Birds, bees and innocence lost

23:33, Aug 17 2012

My ears nearly melted to the pillowcase the night Dr Ruth came on my radio and started telling me about how the birds and bees were good friends and the things they sometimes did to each other.

I was no more than a dozen years old, maybe a few more, and used to sneak a radio to bed at night. I would listen to broadcasters like George Balani, Mike Hosking and Pam Corkery do late-night talkback. I was a little nerd. Still am.

Dr Ruth Westheimer was the first person to make a living talking in the media about sex and how to be better at it. She's a German-born sex therapist, so talked in specific and technical terms. I was a naive Southland boy with a blown mind.

The problem was, Dr Ruth went straight past the basic mechanics of such activities and on to the advanced stuff. She talked about some pretty specific techniques for some very detailed situations. I was more than a little lost.

I was at that age where I had no real idea what was going on but liked my friends to think I had it all down pat. Being little blokes, we all pretended we knew about sex when we didn't. What didn't help my cause was that my Dad died when I was 5 and my mother wasn't the type to talk openly about that sort of stuff.

She did give me a book called Where Did I Come From?. It left me confused, especially the cartoon tadpoles swimming inside the front cover. What that had to do with Mummy having a baby I'll never know.


We also went to a movie night at school where they talked about how my body was changing. It was embarrassing and the silence in the car on the way home was deafening. Mum asked me if I had any questions. I had plenty but none I wanted to ask her.

Now that I have two children I have a little more knowledge about how childbirth works but I wonder and worry about if my kids can enjoy the same naivety I did.

Back in the day Dr Ruth's radio appearance was a oncer and sex wasn't anything I could see on the television or read in the magazines, and the internet hadn't been invented. It was easy to live blissfully unaware.

Now it's everywhere. The other day I downloaded a Muppets music video featuring Katy Perry. Problem is, Katy's green dress doesn't do a great job keeping her bits covered and my daughter keeps wanting to watch it. She thinks it's cool, especially the dress. This wouldn't happen if we watched the Wiggles. For my own sanity, I haven't told her about them yet.

As my kids get older, I think I'm going to deal with this problem the same way my mother did.

I'm going to ignore, deflect, defer to my wife and probably one day sit them down - only for my then-teenage kids to tell me they know all about it anyway.

Unlike me, they probably will, because they would have googled it the second they started wondering how they came into this world.

I'm raising kids in a very adult world. It's ironic, because I'm still a big kid myself who takes his radio to bed. I've got to concede the wife isn't crazy about late-night talkback. She tells me it's not the most romantic of gestures. She could be right.

Hadyn Jones is a journalist and a late-night radio enthusiast. He writes a fortnightly column.

The Dominion Post