My mom graduated from high school in 1953. She graduated from college in 1957. In many ways, she remained distinctly behind the times; for example, when Elvis Presley first appeared on the Ed Sullivan show in 1956 and essentially transformed youth culture in the space of 3 minutes, my mom was blissfully unaware that some lip-curler with a pompadour and loose hips had just awakened a generation from a slumber it hadn’t known it was having.
She was at choir practice, you see–that night, and most nights. And when she wasn’t at choir practice, she was at a Bach concert. Although she was deeply acquainted with falsetto and vibrato, she knew not who Elvis was.
Nor did she care a whit for the Beach Boys or the Beatles or any other group that subsequently rocked through the door Elvis had opened.
You see, even when there wasn’t a Bach concert on the agenda, she could always count on Hayden being played somewhere. Indeed, the classical composers kept my mom out of the mainstream, kept her dreamily drifting through a world of scores and maestros instead of twists and shouts.
In other ways, however, she was completely a reflection of the times, of the 1950’s. She was chaste. She was modest. She was provincial. She had a poodle skirt.
True to her roots and poodles, she’s continued to make a life’s work out of sweetly-sheltered naivete.
Exhibit A: She had been married for some years to my father and had given birth at least once before she got her first inkling of what male homosexual sex entailed. She–hand to throat, accompanied by a gentle gasp and a little handkerchief waving about the face–had no idea. Who knew how versatile an orifice could be? Certainly not me ma.
Exhibit B: About fifteen years ago, when I was in my mid-twenties, she and I were taking a cross-country road-trip. To pass the time, we were reading aloud a Margaret Atwood novel. Right around the Oregon border, as I relaxed with my feet propped up on the dashboard, holding forth from the book, we encountered the term “69.”
“Stop there,” Mom said. “Now I’ve always wondered: what does 69 mean?”
“Well, um, you know, I could tell you and all, but since I’m squirming at the idea of using some of the words around you, Mom, could we pull over, and I’ll just draw you a picture?”
The brakes were hit. There in a rest stop, I created on paper two very lucky stick people who happily met each other head to toe.
After a few “Oh, well” and “Oh, my” exclamations, we clambered back into the car and zoomed on to the family reunion and some ambrosia salad.
Exhibit C: Just this week, we leapt the Grand Canyon of Uninformedness. Mom is visiting for a week, and it’s been all mellow cross-stitching and caramel-apple dipping, save for one quick conversation held at the top of the stairs.
As Mom returned a few borrowed books to me, she said, “I’m still reading that Julie & Julia one, though. But I can’t read any further until I get a dictionary.”
Why? Well, in this book about a woman trying to cook every dish in Julia Child’s most famous cookbook, there are some, as my mom says it, “sex-sual” terms with which she is unfamiliar. And so she needs a dictionary.
Or a daughter.
“Try me, Mom. I bet I can help.”
“Well, off the top of my head, I can’t remember them all, and I can’t seem to find them here in the book right now, but I do recall one was a word, something like ‘connie-lean-goo-ass.’”
Sucking in a deep breath, I clarified, “It’s cunnilingus, Mom. And it means oral sex, when it’s performed on a woman.”
Thinking further, I added, “Do you know what oral sex is? If not, I can draw you a picture. I mean, I do have some stick people in my portfolio who have been experiencing a pretty serious dry spell. They’d probably be pleased to get a little action.”
But, see, Mom divorced Dad a bit ago. Since then, she’s had a couple boyfriends.
So the stick people will have to remain celibate, perhaps until she asks about fellatio when she turns 80 in a few years.
Mom’s answer? Tittering a little, she informed me, “Oh, I do know what oral sex is for a woman. In the last five years, I’ve learned more than I ever thought I could know about that. I had no idea, but now I sure do.”
It would seem, then, that at age 72, my mom is finally ready to walk through the door Elvis opened all those years ago. She might even be ready to consider the implications of Gene Simmons’ tongue.