Dear Former Sexual Fling,
My parents know you’re a beast in the bedroom. Stay with me here.
After my seven-year relationship ended amicably yet unexpectedly, I found myself in the throes of completely unfamiliar territory: dating as an adult. I hadn’t been single since I was a teenager, and although I’d witnessed friends and family members endure the mental labyrinths of courtship (some of which became marriage and procreation), I felt I was entering uncharted territory. Tinder seemed like my best bet for batting practice. People still use Tinder to find their soulmates, right?
So far, no dice. But in the process of swiping, flirting, fizzling out, hooking up, falling in love for like three days, ghosting and being ghosted, I discovered how terribly isolating the dating game can be. My ex was incredibly supportive, of course, and I’m fortunate that our now-friendship can comfortably consist of us exchanging dating horror stories. But some of my friends were less comfortable with hearing about my pursuits, Facebook groups were too public, and the kindness of Reddit strangers only gets one so far.
So I told my parents about you.
If it helps, I didn’t mean to. We were having our prescheduled Friday night FaceTime dinner (being two hours ahead of me, they ate while I requested the latest North Shore suburban gossip from my iconical yenta mother), and they happened to ask about my audiobook work. It was no secret to them that I had been pursuing narration projects and frequently took on jobs in the erotica field, and I had no problem sharing my latest headache — this time involving a manuscript that involved the use of mayonnaise as an aphrodisiac. Yes, really.
The conversation inevitably turned to the psychology of such a fetish, since my therapist mother is always fascinated by the inner workings of “weirdos” (my words, not hers), and I may have let slip that that’s not even close to the weirdest thing I’ve been asked to perform. Floodgates? Wide open.
I tried to keep it vague, I really did. I didn’t share your name or your face (beyond describing you as, what was it, “hella fine”?). I used flowery terms and beat around the proverbial bush when questions arose about your, um, endowment…mostly for my dad’s sake, whose face contortions kept me in check when I came too close to a boundary.
Please don’t be horrified. Take a sec to calm yourself with some eyebleach.
I know you must be wondering why I kept my fingers on the edge of that envelope, and I totally get it. My usually very conservative family who to this day will not allow me to bring a boy upstairs if I’m in their home — not even my then-domestic partner — would be the least likely audience for tales about me getting tied up and flogged in a hotel room. My ever-professional parents, hippies only to the extent of buying the Dawn dish soap with the penguins on the label; still-cover-my-eyes-during-movie-sex-scenes; my loving, generous, “have some grape juice instead of wine” birth-givers…now captive listeners as I described the mind-blowing orgasms that punctuated our night together.
I knew that being newly single in my 20s meant that I was going to be exposed to a lifestyle I’d never had before. My parents met well into their thirties, and despite their decades of wisdom could never relate to my experience of being 24 and only sleeping with one person who I thought, at the time, would become my husband and the father to my children. They had encouraged me to play the field a little more, but were undeniably supportive of my relationship, as any good parent would be. Through all seven years, try as they did to provide meaningful advice, they could never relate to dating, having sex with, marrying, and dying with one person whom I met at age 16. And why would they? It’s rare.
But what we did, dear anonymous reader, was common. In fact, it was hilariously relatable. Two desperately lusty people meeting up to empty ourselves into the other, spending hours beforehand pruning and preening and picking out the right outfits; playing the “so who’s gonna pay for Plan B?” game, the “will they or won’t they text me the next morning” game, the “did I catch feelings or is this Orgasm Seratonin talking?” game (a personal favorite of mine). Take the dating apps and the readily-available morning-after pill out of the equation, and the story boiled down to an experience I could finally share with most people on the planet.
My parents have always intimidated me with their wisdom and success. I think most people are intimidated by their parents in some way, if for no other reason than they’re the ones calling all the shots. I have yet to meet someone willing to deliberately disobey with parents’ wishes and not even mildly fear the consequences. Hell, it took me well over a year to show them my first tattoo. Even as a well-established, independent adult, I still get anxious when I come home with colored hair, let alone more ink or an impulse piercing. Even my friends who consider their parents their best friends are resistant to sharing tales of their rebellious exploits. Not to mention the fact that most parents aren’t interested in hearing how their baby — who they breastfed, wiped applesauce off their tiny cherubic cheeks, taught basic arithmetic, gently pushed on the swingset, played Nurse, Caregiver, Psychologist, Drill Seargent, Vomit Cleaner, Teacher, and even Friend for 20+ years of life — is now really into getting their hair pulled and breasts slapped.
That’s not to say my parents are terribly interested in hearing about such desires, but for a few minutes, I experienced an incredibly rare and cathartic moment during which all walls were down. I wasn’t speaking to Mom and Dad. I was speaking to June and Scott*, mid-sixties buddies, whose lifetime of encounters and mistakes and disappointments and joys and yes, even orgasms, had shaped their own perspectives on romance and sexuality. I have absolutely no interest in hearing about my parents’ sexual exploits, but their willingness to listen to some modicum of mine presented a unique opportunity for closeness and friendship that is all too rare in many family dynamics.
I’m not a parent and I hold absolutely no authority on the subject of parenting, but doesn’t it make sense to raise your children into people you’d actually want to hang out with? Isn’t the goal to create good, well-mannered people who crack jokes that actually make you laugh, root for the same teams, and are passionate about the same causes? Is it really so shocking to have the kind of relationship with your kids that allows them to share with you the ups and downs of dating, if those “ups” consist of a liiiiiitle bit of light BDSM?
Maybe it’s just a dynamic in my family, with my mom’s neverending curiosity particularly to blame. Within the same conversation, I was asked to explain how I field requests for photos of my feet. Don’t get any ideas, Mom. I’ve cornered the market.
I have to admit that this was not the story I sat down to write. I hoped to have some epiphany about COVID-19 or some other topical buzzword. But those familiar with my work will recognize my emphasis on radical transparency and honesty, and this is the honest truth: I told my parents about what a beast you are in bed, and provided an in-depth explanation of every kink we explored that night. It hugely benefitted my relationship with my parents and helped me to regain my illusion of control over the tempestuous chaos of online dating. So I don’t regret telling them any of it. Sorry.
Reader, I hope you take this for the compliment that it is. You can brag to your next hookup that your performance was so exemplary that the girl ran out of places to brag about it and just had to bring it up over virtual Shabbat. I hope you realize that you came into my life at a very pivotal time, and that I’ll look back fondly on our encounter as something that helped transition me from timid, constantly-revising-my-Tinder-bio, as-smooth-as-a-baby-giraffe-learning-to-walk, into a confident young singleton unafraid of my own sexuality. I guess this is only half a confession, with the other half being a profound thanks. Also, are you free next weekend?
*names have been changed to protect my parent’s identities, who have no idea how dire my penchant for oversharing has become.