Last week, I had an interesting email exchange with my family regarding a Flatiron café called “Starvin’ Marvin Cafe” (my dad’s name, you guessed it, is Marvin).
The banter ranged from witty to silly, typical family fare for a Friday morning when New York City temperatures made it a little difficult to get our collective motor running.
My brother then made a fatal mistake, noting some of the menu’s more entertaining entrée names: “Sexy Marvin Wrap,” Hungry Marvin,” “Lovin’ Marvin,” and “Pirate Marvin.” It was almost as though he was hoping our mother would respond with “I’ve had them all!” (which she did say, and summarily caused me to push back eating lunch by an hour and a half).
I live in New York City and work in PR, so I should not be so easily fazed, but it’s really disarming when your parents elude to… carnal relations… before you’ve had a chance to finish your coffee.
That’s why I’m using this particular blog entry to help clarify some of the boundaries which everyday life has blurred with respect to what is acceptable to share and what is not.
I have to say, I come from an incredibly tight knit group of friends (male and female), and we’ve been incredibly tight knit for almost 10 years now. We don’t really seem to have a belief in personal space or privacy, and as such, we pretty much know all we need to about one another.
With the ladies, in particular, we’re almost obscenely, grossly close. From Brazilian waxes to boob jobs, no subject is taboo and no sight has gone unseen.
However, we hold those conversations behind closed doors.
That’s why when I’m on the subway and a gaggle of teen (possibly pre-teen) girls are loudly discussing the rules of their “Blow Pop Eating” contest (<shudder>) and what breaking a rule meant for their prowess, I cringed.
I’m sure that I was crude and crass when I was that age, as well, but throwing around profanity and condemning other people’s dirty deeds, I believe, is far less egregious than discussing your own.
My family is awesome. We are open and honest and will fearlessly disagree with one another. Despite passionate outbursts, I would categorize us as close-knit.
I know that my friends are always surprised by how no-holds-barred some family conversations can be (like the time my mother went to hand me a copy of Time Magazine that’s cover story was on virginity and she said, “What am I thinking? This doesn’t apply to YOU.”). However, nothing prepares you for the moment your mother sets down house rules that essentially boil down to “no being naked in common areas.”
Now, aside from the fact that my mother felt this “rule” needed to be clarified (people being naked anywhere in my house was never an issue), the implication that when my brother and I aren’t around that my parents are, in fact, naked in common areas is a little disturbing. I don’t need to think about them naked.
Pair that with the fact that even if they weren’t going to be naked while I was in said common area, they might’ve been naked in it before and I’ve given myself both the heebies AND the jeebies.
Dirty Old(er) People
As an adult child, I can give my folks some leeway when it comes to crass remarks they make regarding sex (like when my mom notes how my father is “easy” after a couple glasses of wine). They grew up in the 70’s, and their socially liberal attitude is certainly more desirable than the alternative.
But their parents? My grandparents? I find little excuse for some of the comments they’ve said. Old age be damned, they know full well what they’re doing with respect to pushing the boundaries of what’s typically acceptable within familial conversations. Here are some choice quotes that, for the life of me, I could not have made up if I tried:
My great-grandmother, with respect to sex and marriage: “No setting, no mounting.”
My grandmother on sexuality: “Now, I can understand being straight, and I can understand being gay. But being bi-sexual? That’s just greedy.”
As my grandfather turned upside-down and shook a Victoria’s Secret postcard that came in the mail, my mother asked what he was doing. He replied: “I’m trying to see if I can get [the boobs] to fall out!”
When asked, “What’s up?” my grandfather always says, “Not as much as what used to be.”
Needless to say, those comments blend into one unmanageable “EWWW-fest” beyond the likes most granddaughters are privy to taking part in.
It all boils down to a respect of time, place, and audience.
Conversations like those noted above, under the right circumstances, are hilarious fodder. However, at the dinner table, on a crowded subway, or to your grandchildren, I implore you to use some restraint.
I understand that, from my position, it’s easy to cast judgment and condemn my elders for social violations I’ll almost certainly commit (and do commit. My grandfather constantly asks my brother and I as to when we’ll give him grandchildren. The stock reply is, “Not yet, Poppy, but I’m practicing.”).
However, fortunately for me, I don’t really mind being a hypocrite when it comes to matters of knowing as little as possible about the sex life of my elders and strangers.
Jackie for (AMP3) A New York PR Agency ,
Disclaimer: Opinions are of author alone. This is an arch. post.
PS: To whoever keeps leaving open cans of cat food hanging on my apartment door, heed these words: I will find you. After I find you, I will repay you, in full, for your “generous” gift.
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