas story as an example. You see, her 14 year old daughter is currently dating an 18 year old boy. Already, we have some skeeviness with an extra helping of so-friggin-wrong. Add to this the fact that everyone except the girl and her mother hate this guy, think he's a drunk-ass stoner loser who is going to amount to absolutely nothing. Well, this young girl's mother bought her daughter's boyfriend a T-shirt for Christmas. Now, you know I love a good T-shirt, but this one made my jaw drop. The T-shirt that this woman gave her 14 year old daughter's 18 year old boyfriend said: "It Ain't Gonna Lick Itself."

Ruminate on that for a second. Pick your jaws up off the ground before they get sore.

As my coworker told this story, we in the office were all shocked, but for different reasons. Many people were shocked that a mother would be so sexually explicit with her daughter and her future-son-in-law-provided-there-is-no-God. They went off on diatribes against parents who were willing to use profanity in front of children and to talk about sex in any way shape or form. I heard many statements of "If my kid is having sex, I don't want to know." But I had to tell them that they were wrong, that there is nothing wrong with talking to your kids about sex. In fact, there's everything right about it.

What was wrong with that picture was a mother sending a message to her daughter that she was there to satisfy her boyfriend, that the proper response to a woman who does not want to perform oral sex is "It Ain't Gonna Lick Itself." He only has to say that to this 14 year old girl and she will be reminded that this is a sentiment that her mother agrees with, and she will go down on him even if she doesn't want to, because she has nowhere else to turn.

I still get the willies when I hear about this. It reminds me of all the reasons why I hate Texas, where this attitude is all too prevalent, where so many women are expected to become wives and mothers as fast as they can if they are ever going to have security or happiness in life, where a woman's education begins with cooking meals and ends with giving head. Now I love giving head as much as the next Samantha Jones wannabe, but if anyone ever told me "It Ain't Gonna Lick Itself" they are going to find that I can kick the It in question so hard that, in fact, It can lick Itself, because his balls will be in his throat.

And if I ever have children, and one of them comes home with boyfriend wearing a T-shirt that says "It Ain't Gonna Lick Itself," he will be out on his ass so fast he'll set fire to the pavement. Unless, of course, my child is 1) over 18 and 2) wearing a matching T-shirt. Otherwise, it's ass-kicking time.

And I'll think about my mother, and give thanks for someone so willing to tell me that birds fuck, and so will I, and, provided it's safe and consensual and you use your imagination, it will be great. It's a message I can't wait to pass on to my children, in the car on the way to school, provided I manage to catch a couple of pigeons getting it on, and provided that one of the pigeons is not wearing a T-shirt that says "It Ain't Gonna Peck Itself." Fortunately, I think the odds are, for once, on my side.

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