When did your mum tell you the REAL story about the birds and the bees? in front of the school? In the middle of a film screening? No? You do surprise me. Forget trying to watch a film or a TV show with Mum around. Anything on screen only serves as a trigger for her – often linking a random thought or bringing a new one into her mind that she wants to share. A friend of mine sent me this link to an old video on YouTube and it brought back all sorts of memories as I think it’s the film we were all shown to explain human reproduction, but can somebody explain this to me? Why do respectable people use the phrase “the birds and the bees”? Birds don’t use rubber tubes on their willies (condoms) and bees don’t sit on poles (like naughty ladies did), surely? These are both things that Mum used to explain sexual things to me when I was little. I don’t remember exactly when or whether I ever asked her any questions about it. Here’s the clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJzEdCej0dk
Many years ago parents and children were all gathered to watch a new public information film about human reproduction and Mum, somehow, found out about it and crashed the screening. I was there with my Dad and new step mum and all appeared to be calm, although I didn’t really understand what all the fuss was about as I knew all about babies. Mum’s version was that daddies gave the mummies milk and then they had babies (see “When Mums Pick Your Boyfriends, 2nd Feb 2018), so I was waiting for that bit. The lights went down as the manic murmur of confused children started to dwindle with the rattle of the Super 8 projector. Films had authority, films had posh men telling you important stories and films were never, ever, ever to be interrupted by talking.
VOICE OVER: “The boy has a little tube – which is very useful for relieving himself if he needs to and he also has a sack containing Heaven knows what … “ I can imagine Mum heckling at this point. “Heaven knows what? Well, if they don’t know …” This is what she actually said when the film explained what testicles are. “It’s the milk, Sonia darling, do you remember me telling you about the milk?” Oh no! Mum was here, at the back, but not for long. She marched down to the front of the hall and stood in front of the screen, amidst tuts and gasps of embarrassment from parents and teachers. I can’t remember much else, just the feeling that I wanted to disappear and console my step mum for the public exposure. Mum proceeded to explain to me (and the rest of the school) that Daddy didn’t want to ‘do all this nonsense’ with her and that’s why Daddy’s new girlfriend was living with us. Of course Mum thought she was doing the right thing by explaining something important and I don’t believe that she did this to embarrass Dad, my step mum or me. She did, though, especially when she started explaining again what condoms were in front of the whole school. I think I left the hall – or maybe she did – there was too much laughter to remember.
Isn’t if funny? Sometimes it takes the process of writing about something to remind you about a completely different memory. Through sharing this Mum anecdote about a film show, I’m now aware that it’s not my train of thought that’s broken if people talk through a film or TV programme, it’s an inbuilt fear that somehow I’ll be exposed or noticed in a negative way. I settle into a film or a TV show with the hope that I’ll get through it without any interruptions, but deep down I’m bracing myself for the inevitable, although that’s not been a conscious thought. Now I’m beginning to see that it started as that. Friends could never understand my love of going to films on my own. “Surely you’d enjoy it more if you could share it with other people?” Nope. “But going to the movies is a social thing while watching a film.” No it’s not – it’s about watching every second of cinematography from the moment the film starts, appreciating every nuance of drama, especially in the silent moments which aren’t the time to text your mates, dig into the sweet bag or chat amongst yourselves. Yes, it’s a social bit before and after, but not during, so why don’t we just go out and have something to eat together instead? Aha – I’ve identified my obsessional please-be-quiet-there’s-a-film-on trigger, so I’ll try looking through a different lens now. If anyone talks through something I’ll just remember how brilliant my Mum is and it’s a lovely reminder of her way of wanting to explain the world to her little girl. Or maybe I’ll just blame Gogglebox! Much though I love that show, it’s encouraged everyone to be ok with talking and sharing through everything and anything they watch. Talking through dramas, reacting loudly to every bump, accident or love scene is positively encouraged. Maybe the inventor of that series went to the same school as I did and Mum’s improvised sex education lecture was his inspiration! We’re about the same age – wouldn’t that be interesting? I asked Mum once if she liked Gogglebox as I wondered if she’d identify with it. Her answer? “No, but I like Prime Ministers Question Time”. Really? Politics? But you hate politics, Mum. “I like it when he tells people off for interrupting – he’s funny with his loud voice”. Okaaaaay.
Your mum stories are squirmingly reminiscent of the mental illness that runs in my family, from my mom’s lifelong depression to the effects my sister’s two brain tumors, and now to my niece’s bi-polar drug addled hallucinations and paranoia. My responses and inner reactions have mellowed with age, and the embarrassment and rage of my youth have mellowed to love and compassion, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to see things with a sense of humor. 🙁
Thanks for sharing this Paul – I’m very lucky to have been able to transform my relationship with mum and know that our love is mutual. Finding humour has always been my coping strategy – even as a young child. Best of luck to you and keep sharing. My email is on the website. S