Growing up, I avoided inviting friends home for dinner. Too embarrassing. But, that did not stop my mother. She would push, “Honey, why don’t you have your little friend join us for dinner?” She’d say it in front of them. And I’d die… because I knew how dinner would go. Because it always went the same. She’d serve steak, baked potatoes and a vegetable. And, the conversation… no matter how it went, always bit me in the ass.
“So, how’s your mother?” My mother would ask of the guest.
If this subject passed without a medical issue coming up, mother moved on.
And so on until she found an illness. Then the dinnertime conversation was set.
Oh, how my mother loved having our little friends over for dinner.
So, one day, when my friend, Julie, said her sister was pregnant, I thought I was safe. I could invite her over. Pregnancy being a happy subject about babies and other good things. Okay, yes morning sickness, umbilical cords and afterbirth offered topics, but my mother had pontificated at great length on those subjects before. Mother liked new topics, so she could show off her expansive medical knowledge. And, therefore, she was unlikely to revisit them.
So, like I said before, I thought I was safe.
Oh… how wrong I was.
Mother delved. “So how far along is your sister?”
Julie shifted and looked down at the table. “Well… maybe six months… or seven… she’s not sure.”
Mother’s eyebrows arched in delight. “Oh… She doesn’t know when she got pregnant?”
“Well… kind-of a surprise…” A giant, red blotch appeared at the base of Julie’s neck and spread upward.
“Oooohhhhh.” Mother dragged that ‘oh’ out until it sucked all the air out of the room.
To Julie’s credit, she added, “My sister isn’t married. But everyone is happy about the baby. ”
“Of course they are,” Mother said. “All children are welcome, even the inconvenient ones.”
Please. I prayed. Dear Lord, have mercy. Strike mother down. You don’t have to kill her. Just make her choke on the boiled okra that we were, that very night, being forced to eat. Then, Mother could go to the hospital and she’d be happy. She loved hospitals. And Julie would still be my friend and maybe, we wouldn’t ever have to eat slimy boiled okra again.
But no, God did- not come to my rescue. He did not save us.
“It is all part of nature’s plan. That’s why humans climax during sexual intercourse. So it will feel good, and people will have sex, and babies will be born. It’s the great perpetuating of the species.” Mother straightened her back, drawing herself up to a superior height.
The room swirled. I felt faint. Sweat gushed from my pits.
My older brother ducked and shoved mashed potatoes in his mouth. His friend, Harry, did the same.
Mother reached over and took a long, slow sip of water.
She thrived on moments like this.
Then, to my surprise, she cast a smirk at me. “Otherwise, no one would have children. Because, let’s face it, they’re such a bother.” She looked at my brother and grimaced, “all that crying and whining and fecal matter. Why babies are really disgusting if you think about it.”
Julie flashed me a did- your- mom- really- say- that- look.
I shrugged and touched my tongue to my nose, a move we did at school when our teacher, or someone else, did something bizarre.
Julie giggled. Just for a second, but mother heard.
Her eyes flashed with anger. Her body turned rigid. But, she didn’t say a word. She didn’t have to. Instead, she picked up her linen dinner napkin and, in a studied fashion, dabbed her mouth.
Oh God. Warning sirens whirled in my brain. That dabbing thing… she only did it when she was really pissed.
A little bit of vomit slid up the back of my throat.
Terrified, I swallowed it and watched my mother fold her napkin and carefully place it back in her lap.
No one spoke.
Mother cleared her throat.
“Julie, I’m so glad you joined us tonight… and shared with us your family’s little life drama.” Mother’s lips curled into a horrible grin. All her teeth showed. “Of course, I’ve talked to my children about sexual intercourse…”
Oh God… Oh God…
“But I’m afraid I’ve been lax about discussing birth control… and you have presented me with the prefect opportunity to do so.”
Julie’s mouth dropped open.
“I think it’s important for everyone to be clear about the medical side of the process.” She took a deep breath and glanced around the table, forcing eye contact with all. When Harry wouldn’t, it was, “Look up, Harry.”
“It is important to make sure the sperm and the egg do not touch.”
My Dad interrupted with a weak, “Honey, maybe this is not the best time…”
“Don’t be silly. This is the perfect time.” Frozen fury flashed from her eyes.
Dad withered and dabbed his forehead.
“Sperm… sperm… You do know what’s that like?” Mother interrogated.
The boys ducked.
I died. Couldn’t even look at Julie.
“Well, I’m sure you boys do… Right, Harry?”
I watch Harry wither.
Satisfied, Mother inhaled, then continued. “Girls, ejaculate is like… well… ”
She stumbled, apparently searching but unable to find a description. Then, a look of satisfaction swept her face.
“Like… blow your nose.” She pantomimed grabbing a tissue and blowing. Then she spread her hands as if to show the contents of the tissue. “That is what ejaculate is like.”
Satisfied, she picked up her fork, stabbed a boiled okra, dripping with slime, and put it in her mouth. Then, she began to chew.
Now, I can’t really speak for Julie since she never stepped foot into my house after that, but my mother’s description of sperm put me off of sex for the next decade or two… And off okra… Forever…
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