Many years ago a girl from my church told me that my love of celebrity smut was setting a bad example for my children due to the materialistic and gay loving values in Hollywood. I thanked her homophobic self for the unsolicited advice and carried right on subscribing to People magazine (and I no longer speak with her judgy mcjudgerson self). Oh how I loves the glitz and glamour and distraction of Jennifer Gardner in sequins or Ryan Reynolds being smoldering and self-deprecating. And Neil Patrick Harris gossip is my fave. I like keeping an eye on Doogie Houser, MD. I think having a lot of different kinds of reading material around can be a great way to get kids talking to you and asking questions they wouldn’t have if they were glued to the boob tube. And there are plenty of materialistic people with crappy values right here in the Midwest. There are gay people too, but not so many where I live. Celebrity smut has been the catalyst for many intense conversations around this crib.
For example in 2008, this People magazine with Clay Aiken and his son on the cover led to a really good one.
My son was playing outside and came roaring in all sweaty and thirsty begging for a drink. After gulping down 3 glasses of water and dribbling it all over his face AND the floor, I bent down to clean up the puddle. I looked up and he was reading the cover of the magazine that I had put on the table.
Boy child: What's gay?
Me: Why are you asking about that?
Boy child: Because you are reading, “Yes, I’m gay.”
Me: OH, yeah. He’s gay. That means that he falls in love with other boys.
Boy child: Is that the boy he’s gay with?
Me: Nope. That's his son. He isn't gay with him. Gay means that you love somebody that is your same gender in the kissy and huggy way that Dad and I do that grosses you out. It's romantic. Not love like how parents love their children. It's a different feeling.
Boy child: Oh, O.K. got to go. Bye.
And he ran off just like that. I was feeling pretty good about it. After all, he was only 8 and I am all about waiting for kids to ask about the serious shit when they are ready. Back to my People magazine and wine and reading about gay Clay I went. I figured that he would come to me if he had any questions later, but he didn’t. It was a long time before he would stun me with another tough question. The good thing is that I was prepared for anything. I don't just have smut around this place. Sheesh! I have hundreds of books. HUNDREDS.
Right now where I am sitting, these books are within reach:
The Out of Synch Child by Carol Stock Kranowitz
Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl
The Complete Curious George Collection by Margret and H.A. Rey
Are you there Vodka, it’s me Chelsea by Chelsea Handler
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
The Week Magazine
The Human Body – A first discovery book by Scholastic
(The last one I was planning to use for the "How do you make a baby?" question)
I’m not sure why that woman long ago thought that having my kids see me reading People magazine would be a bad influence. I read all kinds of books and magazines and they see this every single day. I believe that when they see the variety of reading material, it demonstrates that I am open-minded and have a love of learning. Frankly I’m thrilled that I as reading my celebrity smut on that sunny fall day and I’m grateful for the ease of conversation my son and I were able to have. I’m especially pleased that he was introduced to a complex concept in a positive way at such a young age. There was no opinion involved in the explanation, just facts. If you are attracted to people of the same sex that means you are gay. You love who you love and that's how it is. BOOM!
He’s older now and recently informed me that he is not gay, in case I was wondering (which I was not).
So I figured since he was willing to throw that out in the conversation-o-sphere, I would toss one back and I asked him, “How do you know you aren’t gay?” Complete with an eye roll, sigh combo, he replied, “Mom, a person knows these things. You just feel it. I don’t feel that I like boys. I like girls.”
I asked him if he had any other questions, after all we had tackled the dreaded where babies come from talk after Michael Jackson died (thanks news media for focusing so much on whether or not he was the biological father of his children), but he didn’t. He told me that if he did have a question about gay stuff, he’d ask a gay person.
But if he needs a book about gay stuff, I got one or two here just in case.