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126 AUGUST 2009
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A matter of some delicacy

Nils Ling

Late every Sunday morning our family gets together for brunch. We've been doing it for years, now. We enjoy a lovely meal and there is always animated conversation about whatever is on everybody’s mind.

Well, lately, what’s on everybody’s mind is the fact that in October, my wife will become a grandmother for the first time. And my daughter, who will become a mother for the first time, has a lot of very specific questions. My other daughter – who, no doubt, will one day also want to make my wife a grandmother – listens raptly to every exchange.

Now, you understand that these aren’t the questions like “What kind of bicycle should we get the kid?” or “So, what do you think – cloth or plastic diapers ...?” These questions delve deeply into the heart of women's physiology.

And they make me squirm like a worm on a hook.

It’s not like I don’t know nothin' about the birthin' of the babies. I am fully aware that women have all sorts of intricate lady parts that men don’t possess, and that those lady parts perform important functions, including but not limited to ejecting babies into the world. I just don’t want to hear about them. (The parts, not the babies.)

It wasn’t always so. When I was in my last year of junior high, I couldn’t wait to hear about lady parts. I had a passing familiarity with the topic, thanks to my older brother. But some of the stories he told about what men and women got up to with their respective body parts just sounded a little far-fetched to me (”... and then he does what? Oh, come on. Now you’re just making stuff up to gross me out.”), so I was keen to get the real answers from an honest-to-goodness expert – our Health teacher, Mr. Bobbie.

When Mr. Bobbie announced that this term we would study Human Reproduction, it caused quite a stir among the boys in the class. We couldn’t wait till Wednesday, when the unit would begin. Finally, we would be introduced to what would become our Holy Grail.

Well. What a let-down.

We were told there would be diagrams and pictures and all sorts of visual aids, and I guess that wasn’t a lie. But the diagrams made no sense. They didn’t look like lady parts. They looked like the wiring diagram for the electrical system in a bungalow. Or a very childishly drawn freeway interchange.

We turned our little teenage pinheads one way and another, but none of it looked even remotely familiar, even to Jimmy Coates, whose parents owned all sorts of coffee table art books and a subscription to National Geographic.

“This,” Mr. Bobbie would say with great conviction, “Is the female reproductive system.”

“That,” whispered Drew Doyle, “Is a map of Gimli, Manitoba.”

Mr. Bobbie droned on and on, and really, you had to marvel at a man who could stand in front of a class of teenaged boys and make sex sound boring. He got out his pointer and indicated the uvula, the Volvo, the intersection of Highway 9 and Airport Road. By the time it was all done, we didn’t know anything more than when we started. On reflection, I think he was trying to talk us out of going near the girls in the class, for fear we’d end up electrocuted or lost.

As it turned out, we may have been lost, but time took care of that. And having kids of my own – with the accompanying pre-nostril classes – filled in the gaps in my education.

So I know about this stuff. I just don’t need to talk about it over breakfast.

This is not new. For years, the girls have known that if they need me to leave the room so they can talk about my birthday or Christmas presents, all they need to do is begin a cheerful discussion of the various goings-on of their lady parts. I bolt like a jackrabbit.

But now I’m not allowed. I am expected to sit there and miserably endure, along with my son-in-law. If we try to withdraw, or begin some sort of manly discussion about sports or home repair, we’re accused of not being fully engaged in this Miracle of Life that we are all soon to experience.

So we sit, and we squirm uncomfortably, and we listen, and we ponder upon the miracle that is happening within my daughter’s body. And while I don’t have to enjoy it, I’m glad that the young fellow is paying his dues and learning more about where babies come from than he ever wanted to know.

But really – I could have told him. They come right down Highway Nine. And apparently, they’re driving a Volvo.

Thanks, Mr. Bobbie

This feature: From Nils Ling’s book Truths and Half Truths. A collection of some of his most memorable and hilarious columns. Write to him at RR #9, 747 Brackley Point Road, Charlottetown, PE, C1E 1Z3.

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