Bedecked In GoGo Boots, My Mom Ruled
The most important thing I learned about sex from my mom did not come from “the talk,” nor was it covered in a sex manual. My Catholic mom taught me something I later learned was called “sexual agency,” and she did it without ever mentioning or referring to sex. By sexual agency, I mean my mom gave me the confidence and the self-esteem to own my sexuality, my body, and every decision related to them, simply by being my role model. My mom’s sex life was mostly hidden from me, but her sexuality was a wide open book, encompassing her physical beauty, her moods, her affection for us, her sense of humor, and above all, her strength.
Even if you think you learned nothing about sex from your parents, I bet there’s a whole treasure trove of clues to your sexuality that you could trace back to them. Here’s what I got from my mom:
- Her power. It was well known among me and my four siblings that my mom wore the pants in the family. The barometer that measured our domestic bliss rose and fell with my moms moods. When she was happy the house will full of merriment, when she was pissed at my dad, the place was as sobering as a morgue. There was something queenly about her ability to wield power, and that sense of power plays a vital role in my own sexuality.
- Her courage. I would love to see what and who my mom would’ve turned out to be if she’d been born twenty years later. But she married young, during the Fifties, to escape a troubled family, and was thrust into the expected role of a post-war housewife and mother. But she was Catholic, and after five kids my mom finally mustered the courage to say to her priest (and my dad), “enough with your prohibition against birth control, you try raising five kids”, and finally got an IUD. I believe it was her own struggle that led her to ask our family doctor to put me on birth control (without ever divulging to me that she had done this, or that she knew I was sexually active). For this I owe my mother the biggest debt of gratitude, or I may well have become a mother at 16 rather than 32.
- Her style. I tried desperately to find one of my favorite photos of my mom: she and my dad are dressed for a cocktail party, he is wearing his signature nerdy Buddy Holly glasses, and she is decked out in GoGo boots, a mini skirt, and a bouffant. It was the late sixties, but the mom of my childhood could be glam by night, while always being my mom by day. (Sadly, I could not find the photo, but the iconic image above of Nancy Sinatra’s boots capture the period look very well.)
- Her beauty. It’s hard to imagine in this age of plastic surgery and celebrity cosmetics, but during my youth my sisters and I never received the message that we needed to pretty ourselves up to get a date, to feel attractive, or to fit in (ok, she did say if I kept biting my nails no one would marry me, but I have forgiven her for that). Mom was definitely no hippie, but she instilled in us a respect for our natural beauty, which in addition to becoming a key part of my self esteem, has certainly saved me countless hours in front of the mirror, not to mention bucket loads of money.
- Her secrets. Unlike my generation, who embrace the concept of “family bed” (much to the detriment of many couples’ sex lives), my parents never let us anywhere near their bed, which lent a certain mystique to what went on behind closed doors. And once, during the early days of cable TV, I came home from a date early to find my parents huddled 3 feet from the screen watching a porn movie. I loved, loved, loved the intrigue, which as an adult you quickly learn is a sure-fire recipe for sexual excitement.
So thanks mom! If any of you are interested in the studies done showing how teenage girls do do don’t develop a sense of sexual agency, I found an interesting dissertation on the subject.
- Catholic Guilt Version of Sex Ed
- Two Degrees of Separation from Kinsey
- Good Advice From Mom: Always Use Condoms
- Sexy, Sex Positive…Mom