Simon Norman

SIMON NORMAN’s mum wants to hear all about his ladyfriend and talk about sex.

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I’ll start as I mean to go on this term: answering all the big questions.

So what is the meaning of life? Normally, people give unsatisfactory answers to this question: to reproduce, to make yourself happy, or to make other people happy. These people are wrong. Actually, the answer is: “to do better than your parents ever have done.”

This is an attractive solution to the meaning of life, for it implies some sort of progression. It also appeals to an innate sense of childhood that purports that your parents just don’t understand. It gives us a reason to demand that we should be richer and more socially acceptable than our genetic forbearers, with their rags-to-middle-class story and their accept-that-you’re-shit-at-sports attitude.

The thing I feel that I most need to improve upon from my parents is their ability to convey the facts of life. I’ve watched a lot of teen-movies in my time (as I’m sure you have), so I know there are a lot of different types of ‘birds and the bees’ convos. There’s the classic father-son sit down, involving an awkward conversation and pat on the back. There’s the overeager mother who bustles in with props and leaves a brown paper bag of condoms on the bed “just in case”. There’s the authoritarian priest who preaches abstinence. There’s the new age hippie who preaches openness and free love. My parents are none of the above.

Now if you’ve ever heard the phrase: “the best of both worlds”, then I hope you can recognise that there is a corollary to this: “the worst of both worlds” (case study: the LibDem/Conservative coalition case). This is what happened to me when my parents stopped believing I might be gay and moved on to pestering me with gushing remarks about my female friends. I never had a proper sit down discussion with either of my parents but suddenly, over the course of two weeks, conversations at the dinner table were steered down a road none of us really wanted to take.

Over one particularly awkward meal, my mother decided to come straight out with it and asked: “Have you got a special lady friend?” I was 12 years old. Was it really necessary to have this discussion when I was still a couple of years away from my voice breaking, let alone my first pubic hair? Thankfully my red face convinced my stoic father that this wasn’t the best topic, and so he moved on to discussion of accountancy or trust funds or something.

Unfortunately, this incident occurred just a week before my grandparents came to stay. After a week of their visit, I knew more about my grandparents’ sex life at the age 12 than I do about my own sex life at the age 20. “Don’t worry, it’s perfectly natural,” they said. “Don’t worry, old people have sex too,” they said. Worry? They thought I worried about whether their sex life was adequate?

I’ve had some mortifying conversations in my life, but learning about post-vasectomy sex ranks right up there. I was 12, for God’s sake. Things I cared about as a 12 year old included: the plot of Dragonball Z, homework, and whether or not Ms Morrisson was actually allergic to orange peel. Not the possibility of sex after the age 60.

I suppose I should be grateful they didn’t bring the discussion back up when my grandpa went for a hip replacement the next year.