I grew up in a predominantly Catholic country, in a devoutly Catholic household and received formative early education for 10 years at a Catholic institution. Given this, I think it is safe to say that when it comes to sex and sex education, Lady Mary Crawley of Downton Abbey and I have a lot in common.
I learned about the egg and the sperm pretty early. As a precocious child, I received a picture book entitled “Where Babies Come From” that explained among other things, why kittens looked like cats and how the egg and sperm are single cells that fuse to form a blastocyst and eventually an embryo that grows in the mother’s tummy. I was 3. It would be 7 years later, in 5th grade, when I would discover the mechanics that would make the meeting of said egg and sperm possible. Incidentally, a year later, SPOILER ALERT! my world would be forever shattered when I find out that Santa was actually my mom and dad.
In last week’s episode (S5 E2), Lady Mary checks into a hotel room adjacent to her prospective husband and lover Tony Gillingham. They plan to dine, return to their respective rooms and make love until they run out of stamina. Lady Mary feels this trip is a dry run (pardon the pun), a preparation for married life should she accept Lord Gillingham’s proposal. The trip is secret, of course, as is the contraceptive device she had her lady’s maid purchase.
My mother will disown me but I think Lady Mary is being smart. It’s the 1920s, less people have maids and butlers and she and her husband will be under less scrutiny. Her reasoning, is that it is therefore imperative that they get along especially in that private area. Plus, she thought about contraception– what a forward thinker!
While it is noble and admirable to wait until marriage to have sex, I believe it can set you up for a lifetime of disappointment (sorry, Mommy). Sexual compatibility should be right up there with the ability to leave the toilet seat down and squeezing the toothpaste from the bottom. Seriously, being a good lover should be just as important a consideration as eye color and the ability to manage money. It’s so important that it can’t be just left to chance on your wedding night. Besides, something that’s good could only get better if you work on it.
But sex is so complicated and sticky (hahaha another pun). It’s a physical act that is usually accompanied by a huge wave of conflicted emotions and may leave in its wake even more conflicted emotions. I’m not saying go out and whore yourself. (Although if that is your choice, yay you. I’m not judging.)
What I’m saying is that I wish my parents (and my culture) had been more supportive rather than prohibitive when it comes to sex and
relationships. That they let me make mistakes early. That they allowed me to try and nurse a broken heart instead of compelling me to wait until after college to have a boyfriend. I wish they talked more about their relationship, were more open to answering stupid and awkward questions, more forgiving, more human towards sex. I mean, “Go forth and multiply” notwithstanding, I really do think God would not have made sex enjoyable if it were not meant to be enjoyed!
I am nowhere near ready for when K starts asking questions but I do know that I want to be open, not just about sex and relationships but everything else. Maybe then she wouldn’t have to ask someone else to buy condoms or inform her about consent, contraception and all that important stuff. I want to be there for her, as hard as it will be to imagine that anyone will be worthy of her, when she thinks she’s ready for the ride (oops pun again, sorry!). Maybe she can talk to me instead of feeling like she has to burn down her bedroom (tsk tsk Lady Edith. Shame on you!)
In the meantime, S5 E3 airs tonight. K will be mad because I won’t let her watch with me as it is aired because she can’t handle late bedtimes. But I imagine we will watch the Lady Mary train wreck someday, and talk about making good choices.
I am really looking forward to it.