The question often arises
for me about when to introduce a new lover to my daughter. It isn’t a question specific to me, of course, or even to queers. But it tends
not to surface in the straight, nuclear, one-partner-per-household version of
things. In that version, when there’s new lover involved you
sure better hope your “out-of-the-mouths-of-babes” babe doesn’t find out about it.
After the first night is
not the right time. The first night might not be any more than that and there’s no point in confusing the poor girl (or the poor girl in my bed). Much
as I’ve tried to set an upstanding example, my daughter has absorbed the
ridiculous notion that if you have sex with someone you are in love with them.
I don’t try too hard to correct her. For now, it’s her way of simplifying
things and, besides, if we were really going to have a conversation about it we’d have to get into all the real reasons people have sex. Her
introductory book on the subject (on her shelf beside Madison Mouse Moves to
the Country) says it’s like “climbing up the ladder of
a big slide and whooshing down.”
But if I keep finding
myself sharing the sheets with the same woman eventually my daughter has to be
told. There might be a loose sock or pair of underwear lying around that she
knows isn’t mine. She might want to know why there’s a bottle of soda water
and more than one glass on my bedside table. And she often wants to know why I’m not home when she phones me in the morning, and where exactly I’ve been. (You know the feeling... when you’ve gone home to visit
your mom and have the mixed fortune of not being in the right bed in the
But I need to fess up for
reasons other than keeping my house tidy and my life accountable. First of all,
it’s like a fair warning, so the little ship of my daughter’s life doesn’t capsize when Ms New-Interest hangs out with
us and she and I embrace or kiss each other. Sometimes it’s about wanting to spend more time with a lover and so dragging her
along to the latest dinosaur installation at the museum. More importantly, it’s so my daughter hears the information from me, so she can continue to
trust what I tell her and doesn’t get churned in the mill
of rumour and gossip.
It’s also so she knows that active sexuality is part of a healthy adult
life. I don’t want to follow the straight model where mommy and daddy always sleep
in the same bed and no one ever says why, sex is something dirty people do, and
getting lucky means opening a kinder egg and finding a toy you didn’t already have.
I suppose the same
question of when to talk about a lover arises for other queers, but in the form
of when to call it serious. When to tell your friends?
Except a child isn’t going to give you the high five and then want to sit down with a beer
and whistle over all the juicy details. Telling a child isn’t like telling your parents either because your kid will quite likely
want to continue with the subject. It has tinges of telling a past lover
because there’s the possibility that someone’s going to feel replaced.
It has shades of telling your roommate (if they sleep soundly enough not to
have guessed already) because it’s like telling them it
might not be you coming out of the bathroom in the morning.
But in the amount of
comfort you feel making the confession, how you’ll have to own the
relationship by admitting it, and the length of conversation you may end up
having, telling your child about a new lover is probably most like telling your
You can see why I’d mull it over carefully. Like therapists, most children are comfortable
asking direct questions. They expect that what you answer is the truth. If you
are evasive about the details they won’t hesitate to ask you to
clarify. Afterwards, they remember things so well it’s as if they went to
their room and took notes.
So I can’t take it lightly, though I can’t leave it too long
either because, in my case, my daughter’s likely to ask the question
herself (of either me or the new lover, she’s not particular). And I
can’t leave out significant parts of my life for too long. If I want her to
trust me enough to tell me the latest in playground liaisons, then I’d better be prepared to let her know who’s playing in my sandbox.
So far, my daughter’s never too fazed by the news and is usually
gracious and welcoming. I’m starting to wonder,
though, what it might be like when she figures out what “whooshing down” is, and what exactly is
involved in “climbing up the ladder.”
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