Like artichokes and caviar, it wasn't until well into adulthood that I acquired a taste for my parents' sex life. That they had one, and that it was something they relished, asserted itself to me one vivid evening when I was about 12, old enough to understand slang terms for body parts that played a role in that mysteriously intriguing and possibly great thing called sex.
My parents weren't drinkers, though lined up on our kitchen counter that night were several empty wine bottles, half-filled bottles of liquor and club soda, and an ice bucket. Around the dining room table sat my parents and three other couples, playing a game whose name I've forgotten, but which was probably the 1960s equivalent of Loaded Questions: Adult Version.
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Two hours before, I'd gone to bed, and that's where the adults thought I was still, I suppose. But their loud laughter had awakened me and I'd quietly gone to the kitchen for a drink. Lingering, I was spying on their game through the space between the refrigerator and its open door. It was my mother's turn to answer a question.
"What would you say if your mate wanted separate beds?"
What I heard next shocked and tantalized me. It came from behind her hand, which she was holding over her mouth the way she did when saying something rude about a relative we both didn't like.
My mother blurted, "Goodbye big dick!"
The whole table exploded into peals of throaty laughs. One of the women playfully hit my mother on the arm, one wagged her finger in the air and the third, slightly flushed, shook her head. The men all stared at my father, eyebrows pulsing up and down; one slapped him on the back. My father, ordinarily circumspect about private matters, was smiling, too. I don't think he was red in the face. In the tumult of the guffaws, I snuck back upstairs.
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That night stayed with me. Years later, I thought about my mother's remark and realized that it wasn't so extraordinary after all. I recall my parents openly kissing and hugging, a lot. While hugging, I'd often notice my father letting his hand slide to my mother's butt. A few times, when they thought they were alone, he'd slip his hand between the top buttons of her blouse. She wore V-necks a lot, and had a lovely cleavage, which my father openly appreciated. Sex Ed Is A Parent's Job
In time, when I realized many of my cohorts had parents who were either divorced or who openly despised one another, I realized what a gift it was to know that my own parents were still loving, affectionate and probably still doing it. There were other signs, too: the closed tight bedroom door; how I'd sense them freezing mid-movement if after I'd gone to bed I'd then woken up and carelessly opened their door to ask a question; stray remarks here and there.