Before John, I dated Rocco for several years. We were Very Serious, I was In Love, and I was nineteen when we started dating. (Just as all of Rocco’s previous 4 girlfriends had been nineteen when they started dating. And no, he was not some sort of cryogenically frozen perma-nineteen-year-old. He just liked girls that age. Twenty-seven year old me sort of wishes she could go back and wave a GIGANTIC red flag in nineteen year old me’s face, but our science does not yet permit time travel. Sigh.)

Anyway, because we were Very Serious and I was In Love, we took trips together to meet each other’s parents. My parents are not very good with this (for the first several months after John and I got engaged, my mother would call every couple weeks and say “your father and I wanted to invite you- just you– to dinner to discuss some things about the wedding,” and it took a tearful breakdown on my part for it to occur to my mother that not inviting the man I was marrying to conversations about planning the wedding was probably a touch overcontrolling.) Rocco’s parents, on the other hand, are lovely people who were great to me- welcoming, friendly, full of funny heartwarming stories about Rocco as a nerdy flute-playing kid. They even let us sleep in the same bed. At their house! And we weren’t married! Scandal!

The thing I remember most, however, was when we went out to dinner the first time I met Rocco’s dad. He was in San Francisco for a business meeting and we took him to an Indonesian restaurant we thought was very edgy, and like a sport he tried every spicy fish-sauce laced thing we threw at him. Then, halfway through the meal, he started talking about how he met Rocco’s mother:

Rocco’s Dad: Well, I remember we went up to the lake house, and we were courting, and I really wanted to impress your mother, and so I decided we should go swimming.”

Pseudo: that sounds fun!

Rocco: snicker

Pseudo: what?

Rocco: just wait.

Rocco’s Dad: so I take this flying leap off the pier into the water, and in those days we wore tight bathing suits, none of these boxer short styles. And the water was so cold that it took my breath away, and my testicles shriveled up and crawled all the way inside my body, and all I could think about was how much I hoped your mother wouldn’t notice and think I was less of a man.

Pseudo (to self): did the father of the man with whom I am Very Serious and In Love just talk about his testicles? Um, maybe if I stuff seventeen bites worth of curry noodles into my mouth I can mask the agony I feel right now.)

All this by way of long backstory to illustrate my discomfort with discussing sexual things with men over sixty.

So you can imagine my anguish when my octogenarian, very distinguished, well-respected seminar professor yesterday said, with some glee, “did you know that in Second Life, you can buy genitals for your avatar? And you can go to adults-only islands to have sex with other avatars?

But it wasn’t until he said “and THEN! There are these characters called furries…” that I tuned out and didn’t reengage with the conversation for the rest of the seminar. Because frankly, a lowered class participation grade is sometimes worth it for the sake of self-preservation.

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