'The talk,' the Socratic-Sicilian way

“Use the Socratic method when having the birds-and-bees chat with your child,” advised an earnest article recently published in a reputable magazine. “Ask your child ‘When do you think is a good time to have sex?’ 

I paused after I read this line.

I grew up in a cynical old-time Brooklyn household. The Socratic method, now that I think about it, was often employed in our family. The Socratic method was, I believe, instinctively passed down through our Sicilian family, although it was slightly altered from the original Greek give-and-take method of discourse.

For example, you’d say to your sister, who’d just set the table and put the food out for dinner, “Try this soup.” You’d insist and she’d decline. Then you would say it again and again, insisting that she try the soup. Finally, she’d impatiently agree and ask, “Where’s the spoon?” and you’d go “AHA!” in triumph because that was the point you were making the whole time. There was no spoon. She had neglected to give you appropriate cutlery.

It was Socratic method in action without being defined as such.

But nobody would have used it, or any other method, to discuss the birds-and-bees.

First of all, talking about sex was not something anybody did.

Second of all, if you were going to talk about sex, which nobody did, you would never use the phrase “the birds-and-bees.” What are you, a gardener?

But haven’t times changed? In 2014, does advice about having a straightforward talk with your kids about sex still need to peek out coyly from behind a modesty curtain hung between John James Audubon (artist and ornithologist) and Burt Shavitz (who owned Burt’s Bees before Clorox bought the company for $925 million a few years back)?

Misinformation about sex is just about as pernicious as no information about sex. Both are worse than having lots of information about sex. The wised-up guys and girls never got into “trouble” because they knew what they were doing.

The poor souls whose families were too cowardly or whose schools were too constrained to teach them anything about sex were the ones most truly at risk.

It was my mother who told me about how children are conceived and how bodies worked. I’ve always been grateful to her, especially since nobody else in our family would have approved of her honesty.

When is a good time to have sex? After you both understand what kind of decision you’re making and fully accept the consequences.

And that’s the right answer at any age.

Gina Barreca is a columnist for the Hartford Courant.

Gina Barreca is an English professor at the University of Connecticut, a feminist scholar who has written eight books, and a columnist for the Hartford Courant. She can be reached through her www.ginabarreca.com.