I talked to my parents about a lot of things. They were that kind of parent. They didn’t judge and didn’t come down hard on me when I’d done something they didn’t approve of. All they did was talk to me and help me solve problems. If I’d done something they thought I shouldn’t have, they gave me consequences that made sense.
Sometimes they didn’t even give me a consequence, because whatever I’d done came with built-in punishment, like when I was seven and stole a candy bar from a grocery store. My parents didn’t punish me, exactly. Instead, Mom took me back to the store, found a manager, and made me pay for the candy bar and return it, since I hadn’t eaten it yet. Admitting to a total stranger that I’d stolen, and losing even a little bit of my allowance, did a lot more than grounding me or something would have. I hadn’t stolen anything since.
My parents were awesome, but I didn’t know if I should talk to Dad about this. He might not really want to hear it.
“Relationships just bug me.” I paused. “I don’t mean bug. I mean… You know, this isn’t as easy to explain as I’d hoped.”
“Try again.” He probably had a pretty good idea of what I meant, but he wouldn’t fill in words for me.
“I don’t have a problem with other people’s relationships. I just don’t want one of my own.” I started paying a lot of attention to the dishes in the sink, because focusing on something else made it easier to talk than looking at Dad. “I don’t understand why people want to pair up. I mean, why go to all the trouble when you can just be friends and not have to deal with fighting and messes and stuff?”
“Messes?” He chuckled. “You mean emotional or you mean the wet spot?”
“A little bit of both.” Dad joking about sex didn’t bother me. Like I said, my parents didn’t think teens should have sex, but they were realistic enough to know it happened and were open about discussing it. “Okay, let’s start there. Why do people have sex anyway?”
“It feels good,” he said. “And when you’re with someone you really care about, it strengthens the connection between you. People enjoy being close to each other, physically and emotionally, and sex is a way to be close to someone you’re in love with.”
“Okay. Why do people want to be in love with each other?”
“Wow.” He paused. I still didn’t look at him. “I don’t really know how to answer you, Shane. I’m going to have to think about that one.”
“Okay.” When my parents said they’d think about something, they actually did. Sometimes they came up with an answer after Tyler or I had forgotten we’d asked a question. Dad might not be able to answer this one, but if he couldn’t, he would at least say so.
“Shane, I need to ask you something,” he said. “I hope you’ll try to answer. If you can’t answer, it’s fine, just tell me.”
“Okay.” I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear his question. My chest got a little tight and I held my breath waiting to hear what he would say. I kept working on the dishes, even though they were pretty clean by now.
“I’ve never heard you talk about a girlfriend. I thought for a while maybe you were gay and weren’t ready to accept it yet, or maybe you just weren’t ready to tell us. Now, after what you just said, I have to wonder. Do you think this is something that will change as you get older? The not wanting or understanding romantic relationships, I mean.”
I held up a finger to let him know I wanted to think before I spoke. As much as I wanted to avoid the question, I would answer it. I just had to figure out how.