Why I Intentionally Left Out the “L” Word When Talking to My Daughter About Sex
“When two people love each other…” they do it. He puts his thing in her thing and they make a baby. Yes, because… love.
The first time I heard this, I was nine years old and hiding in the very back seat of a school bus. It was right after Joey Mahoney asked me if I was “on the rag.” He was older, and I had a wicked crush on him. I yelled back a pretty firm, “No??” and then asked a friendly older girl to explain what a rag was, and if it was something I wanted to be on.
It’s possible she was trying to shield me from the realities of sex, or maybe she too was given this information by someone she trusted and still believed; like the existence of The Tooth Fairy. Or perhaps the illusion had not been smashed for her. In any event, after she informed me that someday I would bleed ferociously from my vagina, I had questions. She did her best to answer them before she got off the bus.
“When two people love each other…”
I remember making a promise to myself that day to never let a boy “love” me; horrified by what I might let him do to me.
The summer after I turned thirteen, Joey’s friend Mike found his way into my bedroom window, “late-night.” We went for walks on the beach and he told me how special and mature I was. He was beautiful, and totally wanted to “love” me the way I had learned about on the bus. Unfortunately for him, I was way too afraid and intimidated by the intensity of his mojo to follow through. I’d like to thank him for being the kind of guy who listens when a girl says “stop,” even if it’s inconvenient.
When I lost my virginity freshman year, it was with someone I thought I loved. I’m pretty sure he mentioned the word love and he definitely wanted to have sex with me, so obviously it was we were soul mates.. He was a virgin too, and ready to take this step with me. I was sure he wanted to spend eternity with me.
Imagine my surprise when, the following week, he stopped calling me back and had his new girlfriend call to ask that I leave him alone forever.
After that, I was overwhelmed by the number of boys willing to “love” for me after hearing I was no longer a virgin.
When my daughter started asking questions about sex many years ago, and I knew she was ready for the answers, I intentionally left out the “L word.” Instead, I told her the story of my first time; what I had been told and believed, and what actually happened. I told her had I known I’d still remember the details of my first time so many years later, I would have opted for someone else to give myself to – someone who was actually interested in me for more than the act.
I was also pretty honest about the fact that sex at 15 was not a beautiful experience. It was painful and awkward and terrible. I told her if I could go back, I would have probably chosen to be with someone who wouldn’t have thrown my clothes at me when we were finished; when he was done with me. I also let her in on the secret that sometimes “I love you” is code for “I lust you,” and gave her some tips on how to tell the difference.
I intentionally left out the “L word,” because I didn’t want to lie to her. As much as I was praying she’d wait until she found the right person, I was careful not to send the message that it would definitely end in “happily ever after.” Maybe once upon a time sex was always about “When two people love each other…,” but it certainly isn’t today. Life is not a fairy tale.
I can’t ever go back and change that day in my own life, but I did my best to ensure my daughter’s day would be far more informed and on her terms.
I believe this opened the door for honest communication. It allowed her to ask questions, and gave me the opportunity to answer them without feeling like I was setting her up for future disappointment.
I never suggested that love wasn’t important in a sexual relationship, but I also didn’t ask her to feel terrible and ashamed if she found it wasn’t. I put the ball in her court, and hoped she’d make the right choice for herself when the time came.
Because when two people love each other… they tell each other the truth.