Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Oh My Aching Back!

I was flat on my back in a wooden pew in a church filled with my friends. The minister was standing tall behind a podium that looked as if it was touching the sky. In a deep, sarcastic voice he said, “I thought my message would get across to Sandra that we want her to join us.”

In a stressed, hesitant voice I answered, “ I cant. My back hurts!”

With my words released into a church echo chamber I came to the surface, opened my eyes, and realized I had been dreaming. My back did indeed hurt, but my mind was more intrigued with the dream then with confronting the pain. I tried to lay there quietly while I conjured up possible connections between my back pain and a church pew, all the while hearing my words floating away to a nothingness.

And that is when I must have frowned, or fluttered an eyelash, or moved my leg a tiny bit, because from the doorway to my bedroom I heard, “Are you awake? I need to talk to you about something private.”

“It’s only 6:30. What are you doing awake so early?”

“Well this has really been bothering me and I think I need to talk it over with you before I make a decision,” my granddaughter said.

As my backache and I struggled out of the bed and into a chair she unceremoniously plopped herself on the edge of my waterbed, and said, “Some of my friends have already had sex with their boy friends, but I think I want to wait until I’m 16.”

Early or not she had found the key to making me instantly awake and alert. All dream ‘fuzzies’ quickly disappeared.

“I’m very happy you have decided to wait until you are a bit older, but 16 is still very young. Have you really considered everything that sex entails?

“That’s why I want to talk to you. What do you think?

“I think you need to consider the responsibilities that sex includes. First and foremost is pregnancy prevention. That has to be your responsibility. You should never trust that a boy is going to take care of that. YOU need to be absolutely certain that there is adequate prevention. Then there is the respect. Respect of your body, respect of your emotions, respect the boy should feel for you, respect you should have for the boy. And what about AIDS, and STD’s.

Don’t believe that a boy is going to love you if you have sex with him. That’s just not the way it works. Sex and love are not mutually exclusive. You can have sex. You can have love. But having the one doesn’t mean that you are going to have the other. When sex and love are combined it is absolutely wonderful, but sex can be very complicated. It can bring great joy, but it also can bring great hurt and harm.”

Talking to my granddaughter about sex is complicated for me. I was raised in a society that said that girls had to stay virgins until marriage; “otherwise a man wont respect you”. But if I hadn’t followed that dictate I would have known that the man that I married didn’t like sex. I would have known that I loved sex. I would have known that to marry him would be to seal myself into a tumultuous, emotionally damaging, maelstrom that would take me almost two decades to understand and heal. I don’t want that for my beloved granddaughter, but I also don’t want her to share herself cheaply, to cheat herself of discovery, or think love is a man that she has had sex with. She is 13 years old. I don’t remember thinking about sex when I was 13. She is growing up in a society where the young grow old very young.

As I sat and talked with her I wanted to wrap her in cotton and tell her to stay young as long as she could .....

But that’s not what her friends are telling her.

As we continued to talk and she continued to ask questions I became more and more desperate for the proper words. And just as I was beginning to feel like I was beyond this complicated task she stood up and said, “Thank you so much. You have really helped me. I’ve made the decision to wait, maybe even until I’m 18.”

Then as she was walking to her room to dress for school she turned and said, “A man has to put his sperm directly inside of a woman to get her pregnant, doesn’t he?"

“Yes he does.”

“Oh that is so GROSS!!!! I might wait until I’m 45.”

All of a sudden the tension turned to laughter. She was once again 13 and I was once again aware that my back really ached.

Then the laughter bubbled out of me again as I thought about my dream. What I should have said when I was prone on that church pew was, “Oh my aching back!” That would have flowed right into my morning reality.

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