The (jail)birds and the bees

by Lisa Barnard

I worry about how I’ll manage if I have kids—you know, where’s the best place to raise them, how to choose their schools, how the hell to keep such tiny people alive when I can’t even water a bamboo plant twice a week. The usual. Also, how to answer the tough life questions kids throw at you. The birds and the bees is a topic I particularly dread—I can’t exactly envision a reasonable, informative, non-awkward way to explain sex to your kid. I just can’t.

But over the holidays, an anecdote shared by my Uncle Paul gave me inspiration. He thought I should know how my grandpa explained it all to him back in the day so that I’d at least have that approach as an option. I thought I’d pass it along to you, too, in case you want to keep our tradition alive.

My uncle was not exactly the model child—he was quite the hellion, to put it mildly. (Whenever he’s within earshot of our mothers, the cousins make him tell stories about all the crazy stuff he used to do, hoping to put in perspective any minor transgressions from our youth.) My grandpa, on the other hand, was a no-nonsense kind of guy. He had no tolerance for bullshit. He ruled with an iron fist. He was a powerful guy. A busy guy. President of his company. Made it out of the bunker in WWII. Made it through the Korean War, too. Was one of twelve kids. Raised six kids of his own. He was old school and had no patience for antics. Period.

One afternoon, he ordered my uncle to get in the basement immediately. Uncle Paul was relieved, because whenever he was in BIG trouble, my grandpa would take him for four-hour drives so he could lecture him with no chance of escape. The basement was a godsend—or so he thought.

Apparently Grandpa had gotten wind that 16-year-old Paul was interested in some girl who was 14. And that’s what prompted “the talk.” It went something like this:

Grandpa sat Paul down at a table and slammed a HUGE book down in front of him, with a big marker inside it. He told Paul to flip to the marked page. “And READ what it says, the ENTIRE thing. Right now.”

Guess what the page was? No, not the human anatomy, not ‘when a man loves a woman,’ not even a working definition of sex. This was a LAW BOOK.

And the page?

The definition of “statutory rape.”

Grandpa said: “Do you understand that?” Paul said yes, and Grandpa said: “Are you sure you understand? That says that even if everyone thinks it’s a good idea, even if she thinks it’s a good idea and you think it’s good idea and ohhhhh la di da everyone’s just sooo happy and it’s such a great idea…YOU GO TO JAIL.” And he slammed the huge book shut. “You got that? You hear me? YOU…” and pointed right in Paul’s face…”YOU. Go. To. Jail.”

And he stormed upstairs.

And there you have it folks, my family’s twisted rendition of the birds and the bees. You have to hand it to him—Grandpa was nothing if not effective. Uncle Paul said he was scared to change his clothes for a month because he thought the cops might show up in his room.


Lisa is a social media marketer by day, but a bibliophile, karaoke addict, crossword puzzle fanatic, documentary watcher and local brew lover by night. She’d be happy to simply change the world.

2 replies »

  1. I explained it to my daughter’s boyfriend in similar fashion but with a really big gun.