But what do you do when they ask you the darndest thing and you have to come up with an answer that is appropriate, true, and won’t get you in heaps of trouble with their parents? And I’m not talking about the age old “Where do babies come from?” conundrum, either. That’s easy.
My little brother was twelve before he realized that a rousing game of rock, paper, scissors did not result in his conception. I forget how long I was grounded for that one. Not nearly as long as when he was eight and I convinced him that if he ate Peter Pan peanut butter and then leapt off the breakfast bar, we’d then be able to glean whether peanut butter was as potent as fairy dust.
And apparently the parental units didn’t think “Well, now we know.” was a sufficient apology.
Because of last night’s events and the fact that my, now twenty-two-year-old, brother still twitches whenever I hum the tune to Peter Pan’s You Can Fly!, I think I’m being paid back for my creativity in my younger years.
Dean and I are babysitting his nephew, Ryan, and the little girl who lives on the property across the street from my parents’ farm.
Daphne is all geared up for Halloween so she chooses the movie Hocus Pocus. It’s an awesome choice, and Dean and I reflect on when we first watched the movie as kids. I comment on how Bette Midler makes one creepy witch. He grins and says Sarah Jessica Parker can curse him anytime. I’m preparing to make him cry, using only my words (and mild physical violence) when I hear:
“Megs, what’s a virgin?”
I slowly lower the futon pillow that I’m about to smack Dean with and shift my attention to Ryan. He’s sprawled out on the carpet, crayon still in hand. My eyes have to be as wide as saucers and I glance back at Dean whose mouth is gaping practically down to the floor.
“Where did you hear that?” I ask cautiously.
Ryan rolls his eyes as if I’m just some incompetent adult who doesn’t know anything. “The movie.” And I’m certain I can hear the DUH he adds silently. “Only a virgin can light the candle to kill the witches.” He’s sitting up now, staring me down when he asks again. “So what is it? Must be something pretty cool.”
“Yes. Yes, it’s very cool and you should be one… always.” I hear Dean blurt out, and I rub my hand over my neck. I’m getting hives. I can feel them festering.
“How do you know if you are one?” Ryan looks confused.
I look at Dean who is tugging on the bill of his camouflage baseball hat. The one I hate, with that ugly orange goose sewn on the front. It’s a nervous tick, and I understand because I must resemble a deer caught in the headlights of a Mack truck.
How do we answer this without Ryan’s next question being “Megs, what’s sex?” I cringe at the thought. Do I lie? I mean where do you go? Where do you hide?
“You know you’re a virgin if you can light magical candles.” I say lamely and I hear Dean’s snort and his unsuccessful attempt to conceal his chuckle.
“So it’s like a super power?” Does this kid ever run out of questions?
Before I can form a coherent sentence, Daphne tears her attention away from the flat screen. Her voice is cheery, and her red ponytail swings with her over exaggerated movements. “Oh, I know what that is.”
Oh, this is not going to end well.
“Boys are virgins and girls are lesbians.” She states in a matter of fact tone. “It’s just another way to tell girls from boys.”
I hear the unmistakable sound of Dean’s palm slapping against his forehead in defeat.
I can actually feel the blood draining from my face and I’m fairly certain my soul is being sucked out of my body. How am I going to fix this? I offered to babysit and this is what I get in return: the single most awkward conversation of my life.
“Yep, that’s right.” Dean finally says, and interrupts my strategic calculation of whether the jump from a third story window would really be worse than my current predicament.
If only I had some of that peanut butter.
Dean stands up and walks toward the stairs that lead down to the kitchen. “Who wants ice cream?!”
“ME!” Both youngsters call out and follow him. It seems they’ve forgotten all about their ponderings.
I watch as Daphne teaches Ryan how to play some weird game—probably their generation’s version of rock, paper, scissors—in between bites of strawberry ice cream.
I gently elbow Dean in the ribs.
“We can’t just let them think all boys are virgins and all girls are lesbians.” I whisper as he plops a spoonful of ice cream in his mouth and then shrugs.
“They’ll figure it out eventually.” He pauses for a moment in thought. “All we can do is distract them with junk food and hope that when they do figure it out and they have questions, we’re either really old,” He breaks off to hand me a spoon, “or dead.”
I can only nod in agreement and dig in.