The pics in this article are of my two kids. That being said, you might want to listen to this song, I Kissed A Girl by Katie Perry, if you're unfamiliar with it, before continuing with this post.
(Edit: The May 2008 was removed from YouTube, so here's another, if it ceases to work, try another on the 'net.)
I was pulling groceries out the back of my mini-van this weekend when my 12 year old daughter, Casie, yelled from the front seat, "Mom! How ya like this song?"
I could only hear the music and voice quality when I answered, "Sounds great!"
"I never heard words like this," she said excitedly. "What do you think?"
"Can't hear them from back here," I replied. "Come give me a hand."
"Ma, listen, she's singing she kissed a girl and she liked it."
Uh-huh, I thought. I said, "We'll listen to it on YouTube or Napster once we get in the house."
And we did. The words were a shocker and damn, I thought I was shock-proof by now. Great voice, catchy tune, and the kind of beat that makes you wanna dance. But the message, oh the message!
"Whaddya think, Mom?", she asked me, smiling. Smiling!
"I don't know yet, Casie," I answered honestly. "I'll have to think about it. What do you think of the words?"
"I don't know," she said.
"Do they make you want to kiss a girl?"
Her face frowned up. "Nooo..."
At the same time, I wonder. Kids are adventurous and don't always tell the truth about these things. The lyrics makes it sound innocent, inconsequential, and acceptable for any straight girl or young woman to cross the line into bisexuality. It hasn't even been out that long but she told me it's already at the top of the charts.
I entertain the idea that this song - and the copycat versions to come - will influence the thinking of the next generation of girls, much like Bill Clinton getting a blow job in the White House in the 90s made oral sex among teens acceptable. After Bill and Monica's behavior was publicized 24/7 in the news, all the therapists in our office heard more stories from our adolescent clients having oral sex. What used to be a very private act was downgraded to being no more important than a kiss between casual friends.
I have always had a strong belief that gender orientation is biologically programmed in us and we can no more force attraction to a specific gender than we can shift comfortably to being right-handed if we're lefties or vice versa.
As I listen again to this song and read the words on the video, I recall an all-girl sleepover party my daughter went to last summer. At 11, she was innocent enough to tell me everything.
"Ma, we were giving each other back massages, but one girl gave us butt massages."
"Yeah," she answered. "I got one too. It felt good."
I took a deep breath, and right or wrong, gave a push for the straight life. I said, "It'll feel a lot better when a boyfriend gives you one, when you get much older."
I hope I'm right that she's straight, because if her gender orientation is otherwise, my words could heap needless guilt and confusion on her.
"Trust me on this," I added. "If you are straight, and I really think you are, it will feel wonderful when a guy you really like or love does that, and a whole lot more great stuff to your body. Letting girls mess around with you now could confuse you, so until then, please don't let a girl touch you like that again, okay?"
She nodded and asked, "Is that girl bad?"
"Bad? No," I said. "She may have had someone do that to her and she liked it, so she did that to y'all... she probably doesn't know any better. Doesn't sound like any of you did. At any rate, don't be mean and bad mouth her. Gossip is a terrible thing. She may be straight, or one day she may not, but either way, she doesn't deserve to be mistreated."
In my family, there are damn few secrets and we talk about everything. I told my son in front of my daughter.
"That's some gay shit," he said loudly. "A butt massage! Damn."
Then he shook his head, smiling, as he visualized this. Casie giggled too.
"Xavier, you mean you never had a butt massage by one of you're homeboys at a pajama party?", I said jokingly.
"Hell no!", he yelled. "Casie, don't let no girl do that shit to you."
I knew his macho ass would say something like this. It was really interesting to watch my then 18 year old son take the role of a father to his little sister, and say in clear and decisive terms that this behavior was unacceptable.
I couldn't do it the way he did out of the slim fear that one day Casie could wake up and be a lesbian, and I didn't want to F up her head just in case that happens, as I've seen the pain it's caused others.
At the same time, I was glad he took the tough, black and white no gray areas role he did. I don't want her to be a bigot, but I also don't want her to embrace an anything goes, hedonistic lifestyle where she's straight, but if it feels good, does whatevah with anyone, particularly if she's had too much to drink at a party - which is what happened in the song, I Kissed A Girl, which normalizes that kind of lifestyle.
I mentioned the massage incident to a male relative and asked him if thought I handled the situation well. He's an evangelical Christian, but also a social worker. He was aghast. I wasn't terribly surprised.
"No! It wasn't enough! You should report this to the mother of the girl who had the sleepover! And we've got to have a long talk with Casie that this is evil and not God's way. It's a sin, and she has to know this."
"That's a bit heavy-handed, dontcha think? I mean, let's be honest. Kids do experiment, and what if she does turn out as a lesbian one day? She doesn't need all that baggage. It might also make her homophobic and a bigot."
He thought some kind of Biblical perspective and reinforcement was needed. I lied and said I'd think about it. Actually, I thought about homosexuality decades ago and concluded that God wouldn't have been so cruel as to make 5 or 10% of the population gay if he didn't intend them to be like that. I'm not ignorant to the biblical passages forbidding it, but how does anyone really know that the person who wrote them wasn't just sticking in his homophobic opinion?
In the end, I recall the words of man whom I once worked for. He said, "The water seeks it's own level." In other words, she will be what she will be, and aggressively or unconsciously, seek out people like herself.
I can only hope that my guidance influences her to postpone sexual activity until she's mature enough to at least know what her orientation is and not become confused by the anything goes barrage of messages... or become a bigot... or recklessly promiscuous in this hedonistic, materialistic world. I told her this.
"You are beautiful," I also tell her, "inside and out. Hang on to that."
She smiles, and it's the one thing I'm 99.9% sure she will always be.