It all started out with an innocent seeming question.
“Dad,” Miss9 asked in the car back from her auntie’s this morning, “why do boys grow beards?”
Her and Master11 had spent a couple of nights keeping their cousins company, so you never quite know where a conversation is going. Or coming from.
“Some men grow facial hair as a fashion statement,” I told her. “They like how they look with a Tom Sellick or a Grizzly Adams.” Or a Mr Miyagi or a Merv Hughes or a Zach Gilifianakis or a Chad Kroeger or a Seneca Crane or a Mr T or a Captain Jack Sparrow or a Rubeus Hagrid or an Obi-Wan or a Ming The Merciless. “Some men just don’t like to shave. Some men are too lazy to shave.” My hand instinctively raised itself to the whiskers on my chin. Tracey was going to start hassling me if I didn’t do something about that tomorrow. For some reason she doesn’t like using me to exfoliate. “Like me at the moment. I hate shaving. Some men just grow them because they can. Just like women don’t grow them because they can’t.”
Clear as mud. And that was when the conversation kind of got away on me.
“Unless they’re bisexual,” said Miss9.
“Wha…?” I stammered, forgetting the road for a second and trying to find her in the rear vision mirror. “Did you say bisexual?” I asked over my shoulder.
“Well…then, no,” I said, trying to focus on the road again and simultaneously round up my thoughts, which she’d just spooked so bad they were running all over the place, and work out how this fit into the scheme of things. “Being bisexual doesn’t mean you can grow a beard. Bisexual is about who you like, boys or girls. Beards are about hormones.” I was guessing here, having never done any beard related research. It was sounding reasonable though, I thought. “Men have the hormones which allow them to grow beards, and women don’t.” And because I was losing ground in this argument anyway, I added, “Most women.” Then I asked the question I should have perhaps started with. “Why all this sudden interest in bisexuals? What do you know about it?”
“Nothing,” said Miss9.
“Really?” I asked doubtfully.
“It’s just we were watching a film last night and it didn’t end the way we thought it would.”
“That’s right,” said Master11, entering the conversation. “You think the boy and the girl are going to kiss, but she kisses a girl instead.”
“And a guy says, ‘I told you she was a lesbian,'” added Miss9.
“And then she says, ‘No, I’m not. I’m bisexual,'” continued Master11.
“And then they all end up kissing each other.”
“The three of them,” said Master11 in a tone which said he didn’t think this was on at all.
And to be fair, Disney doesn’t prepare young kids for this stuff. Which sort of begged the question…
“What the hell movie were you watching?” I wanted to know.
“Dodgeball,” they answered in unison.
Bearing in mind this was a movie they’d watched the previous night, it was obviously something which was playing on their minds.
I tried to remember something from the film. I couldn’t recall overly enjoying it, although I knew it was supposed to be a comedy.
“The one with a pirate?” I asked.
“Yeah,” said Master11.
“And the bisexuals,” added Miss9.
So for the remainder of our drive home the conversation was about as far from ‘did you have fun on the trampoline?’ and ‘did you swim in the pool?’ as I could have predicted when I’d left the house to go pick them up. I’m not recommending you do a search on Presto or Netflix and break out the popcorn, but as parents we don’t always get to choose when we talk about these things with our children. Sometimes you just have to roll with it.
So we discussed the idea of attraction between boys & girls, and boys & boys, and girls & girls, and boys & girls with both boys & girls. Not that we haven’t been there before on much of this – Miss9 & Master11 both took it upon themselves to write to the Prime Minister last year about marriage equality – but as they get older there’s bound to be more and more questions which need answering. Our position is you answer them when they’re asking, and you answer honestly. And the honest answer is, it’s up to the individual to decide who they like. Most boys like girls. Most girls like boys. But that doesn’t hold true for everyone. I even touched on transgender issues, partly because once I start I struggle to stop, but mostly because they need to know this isn’t something to fear or balk at or point at. It’s just the way some people are.
Five minutes later we arrived home, and they seemed fine with the world again.
“Anything else you want to ask?” I said as I prepared to open the car door. I’m not saying I was traumatised or anything silly, but I was suddenly keen to race upstairs and strike up a conversation with the four or six year olds about Barbie.
“Just one thing,” said Miss9, and I stopped with one foot out the door.
“Go on,” I sighed, resigning myself to what was coming.
“Why do some men grow those really thin moustaches under their noses?” she asked. The classic Bryan Ferry or Errol Flynn.
Finally, something I felt totally qualified to comment on. Only…
“I’m sorry, love,” I told her, suddenly having an epiphany right there on Gympie Connection Rd and realising it isn’t any of my business why guys would choose to have that awful bit of pencil-line facial hair above their lip. “I don’t know. I guess they just like what they like.”
And as I told my kids, there’s nothing wrong with that.
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Raising a family on little more than laughs.