Taking the ‘Bate

April 27, 2014

As an adult, we must be prepared to handle any situation with grace and maturity whilst among a child-person.  They look up to us, they’re impressionable, they ask lots of questions.  Thankfully, I have no child-persons of my own, and here is another reason why:

In 1999, I joined my sister’s family for a night at the movies.  Her, her husband, her two young girls, and I watched the PG-13 rated remake of The Out-of-Towners.   There must have been nothing better on.

John Cleese, no!

John Cleese, no!


To allow my sister and her husband an opportunity to spend time alone together, I let them sit in the back as I sat between my 8- and 5-year old nieces near the front of the theater.

Maybe halfway through this movie, the main characters accidentally find themselves in a sex-addict meeting and the word “masturbation” was spoken frequently.  With each utterance, I flinched, hoping my innocent nieces weren’t paying attention.  I held my breath, wishing the scene would end quickly; however, it happened.

My oldest niece turned to me, gazed into my eyes, and whispered loudly, “Uncle Cary?”


“What’s masturbation?”

My face blanched.  I didn’t know what to say.  I wasn’t prepared.  As the pause became more and more awkward, the movie continued playing as my niece and I remained locked in each other’s gaze.  Her patiently awaiting an explanation; I mentally struggling for the right words.

Seriously.  I was frozen like this for a solid 120 - 180 seconds.

Seriously. I was frozen like this for a solid 120 – 180 seconds.


The most innocent explanation my panicked mind could come up with was, “It is what people did to give themselves pleasure,” but I didn’t say that.  With this planted in her mind, she would most likely think that eating her favorite foods, playing with her dolls, or shopping was masturbation.

"God, I'm so hungry, I could 'bate a horse."

“God, I’m so hungry, I could ‘bate a horse.”


In a moment of clarity, three perfect words scrolled into my head like the winning combination on a slot machine: Ask.  Your.  Mom.

Those three words spoken aloud immediately lifted the burden from my shoulders like a magical chant.  My niece gave me a small shrug, returned her focus on the movie, and my life avoided another potential catastrophe.

Let’s fast forward to two days later:

My sister called, rather upset with me.

It seems that my niece remembered to ask her mom what masturbation is; however, instead of saying, “When we were watching Out-of-Towners, a word in which I do not know the meaning was spoken.  They said, ‘masturbation.’  What is masturbation,” this innocent little girl removed all context from her inquiry, making me look like a villainous troublemaker by simply telling her Mom, “Uncle Cary wants me to ask you what masturbation means.”

Kids.  This is why I’m glad to have gay.