I was driving the kids to school one cold, foggy morning, when my daughter announced, “I have something I want to say.” Sometimes, this is the six-year-old version of, I’m not exactly sure how to break this to you, but… and sometimes it’s her way of trying to shut her older sister up for just one freaking moment so she can get a word in edgewise. On this particular moment, it was more the former than the latter.
“I don’t like the Tarzan movie,” she declared. “It’s too sexy.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, which is the grown-up version of, I was totally not listening to you until you said the word ‘sexy.’ “The movie was too scary?”
“No,” she replied. “It’s too sexy.”
Flashback to the night before. I was making dinner and the kids asked if they could watch the Tarzan movie. I poked my head around the corner, looked at the TV, and saw a promo shot from the film of an animated, wide-eyed Tarzan smiling at his anthropomorphic gorilla pal. “Is it free?” I asked. They replied in the affirmative and so I let them have at it. But judging by my daughter’s reaction to the film, I must have mistakenly allowed my children to watch Tarzan: Lord of Her Jungle or the latest installment of Fifty Shades of Greystone.
“Oh, well, that’s interesting,” I said, which is Parent-Speak for Give me a moment to get my shit together on this, because the coffee hasn’t kicked in yet. “So, honey, what does the word ‘sexy’ mean?”
I was pretty proud of that response. I could have gone straight Quaker Oats Guy with a bowl full of 17th-century morality, shutting down this whole ‘sexy-talk’ thing and admonishing her to never use that grown-up word again. Instead, I went for the “Describe To Daddy What The Bomb Looks Like” option, because what may sound like a nuclear warhead could in fact turn out to be a firecracker.
“Sexy is when a boy has abs,” she said.
Well. At least she was right.
But the thing that kinda freaked me out was that somehow my six-year-old Unicorn Princess of Light and Wonder had, at some point, heard the word ‘sexy’ and the word ‘abs’ and put one plus one together to equal six pack. Was I responsible for this? As a prototype, middle-aged Cis Male Guy, it’s difficult to think that I sat there on the couch with my kids one night, watching TV, and off-handedly blurted out, “Holy wow! Look at the abs on that sexy guy!” Not to mention the fact that this would peg the needle on the Creepy Scale. This had to come from some other source.
Strangely, I remember to this day the first time I heard the word ‘sexy’ come out of my own parents’ mouth. I was about ten, and one evening, while watching Space: 1999 on TV, my dad told me we had to change the channel to The Tom Jones Show. I protested in that whiny way that ten-year-olds have down to an art form. “Your mom wants to watch it,” dad shut me down. “She thinks Tom Jones is sexy.”
“What’s sexy?” I asked.
My parents looked at each other silently, my mom’s face awash in that expression I now recognize to mean brilliant move there, Don.
“Sexy is…” my mom began. “It’s like, well, um…Tom Jones is sexy.”
Got it. And this is why I spent my teenage years decked out in Angels Flight suits and got my hair permed. No, as a matter of fact, it did not get me laid. However, the long-term effect of this lesson was that these questions, as flippant or innocent as they may be, can have formative effects, and my response to my daughter in this moment could become one of the blocks in the life-long game of Jenga that is Love & Sex.
“Well, sorry about that,” I said. “Tarzan should wear a shirt anyway. Lots of bugs in the jungle. Want to watch The Loud House instead tonight?”
“Yay!” she squealed.
Or sometimes, you just kick the can down the road a little.
Tarzan-Sexy Pairs With: The 2013 Cardinale Proprietary Red Blend, Napa Valley. Mother of God, talk about a wine that needs to put its shirt back on. Chris Carpenter, winemaker for Cardinale, crafted the 2013 from an assortment of parcels, most of them mountain sites on Diamond Mountain, Mt. Veeder and Howell Mountain. As such, this Cabernet Sauvignon expresses all the nuclear-fueled power of the 2013 vintage, wrapped in the polyester, button-down-shirt sexiness of a classic Bee Gees album. But not unlike the brash, young Tony Manero himself, this wine needs a good decade to grow up and realize there’s more to life than the coolest dance moves. The expression “drinkable now” does not apply here: this is an unscrupulous wine that will make you take to Twitter with your tales of violation if you dare take it home. However, it’s easy to tell that in ten years – and for another twenty after that – it will find its mature and feminine side, and yield evenings of sublime pleasure. Get it, put it in your cellar, sing What’s New Pussycat? to it every so often and try to be patient. This is a guaranteed classic.