By Abigail Thomas
It's hard to remember having sex, let alone what I told my kids about having sex. It was the '60s, and I assume I threw a lot of love in there ("...and there comes a moment when you just want to be as close as you possibly can..."). I felt I had to tackle the subject when my eldest daughter (age 5) came home with the news that my best friend, a single mother, had told her kids she had made them all by herself out of a little kit, like model airplanes. My hat was off to my friend, but I needed to set the record straight. I don't remember what I said, how much unnecessary detail I went into, and I'm afraid to ask. I have enough guilt about my kids' upbringing already. But whatever I did say, it prompted my young daughter to ask if she could run down to Rowley Street and try it with Karl, the son of my friend. No, I told her, horrified. No, you cannot. Clearly, I had done too good a job.

I think full disclosure skips a generation.

I do remember what my poor mother told me, after I questioned her rather desperately, back in 1954. I had been hearing a lot of different rumors about the reproductive process, and I hoped they weren't true. (You do what?) She was uncomfortable with the question, poor woman, but I pressed on. Normally, my mother enjoyed holding forth on obscure subjects like the Albigensian heresy, and it was hard to get a word in edgewise. But on this occasion, my mother was mute. I stood in front of her, unyielding. Finally she answered: "Oh, Abigail, I don't remember," to which I responded indignantly, "But Mother! You've done it three times!" (I have two sisters.) One of them tells me now that our mother told her the best part of having sex was saying no.

Well, she had a point. Making out was, as I recall, usually much more fun than "going all the way," and I would urge today's youth to try to pretend that it was all still forbidden fruit. I would tell them to get into a car, preferably one with a gearshift, turn on the radio, listen to something with a beat, steam up the windows, and then stop short. There's nothing like it.

I remember when I went off to college, having acquainted myself with the joys of making out (and there are so many places you can do that standing up, although I still prefer a car), my mother's parting words were "Be my best girl."

I wasn't, and came home pregnant the next spring.

Those were the days.

Photo: Courtesy of Abigail Thomas


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