This is how my family holds all of its serious or important conversations: we go towels-only and meet up in Mom’s studio downstairs. Mom lights some incense, plays a meditative tune on her Japanese shamisen; me and Dad do breathing exercises while maintaining lotus positions on our respective mats. It may seem a little (okay, a lot) weird to you, but when your mom’s a crossfit homeopath/licensed aromatherapist who’s heavily into the New Age movement, you learn to become desensitized to the spiritual extravagance.
Eventually, Mom sets the shamisen down, opens her eyes. Smiles comfortingly at me. “Your father and I have been keeping up with the news. There’s a lot of talk about something called El Cassetto. Have you heard of that?”
“Um…yeah,” I reply uncertainly. “I guess.”
“And do you know what it means to ‘listen to El Cassetto?’”
“See, when two people love each other very much and want to express that love physically…”
Oh, no. She doesn’t mean—
“…they may hug and kiss, maybe take their clothes off to ‘Netflix and chill’ or ‘listen to El Cassetto.’”
Great. Just great. Not only have my parents heard of El Cassetto, they think it’s my generation’s choice euphemism for sex.
Mom continues, unabashed: “Now, sweetie, recently your physical development has…entered a more noticeable phase. You’re no longer a little boy, but a young man entering puberty. With all that’s going on in the news about El Cassetto, we want to make sure you have the information you need to make educated, responsible decisions about when, where, how, and with whom you’re going to be having sex.”
You know, I’d say it couldn’t get any worse, except I’ve been here before. It can get worse. It already got worse that time Mom caught me wanking in the upstairs bathroom on the night my spunk arrived. I’d rather not talk about sex at all with my parents. But between inadvertently showing my boner to Mom and simply having to listen to her talk about boners, I’d vastly prefer the latter. I can at least deal with that.
“There’s nothing to be embarrassed about, honey,” Mom says. “Sex is a normal, healthy, perfectly natural part of life that should be discussed openly and honestly. No shame, no questions too dumb or stupid. No gutter words. Instead, penis. Vagina. Anus. Erection. Clitoris. Orgasm. Ejaculation. Nocturnal emission—”
“Stop,” Dad interrupts, and holds up his hand, waves an annoying tendril of incense from his face.
Mom blinks. “Dear?”
“This isn’t working.”
“I’ve got more incense sticks in the kitchen—”
“No, no. It’s not the incense. It’s…it’s all of this.” Dad gestures at his yoga mat, our towels, Mom’s shamisen.
“What about it?”
“Don’t you think it’s a tad excessive?”
“But the diagrams, the prophylactics and demo doll.” Mom points at the far end of the room, where there’s a giant shopping bag with a dildo and what looks like a mannequin leg hanging out of the top. “I have a whole thing planned out.”
“And I’m sure it’s educational and enlightening and all that. But I think we’re throwing too many ingredients into a recipe that doesn’t need them.” Dad takes Mom’s hand, gives her a reassuring look. “This is a father-son moment. I’ll take care of it.”
Mom looks disappointed, but gets to her feet, leaves the studio, dragging her shamisen behind her.