Dear Prudence is a fantastic column that answers some of life's most important questions: What do you do when an annoying co-worker asks you to pass along a resume? What's the proper way to get someone to move out? And of course: How do you talk to your daughter about catching her en flagrante with a hand mixer? Man, Prudie's got her job cut out for her.
Here's the question from a distraught mother dealing with her daughter's blossoming sexuality for the first time:
My sister recently moved back to town. I've always been the serious one, and she's more of a Holly Golightly free spirit. Despite this, we get along well. She adores our daughter, and has been a readily available sitter and chauffeur. She also seems to be acting as the big sister our daughter never had, and I wouldn't be surprised if our daughter told her aunt things she doesn't tell us. This weekend, I came home to hear a commotion in the kitchen and found my daughter holding the hand mixer against her body. Embarrassed, she said her aunt had "taught her this trick." Now, I can easily imagine she may have just thrown that out as an inappropriate joke, but I wouldn't put it past her to have meant it seriously. Obviously, our daughter wouldn't be the first 13-year-old girl put in an awkward situation to lie, either. I really think this kind of thing needs to stay between mother and daughter. Should I confront my sister about this or just let it go?
This is actually a really difficult question. How do you talk to a teenager (and/or the person who is helping her discuss her sexuality) about what's appropriate and not appropriate? My parents talked to me about sex once when I was seven and then didn't talk to me about it again until I was in my 20s and their marriage began falling apart (uh-oh). And I know I would have been embarrassed if one of my parental units came into my room and gently said "mark, we need to talk about the low quality photos you've been printing with our bubblejet."
The thing about Emily Yoffe, though, the woman who writes the column, is that she gives excellent advice. And even though some claim that her questions are written by trolls (just like the school newspaper in eighth grade!), she still does her best to provide the best answer she can. In this case, starts with a mom joke about breakfast and then just goes to town:
Talk about scrambled eggs! And if your daughter has a sudden interest in doing the laundry, maybe it's because Holly told her to hop aboard the washing machine when it's in the spin cycle... It's good that you've decided not to pry into exactly what these two discuss. I understand you're concerned about the repurposing of the appliances, but because the question of blender self-pleasure is going to be a horribly embarrassing one to bring up to your daughter, I think it's fine to broach this with your sister... Say your daughter explained you gave her the kitchen tips, and you just wanted to check in with her about this...It could well be that your daughter point blank asked her auntie for masturbation tips, and that's OK. I doubt you would have come up with a better one. If that's the case, gently tell your sister that you appreciate your daughter has found a confidante in her, but that you would appreciate in general that in the future if there's stuff going on that you should know about, to please give you a heads up.
Man, those jokes. While many may scoff at Prudence's assertion that the mother in this scenario wouldn't have come up with a better solution than a hand mixer (they're so loud, they're so shaky, they're so 1950s), I do like that she offers alternatives such as the spin cycle. And while I agree that appliance-repurposing is a concern for this mother, I doubt that that's really what she was writing about. Still, any advice columnist who makes it clear that frank and open (and humorous) discussion about sex should occur is doing a good job by the teenagers of America. Of course, I'm also glad that my own parents didn't have this advice because my dad's idea of telling me about sex was giving me a top ten list of why spirited sexual congress is better than the Whopper I was eating in the middle of a burger king. (It isn't though.)
The one surprising thing Prudence doesn't offer, however, is advice on how to deal with the subject of someone rudely using an appliance meant for the whole family for one's own personal satisfaction. In fact, Kelly Faircloth had this to say about Prudence's answer:
I feel like it's very rude to put your vagina on a household appliance without cleaning it afterward and felt that should have been addressed, in a column of manners.
Well, you can't please everyone.
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