Wednesday, December 21, 2011

On The Birds and The Bees


Dear Mackenzie,

Everything you need to know about the birds and the bees can be found in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 film THE BIRDS and the 2007 animated comedy BEE MOVIE which stars the voice of Jerry Seinfeld. Strike that.
 
Dear Mackenzie,

Everything you need to know about the birds and the bees can be found in the 1972 film LAST TANGO IN PARIS starring Marlon Brando and the 1971 film CARNAL KNOWLEDGE starring Jack Nicholson. REALLY strike that.
 
Dear Mackenzie,

Not I but your mother, since she is very eloquent on these types of issues, will teach you everything you need to know about the birds and the bees.  Well, probably true but a bit of a copout.  Try again.

Dear Mackenzie,

Hmmn.   This is really awkward. 

Dear Mackenzie,

As you’ll probably already know by the time you read this, the birds and the bees is the idiomatic expression which refers to courtship and sex.  It’s a difficult topic for parents to discuss with their children and for children to discuss with their parents.  It’s an especially difficult topic for fathers to discuss with their daughters.  To make things even more complicated, birds and bees don’t have sex in any way similar to humans from a biological perspective, though I’ve detected certain sociological similarities.

Most bird species are monogamous in one form or other, and some birds mate for life.  This trait alone sets them apart from all but a minority of humans, who say they are monogamous but rarely are , and certainly not while they are young which is when human parents most want them to be.  Some birds mate on the ground while others mate in trees.  Well, there’s that similarity.  In addition to the ground and trees, humans have also been known to mate on top of pool tables, in the back seats of cars, on moving roller coasters, and generally anywhere that the body parts can be positioned in the right way.  By the way, bees almost always mate in the air. A sort of bee “mile high club” which many humans try to emulate.  More on bees in a minute.

Both birds and humans engage in so called courtship displays.  In the human species, the female uses makeup and other items (let’s call it plumage) to show the male how attractive and desirable she is.  Birds are the opposite.  In the bird kingdom, it’s the male who will usually preen or make sounds (let’s call it plumage) to show the female how attractive and desirable he is to her.  A perfect example is the peacock, and I don’t think the name is an accident. 

The bird courtship ritual I like the best is that of the hummingbird.  To show its desirability, the male hummingbird flies up and then dive bombs toward the female at full speed, diverting his course only inches from her head.  A college classmate of mine once tried something similar with a pretty co-ed to express his desirability.  Unfortunately, he had gone through a full bottle of jagermeister and was several sheets into the wind by the time he did it. For obvious reasons his hand-eye coordination was a little off and they both wound up in a hospital emergency room; he with a concussion and she with numerous stitches above her left eye. Unlike the hummingbird, my friend’s particular courtship ritual ended up not in a successful mating encounter but in a court of law.

Most birds become more sexually active in the spring when the amount of sunlight they receive sends signals to their brains that it is time to reproduce.  In the human species, this is more gender specific.  Most females indeed seem to send out courtship and mating signals in the spring, when the weather gets warm and the sun and heat suggest it may be an opportune time to mate.  Males are somewhat different.  In humans, the male of the species becomes more sexually active when….well, when he can.  The only thing a male needs is opportunity. It’s that simple.

Which brings us to bees. It has been written in scientific journals that the sole purpose of the life of the male bee is to have sex. Coincidentally, that is also the sole purpose in life for the young human male.  Now that’s nice if you’re a male, unless you’re a male human whose daughters are pursued by young males. As the father of three daughters myself, I admit that the fate of the male honey bee sometimes sounds appropriate to me. When the male honey bee inserts his sexual organ into the female it becomes lodged and remains in the female, and since the male cannot survive without his sexual organ, he dies shortly thereafter.  I fantasize about handing out this scientific literature to the young men who currently court Heather and Jamie and explaining to them that I envision a similar fate for them.  Mackenzie, I can’t even imagine what thoughts will cross my mind by the time boys come calling for you.

