First, my apologies for the Radio silence on Thursday. Sometimes even I need a day to recover from life. Thursday was one of those days.
But, I am back in action today with something a little different. I've found myself thinking a great deal about acculturation. You know, the process where little kids learn about how their culture works. We do it everyday by telling kids what actions are good and bad; by rewarding them for good actions and punishing them for bad ones.
We also teach kids how to act through our own actions. One of these actions being storytelling. We tell our kids stories or read them stories. The topic of the stories often have morals that we're trying to portray. A common moral for these stories is: someday you are going to fall in love with one person and be with them forever. (And a lot of them are like 'when you're a lady, you're helpless but some faceless dude will come save you and THAT will be the person you're with for the rest of your life).
It makes me stop and wonder what life would be like if we had different stories for children. So I wrote one. I'm thinking it's more a late-childhood story, but I don't usually write for people who are younger than teens, so I have no idea if they'd get the moral. In any case, I thought I'd take a swing, and here it is.
The Chicken Man
Once upon a time there was a beautiful girl named Parker who grew up in a small village next to a river. Parker lived with her mother, father, and 3 brothers. Parker and her family ran a small inn where weary travelers could go to rest their heads and fill their bellies. Parker liked working in the inn because she got to meet a whole bunch of interesting people.
One time, a man with a boat full of 700 chickens stayed in the inn. When Parker found out about his cargo, she said to him “I will call you the Chicken Man”. The Chicken Man was very handsome and also very nice. He smiled at Parker and said “Then that will be my name.” Parker grinned a wide grin and noticed that her mother was also grinning at the Chicken Man.
That night, Parker thought that she would bring an extra glass of water to the Chicken Man because he had been so nice to her. She knocked on the door to his room. No one answered, so she slowly peeked her head in to make sure he was all right. Instead of the Chicken Man, her father was sitting on the bed, reading a book. She was so surprised that she dropped the glass on the floor.
“Father,” Parker said, “Why are you staying in the Chicken Man’s room? And where is the Chicken Man?”
Parker’s father looked at her for a moment. Parker was almost 13 years old. She had started her monthly bleeds over a year ago and her breasts and hips were starting to fill out. She watched her father look at her until he said “Parker, it is time you know how love really works.”
“But father” said Parker “you’ve already told me of love. Was everything you told me a lie?”
“No, child” said Parker’s father “but I did not tell you the whole story because you weren’t of an age where you would understand. I think that you are old enough now. Would you like to learn?”
Parker nodded her head and sat with her father on the bed.
“If I am in the Chicken Man’s room right now,” Parker’s father asked “where do you think the Chicken Man is?”
Parker thought long and hard. She figured he wasn’t at his boat. It was too cold and all those chickens must be really loud. She figured he wasn’t in the dining area. She had just cleaned that up and it was empty. She figured he wasn’t in the washroom. She had seen one of her brothers go in there with a book. He’d be there for a while. She thought and thought and thought, and then it finally dawned on her.
“If you are here, the Chicken Man must be in your bedroom with Mother,” she said.
Her father smiled at Parker, and she felt proud of herself for being so bright. Then, Parker got confused.
“Wait a second,” Parker said “Why is Mother in your bedroom with the Chicken Man?”
“What do you already know about love?” asked Parker’s father.
Parker repeated what her father had told her many times, “Mother is the love of your life. You care for her more than anyone. Well, except for my brothers and me. The only person that you want to share the rest of your life with is her. You like seeing her and being around her very very very much. And she feels the same way about you.”
“That” said Parker’s father “is emotional love. But there is another kind of love called ‘physical love’.”
Parker’s brow rumpled in confusion. “What is the difference?” Parker asked.
Parker’s father smiled and asked, “When you look at Jared from three cottages down, how do you feel?”
Parker’s face turned red from her chin to the roots of her hair. Jared was tall, had dark hair, and could climb a tree higher than any other kid in the village. How could her father know that looking at Jared made her heart race and her stomach do loops? She had never talked to Jared in person, but she wondered if her father knew that she thought about Jared and touched herself.
Before she could say all this out loud, her father said, “What you feel when you look at Jared are the pangs of physical love.” He told Parker that ‘lust’ was another word for physical love. Lust was when you wanted to rub and touch and sometimes have sex with another person.
“Do you and Mother have lust for each other?” asked Parker.
“Very much, Parker,” said Parker’s father. “But sometimes we also have lust for other people.”
“I always thought that once someone fell in love that they didn’t feel lust for other people,” Parker said, confused.
“I think it would be easier that way, sometimes,” said Parker’s father “But, the idea of two people falling in love and then NEVER feeling lust for anyone else is a fairy tale. Even when you love someone as much as I love your mother, sometimes you still feel lust for other people.”
“But shouldn’t you just ignore those feelings? Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do when you love someone?” asked Parker.
“Some people try to be in love that way,” said Parker’s father “For some, it works and they are happy. For others, they find lust to be too powerful and they rub or touch or have sex with another anyway. When their love finds out, they can be hurt or sad or they can fall out of love. Your mother and I decided that we would rather tell each other first. This way, if we are feeling hurt or sad, we can tell each other before we fall out of love.”
“But when you have lust and you rub or touch or have sex with someone that isn’t Mother, do you love Mother less?” asked Parker.
“No Parker,” said Parker’s father, “When I have lust for other people, it is usually only lust. After I rub or touch or have sex with other people, I am still very much in love with your Mother.”
Parker thought and thought and thought and then said, “So mother is feeling lust for the Chicken Man. And that is why she and the Chicken Man are in a room together. That is why you are in the Chicken Man’s room.”
“You are a very smart girl, Parker,” said Parker’s father. “Do you have any other questions?”
“Yes. Let’s say Jared and I fall in love. Does that mean I could still lust after and rub or touch or have sex with Adrian from the market?” Asked Parker.
Parker’s father laughed loudly and smiled deeply at Parker. “Yes. But you would have to have lots of talks with Jared first,” said Parker’s father.
“What kinds of talks?” asked Parker.
“That, my love, is for another night. It is past your bedtime,” said Parker’s father.
As Parker went to bed, she thought about her mother and the Chicken Man. She understood a little better why her mother had been grinning at him so widely. She bet that her mother was still grinning.