Honesty is the Best Policy
ⓒ christina starr
Xtra! February 11, 1999
(Honorable Mention, Humor, North American Gay & Lesbian Journalism Awards)
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Honesty is the best policy. Or so most of us get guilted into thinking sometime in our lives. But just when you decide to have everything up front between you and your lover, you eventually have to explain why the bike courier chick always has time for coffee with you, especially when you seem to have so many things for rush delivery.
          I thought honesty was a good parenting policy when I started out as an eager-to-be-perfect mom. Kids need to have their questions answered, right? Not to mention that it
s way more ridiculous to tell her I found her in a cabbage patch than what really happens, especially since I dont even know if cabbage is grown in Canada.
          So we
ve talked about love and weve talked about divorce. Weve talked about the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, the president of the United States and the nasty premier of Ontario. Weve talked about god, goddesses, being queer, being straight and being in debt to Mastercard. But I never dreamed that talking about sex would include going over the contents of my sex toy box with her.
          I never intended it that way. But if you live your life openly, you have to expect that someone, even your innocent little daughter, might one day point to something and say
Whats that?
          And so it was one spring afternoon not long after her seventh birthday. Hanging over the edge of my bed, which is also pretty much hers, she dragged a very plain looking shoe box out from under and said,
Hey, whats this?
          With her natural curiosity, I was sure she would pull everything out and want a detailed explanation of it all, right there. I hummed and hesitated (how do you start lying to someone you
ve never lied to?). Then I said Thats mine and its private and I dont want to show it to you right now. To which of course she said, Why not? Just as my mouth was drying up and my palms were sweating and my mind was racing for some harmless fib, the doorbell rang.
          It was a good friend, someone my daughter likes immensely, just dropping by to see if we were home. So for the moment the subject was dropped. Either the goddess of sex toys or the goddess of honesty (I
m sure theyre not the same one) was watching over me that day.
          But the unexpected visit could only buy me time. The big down side to being honest is that when you say you don
t want to talk about something it kind of sticks out.
          My daughter asked me about the box again, and was especially curious to know why I couldn
t just answer her questions like I usually did. So I harnessed up my courage and told her that, okay, one day I would show her what was in it. I intended to get to there before her and remove some of the things I preferred not to explain. Not that I have a lot. I just wanted to avoid the silicon penises in non-human colours, if I could.
          But, bless her active little brain, she kept bringing it up and, one day after a kid-free weekend, I mistakenly thought that not everything had been put back. So I agreed to talk to her. She pulled out the box, opened it up, and with a sinking heart I realized that all was accounted for.
          One of the interesting things about having a child is that you never know how they
re going to see things. They dont make the same assumptions an adult would. Grabbing a dildo by its, er, shaft, she placed it balls-side down on the carpet and said gleefully, Its a dogs foot!
          Then she marched it around the bedroom floor much in the way you
d expect a one-legged dog to walk. I was caught between the sweet relief of not having to explain what it really was and a huge reluctance to let her to go on thinking that I kept a collection of rubber dogs feet under my bed in a private box.
          Fortunately, she resolved my dilemma. Mid doggie-step, she said
No its not, its a penis! So then we had to talk about how some girls might want to pretend to be boys sometimes, or pretend to have a penis. I thought we were over the worst when she pulled out the harness. I explained it as a piece of sexy clothing. But shes no dummy, especially not since so many educational toys teach even little wee babies how to match shapes to holes.
I get it, she said confidently as she shoved the hole in the harness over the end of the dildo, this goes in here. It amazed me how easily she handled everything. She could work in a sex toy store. 
          Finally her curiosity was satisfied and we put everything away. This hands-on part of her sex education was over, thank god.
          Contrary to conservative fears about sex education, she wasn
t immediately corrupted by the information and didnt go out the next day to buy her own set. If anything, shes been kind of helpful. On Pride Day that year when the subject of sex toys inevitably came up, a friend mentioned wanting to get a new one. My seven-year-old daughter overheard the comment and stopped her sidewalk skipping long enough to say, Well you should buy it at the fair. 
          I couldn
t have made a better suggestion.

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If you live your life openly you have to expect that someone, even your innocent little daughter, might one day point to something and say "What's that?".