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Sex education the South Park way...

OUR 11-year-old daughter has recently completed her first sex education class in school, or something like it. It's difficult to know exactly, as she doesn't seem to want to talk about it. "Go away," she says from behind her bedroom door – adding, in fact: "I don't want to talk about it."

Of course, we can't help but get tremendous amusement from her agony.

"It's about the changes that happen to your body," whispers my wife who's with me on the landing, mouthing the words 'changes' and 'body'.

"Shut UUUUP!" moans the door.

"The changes that happen to MY body?" I tease. "You mean how her 46-year-old dad is beginning to look a little like he may be expecting twins? Why on earth would they want to teach children that? No wonder she won't come out of her room."

A crack opens in the door. "I won't come out because you're ANNOYING me," she whines then disappears.

"She had to colour in the 'changes' on a picture," mocks my wife jovially.

"Crayon or pencil?" I say. "Cross-hatch or shading?"


The bedroom door bursts open and the girl growls as she pushes past and into the bathroom, where the door slams shut again: "DRAW. We had to DRAW on it," she says.

"I did something rather similar when I was her age," I say to my wife.

"Really?" she says. "Do tell."

"I drew 'changes' all over the people in my Irish reader. When the teacher found out, I was sent home with a note."

"In actual fact," I explain to my wife a little while later in the kitchen, where we're perched on stools on either side of the island, "I was given a book when I was around 12 years of age, called Boys Growing Up.

"The title of which you studiously chose to ignore," grins my wife.

"It WAS rather ironic," I say, ignoring her, "because the last thing in the world I wanted to know about was 'boys growing up'. I'd much rather have had a copy of Girls Growing Up, which is what I was far more fascinated by."

"Is that a fact," she says from where she's propping up her head with one elbow as I ramble on.

"But what I got instead," I say, "was this horrible book full of split anatomical drawings of all the whatsits and doohickeys and how all the bits of tubes were supposed to work."

"Doohickeys?" says my wife from under her eyebrows. "Really."

"Doohickeys," I say. "With little arrows going all over the place as well. I swear, it was like a cross between a butcher's window and an Ikea flat-pack assembly pamphlet."

"That," mutters my wife over her shoulder, "explains so much."

"Frankly," I say, "it was terrifying."

"Well," says my wife, "I suspect things have moved on a tad since then."

"I should hope so," I say. "I learned more about the difference between men and women from watching Benny Hill."

"Like I said," she mutters over her shoulder again, "that explains sooo much . . ."

"I wonder should we have some sort of extra chat, you know," I say, pointing upstairs with a little jab of my chin.

"If by 'we' you mean 'you'," says my wife, stifling what could be a smile, "then be my guest."

"Hmm. Come to think of it," I continue, "I don't actually recall having any sort of conversation with the boys about, you know, those sorts of things."

"Thank heavens," she says.

"I mean, drawing a few arrows and doohickeys with a crayon, on a handout with a cross-section of something that looks like a side of beef on it, that's hardly going to help protect the world from the scourge of STDs and teenage pregnancies."

A tall mop of hair suddenly passes through the kitchen on its way to the front door with a rucksack on its back. "I'm going out," it says in a voice disconcertingly deeper than my own.

"Wear a condom!" I yell after him.


"Jesus," he says. "I'm only going out to meet my friend Marcus." "Better safe than sorry," I say.

My wife glares at me. "Just bring a jacket in case it rains," she shouts as the front door slams.

"A jacket full of condoms," I mutter.

"Actually," she says as the house settles, "you did have 'a conversation' with the boys. At least, you did what you always do."

"And what's that?" I say.

"You followed each of them around the house and taunted them until they locked themselves in the bathroom," she says.

"That's not taunting," I tell her. "That's South Park, you know – 'When a man loves a woman, and a woman loves a man' . . ." I do the voice. ". . . 'Well, actually, sometimes the man doesn't really LOVE the woman? But he acts like he does because he wants to get a little action?' Chef sings it to Cartman," I say. "It's satire."

"Very helpful," she says weakly.

"You can learn an awful lot from South Park, you know," I say.

"So, if any of the kids have questions or concerns about sex, relationships or the way their bodies are suddenly changing like a scene from An American Werewolf in London, they should. . ."

"Consult the box set," I tell her.

"I think I'M going to go and lock myself in a room somewhere upstairs now," she says.

"I seem to have that effect on people," I say. "Okay, look. Perhaps sex education IS best left to the experts."

"Or anyone else but you," she says.

"Or. . . that," I surrender – but secretly, I'm terribly relieved to be off the hook.