By Lorene Cary
I was just 11, my mother's first child, and my period caught us both off guard. She thought she'd have a little more time. I thought my innards were leaking out, like when Mitzi chewed her spaying stitches and her intestines unraveled onto the floor. Panties in hand, I ran downstairs. The writer (far right) with her two daughters and her mother, 1999.

"Already?" Mom said.

We established what sex was and that I was not, repeat not, to do it.

I can't remember what I told my own daughters. I did some basics, gave them books, told them not to do it: prudish, the older one says now, in the face of the inevitable.

But suddenly, women's bodies appeared everywhere, draped over things, laughed at, offered up by popular culture for anyone to enjoy. You like? You buy? From Iowa's cornfields to East Coast cities, everywhere we'd been and they were going, America poured its poison into their ears: Be available.

I tried to say that so much sex so early distracts us all from the real work of growing a generation into compassion, work, power, resilience. One, just one, fellatio experience can generate enough anxiety to wipe out years of confidence.

Oh, Mommy!

Girls, not boys, are diminished. Even their immune systems take a hit. America's answer: Hey, like, things happen.

As if to inoculate them and to calm myself again, I ask them to widen their minds as Buddha taught, into rooms so large that paint thrown into the air will not spoil the walls. And then I walk a generation behind while adolescent American sex, all bright, neon color and corrosion, splashes over them.

Photo: Courtesy of Lorene Cary


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