Here are a few of the topics up for discussion with my dad: Jon Stewart, politics, Frank Sinatra, any new Apple product, what's for dinner, Ireland, my niece/his granddaughter, politics, and what's for dessert.
And here are a couple we avoid: Catholicism, sex.Perhaps this is an old-person thing, or maybe it's a first-generation McThing, but apparently my dad's and my avoidance of sex talk was not necessarily a good thing. According to a study out of New York University, most of the women they surveyed said that their fathers provided them with very little in the way of sex education. This is not at all shocking. What was interesting
. . surprisingly, a lot of the women, most of whom were sexually active, wished their fathers had told them more. Specifically, they wanted to hear stuff only guys would know, about how to communicate with men and what the carnal landscape looked like from a male's vantage point. "They felt that if they could have been more comfortable talking with their fathers about issues around sex, they might have been more comfortable talking to boyfriends or potential sexual partners about them," says Hutchinson, whose study was published in the Journal of Family Issues. "And they wanted to know how to negotiate intimacy issues with men."
Er, intimacy issues? With my dad? I'm pretty sure that if we had ever talked about things that were sins unless you were married, he would've fallen in the Just-Say-No/Nancy Reagan School of Thought. But to test the waters, I gave Jack a call. He asked what I was up to and I told him I was writing a piece about dads and their input into their daughter's sex education.
Once I ascertained that he was indeed still on the phone, I perkily told him that apparently dads were supposed to talk about sex with their kids. That many, daughters in particular, yearned for a man's point of view.
I didn't have the heart to tell him that according to Time magazine, "Previous studies have concluded that girls who have open communication with their fathersabout everythingtend to have intercourse later in life and also have fewer sexual partners, both of which can be very good for sexual and mental health."
Meaning, if my father had taken teen me aside and shared his insights on my budding sexuality, he could've saved me from the slatternly life I've led. Maybe instead of spending a great portion of my life fucking around, I would've gotten hitched right out of high school, popped out a few rugrats and be settling comfortably into middle age with a house in the 'burbs and a white picket fence . . . popping pills, drinking box wine at lunch and ordering crap off QVC just to get a peek at the hot UPS guy.
Or, more likely, we would've both dropped dead from fatal levels of embarrassment.
It's great that there are fathers willing to discuss sex with their daughters, but it's definitely something to be done thoughtfully and tactfully. Katherine Hutchinson, one of the authors of the study pointed out, "I'm not a big proponent of The Talk, whether it's from a mother or a father. It takes away from the normalcy of sexuality." Instead Hutchinson recommends simply keeping the lines of communication open and talking to your children regularly about sexuality, their bodies, etc. That way if they have a question about how to ask someone to use a condom or are whether or not they're ready to begin a sexual relationship, they'll be comfortable asking you. (Not that you'll necessarily be comfortable answering.)
Obviously, that ship has sailed for me and my dad. I'm an adult, he's old, and we're comfortable in our discomfort. However, that doesn't mean I was done torturing him. I waited to hear his thoughts and after a few seconds of nervous laughter, he changed the subject. And you know, I'm glad he did, because if he hadn't, I would've.