May 8, 2012
This is such a precarious subject to discuss with a teen that it is better you discuss with each other first which one of you will do it and especially if the teen is your daughter who stands to lose the most if things go wrong. So let’s get that first question out of the way. There is never a right time to tell a teen when it is all right to have sex, but what you can do is talk to her. This will not be easy as you don’t want to put distance between you and your teen, and this is probably your first discussion about sex.
• Talking together is the first step. Speak easily; don’t set up a particular time, but speak when you are alone in the sewing room or the kitchen, and tell her that the two of you should go out for a movie and some cake and cappuccino afterwards. Talk about the boyfriend she is so in love with. When you’re discussing the movie over dessert and you are both relaxed, tell her you want to talk about what is going on with her and the boyfriend. She will be naturally shy or embarrassed to talk with you about it but don’t let go.
• Tell her that you know she knows the clinical side of the birds and bees talk and have sex education classes, but you want to know from her if there is anything in particular she wants to know especially now that she has a special friend.
• Ask her what the two of them do when they go alone to a drive in movie or the cinema. Tell her that she is fifteen years old and that she is not ready yet or mature enough to have an adult relationship. It is also not legal and she is under age.
• Another writer’s opinion was that one could also tell them that they could kiss and cuddle and have intimate talks, but that is like putting them in a candy shop and expecting them not to eat anything. All that it does is that it escalates things.
• Don’t push the matter if she starts to get upset. Leave it for the time being and tell her the two of you will talk again. Do not bring out a box of condoms to turn the discussion in another direction as she will not be as easy as the first time you talked.
• Reassure her and tell her you know that she is a responsible girl, and that you will trust her to know the right thing to do – until she is older and can be more responsible for her actions.
When I read John Steinbeck’s novel in the 70s I immediately decided to buy another copy so I could one day leave each child a book. It was the most brilliant read for me for coming from South Africa and reading an epic novel set in the Salinas Valley in the 30s. It was Steinberg’s masterpiece after a long struggle to get published, even in New York. He returned to the Salinas Valley and wrote the book of his life. His descriptions of his characters are so detailed that I read some paragraphs several times. Here is a description of one of the characters.
Excerpt on page 5
“The man’s clothes were new – all of them, cheap and new. His gray cap was so new that the visor was still stiff and the button still on, not shapeless and bulged as it would be when it had served for a while all the various purposes of a cap – carrying sack, towel, handkerchief. His suit was of cheap gray hard cloth and so new that there were creases in the trousers.”
Grapes of Wrath is a masterpiece and filled with descriptions you read many times to savor the beauty and magic of his writing. You can see the images drifting before you, feel the hot sun beating down on your back, the dust in your mouth and the poverty in the man’s eye. But, it is the description of the turtle trying to cross the road on a scorching day in the Salinas Valley and sees a truck approaching which makes me read it several times. The excerpt is a few pages long; here is a fragment.
Excerpt on page 14
“And over the grass at the roadside a land turtle crawled, turning aside for nothing, dragging his high-domed shell over the grass. His hard legs and yellow nailed feet threshed slowly through the grass, but boosting and dragging his shell along. The barley beards slid off his shell, and the clover burrs fell on him and rolled to the ground. His horny beak was partly open, and his fierce, humorous eyes, under brows like fingernails, stared straight ahead.”
The book is chock full of vivid descriptions, and the story of the Joad family is so powerfully told that I read it every two years. As a writer I can only realize that kind of writing in my dreams. He is a master storyteller and will remain my number one author.