Though not a bird or a bee, the toughest cookie sexually by far is the female praying mantis, and as the father of three girls, the fate of the male praying mantis also intrigues me.  The female praying mantis has the peculiar cannibalistic habit of biting off the head of her partner while they are mating.  One shot and crunch, you’re history.  If you’re a male praying mantis, you’d better be committed because you’re not going to get a second encounter.  In my mind’s eye the same theory could apply to the young men who have the wrong thoughts about my daughters.

Truth be told my sweet daughter, biology is only the half of it.  That is what it is, and we’ll try to explain it all to you as best we can.  As your Dad, what I worry more about is the emotional toll that the life lessons of the birds and bees can take on a young person. In spite of your mother’s or my best efforts, your real teacher will be life itself and the wisdom that can only come from experience.  That said, I do have one or two pieces of advice to offer.

But first, time out for an important medical announcement:  always use a condom when you’re having sex. 

Once you’re in a long term committed relationship, or married, or trying to conceive children of your own, you may decide not to use condoms.  But while you’re single and experimenting this is an absolute must.  Not just as a form of contraception, which you should always use until you make the decision to have children, but for reasons of life and death.  AIDS is no joke, and can literally kill you.  AIDS is not a gay disease.  It’s not a poor person’s disease.  It’s not a disease borne of poor hygiene, or related to any particular religion, race, or gender. It doesn’t discriminate. It’s an equal opportunity killer plain and simple.  With any luck the medical community will find a cure one of these days, or may even figure out how to prevent HIV and AIDS. 

Until then, time out for an important medical announcement: always use a condom when you’re having sex.

Mackenzie, always be proud of your body and enjoy it to the fullest.  The human body is the most amazing instrument in so many ways and can bring great pleasure and joy to both you and your partner.  Don’t let anyone convince you that sex is bad. Don’t let anyone convince you that sex is not for the woman’s enjoyment or pleasure. Don’t let anyone convince you that sex is shameful, or should be hidden from light, or is in any way abnormal, no matter what crazy fantasies titillate you.

(I can’t believe I’m writing this to you…awkward). 

So yes, go crazy. Experiment to your heart’s content. Have fun. Think outside the box.  Be wild in a safe way. Never stop. And whatever you do Mackenzie, never, never, and I do mean never, share any of that with me!!!!!! Did I mention to never share that stuff with me? I don’t even know how much of that you should share with your mother but me?  Nada.  Niente. Nothing. Never.


You should also know that the life lessons learned from the birds and the bees have twin engines of hope and despair; of euphoria and desperation; of pleasure and pain (and I don’t mean S&M).  It’s not easy for any person, let alone a young person, to completely disconnect his or her hormones from their hearts and from their minds. When one partner is more emotionally attached than the other, and even if both partners are equally attached emotionally, the birds and the bees can cause heartache and tears.  There is no getting around it.  

For all the delicious excitement you will almost certainly experience, from time to time you will also almost certainly experience a broken heart accompanied by a seemingly tragic sense of despair. As much as your mom and I would give anything to shield you from the downside of the birds and the bees phenomenon, we simply can’t.  Everyone needs to go through it for themselves. We can only love and support you unconditionally when you are sad, lend you our shoulders and our ears when you need them, and carry you forward as and when we are able. In those difficult moments we will tell you, though it will be hard for you to believe at that time, that this too shall pass.

From what I know of you so far Mackenzie, I suspect you’ll attack this topic with the same passion and gusto that you’ve shown for everything else that has come your way in life.  That thrills me and scares the living daylights out of me all at once.  Your mom and I, and your older sisters, will be there for you when you need us. But please. Be gentle with us. I don’t know if your education on the birds and bees will be overly hard on you, but I can only imagine its toll on us.  

So buckle up.

Or better yet, get thee to a nunnery.

All my everlasting love and a shotgun at the ready,

Dad





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