|photo by Jacki Harp|
You see, my grandfather is special. He is not one of those old men who is stifled by a world of change. He likes new ideas, he is youthful in spirit and enjoys thinking outside of tradition, especially when it comes to sexuality.
When I was 19, in college with a long distance boyfriend, my grandmother called my dorm room to have a heart to heart with me. She warned me against "giving in to the chemistry of my emotions." She said it was best to wait until you are married before you have sex, because then you don't have anyone to compare the love of your life to. She also mentioned she had some close calls with Pawpaw, but she was proud to say that they waited until they were married to make love. In fact, she does not use or like the phrase "have sex" which she literally make her hiss when she says it. She talks about intercourse by always using the phrase, "make love." She is a pure soul, sweet and kind. Pawpaw thinks of sex a little bit differently. For example, Pawpaw uses a lot of interesting phrases to describe sex that my grandmother really does not care for like, "Going out to the barn", "Flappin' the sheets", and "Trying on your shoes." This is where my story begins.
When my dad died I was 21 and Pawpaw thought that he was going to have to take over where my dad left off. The thing was, Daddy didn't spend any time educating me about sex. His answer was, "no" and that is all that needed to be said. Pawpaw, wanted to be sure I was being properly advised into adulthood. Seeing as I was already an old maid (my grandmother married him at age 19 so my clock was ticking), he needed to teach me about the birds and the bees before it was too late. I have spent nearly every Friday afternoon with them since I was 19, so there was ample opportunity to take time to talk about sex.
I've heard a lot of Pawpaw's stories over the years. Most of them start with him staring out in space for a moment, perched in his easy-boy, then like a light bulb goes off, he would start with, "You stay out in the world long enough, you are bound to run across some interesting things..." These stories were often about his circumnavigation of the world during WWII. He has plenty of stories, all shocking in nature, not always about him, but almost always about sex in some way. These stories opened the door to many conversations about sadomasochism, domination, rape, prostitution, you name it. Once you crack that door open with your grandfather, pretty much all bets are off and you can talk about anything. For example, if you ask him, my grandmother invented the whole "answering the door in cellophane" deal.
After Joel and I were married for a couple of months, Pawpaw called and asked us to come visit. Somehow he shooed BJ (my grandmother, no pun intended) out of the room and stared at us from the easy-chair.
"Well, how is it going? You two figuring everything out?"
We both giggled and said we were not having any problems which apparently was not convincing.
"Are you able to find the zizz-wheels?" He looked right at Joel.
At this point, we both laughed and said we had no idea what he was talking about, which concerned him all the more. So he began...
"All women have two zizz-wheels. One is at the base of the pelvis and one is behind the bellybutton. God made it this way so that they could be stimulated by all different sized penises. The one at the base of the pelvis is for short penises and the one behind the bellybutton is for long penises (He sticks his palm up and starts to wiggle his middle finger in the air like he is fondling some imaginary vagina). Which one have you found?"
I told Pawpaw I thought we must have found both. He declared, "Well, now we know what Joel is working with!" He smiled real big and then frowned. "This is serious. Your grandmother and I got lucky. We didn't have sex until we were married and we were fortunate to find out that we had good chemistry. I have lots of friends who have had terrible marriages because nothing was ever quite right in the bedroom. This is why you have to try on your shoes before you buy them. If everything is OK in the bedroom then everything is going to be OK during all those other times that get hard."
"Your grandmother and I have had a successful marriage because we are exact opposites. What has always kept us together is that everything is always good in the bedroom. It is really important to make love to each other as much as you can. You have to keep it interesting too. The best thing is the world was coming home from a business trip and see her wrapped in cellophane standing at the door. I just put my briefcase down right there on the stoop and followed her inside. That is the sort of thing that keeps a marriage strong."
He made us promise that we would make love often and try new things. He offered that since we had found the zizz-wheels that he reckoned we got lucky too. Then, BJ walked in.
"What are yall talking about so intently? Bill, you look like you are doing something wrong." I answered that Pawpaw was telling us about zizz-wheels, but the look on his face said "shut the hell up." She big-eyed him and said, "I don't know what a zizz-wheel is." I laughed and said that Pawpaw should probably explain it and his expression got even more serious. BJ asked him what it was and he said he was just making sure everything was going OK in the bedroom. She didn't even think about it, "Well, what kind of grandfather talks to his grandchildren about such a thing!?"
We changed the subject pretty quickly which meant that Pawpaw started telling the classic story about the morning after their wedding night when BJ saw his flaccid penis and asked if she "used it all up but that." She HATES when he tells that story but it ALWAYS gets a laugh out of people and that is the most important thing to Pawpaw when he was changing the subject.
A few years later, sitting on his red couch staring at him in the easy-chair, he had that glazed over look and I knew he was about to tell me something important.
" Sure enough I think we have done young people wrong for generations. There just aint nothing good coming of making young people wait to have sex until there married. I really believe that it is more important to try on your shoes before you buy'em. There have just been too many failed marriages and hurt people out there because they think everything is good and then they get in the bedroom and nothing works right. You have to have sexual chemistry to keep pushing through all the hard times. You might not agree with me, but I really think that we have done yall wrong. Look at all the divorces this day and age, people need to try on their shoes."
My grandfather just turned 88 and has been married to my grandmother for 65 years this June. He has traveled around the world, fought in gruesome wars, traveled the country as a salesman, raised three sons, one of whom was severely autistic, and somehow survived watching two of his three boys die. He has experienced a lot of the world, a lot of pain, a lot of joy and at the end of the day, I think he knows what he is talking about.
I don't know if you have found the zizz-wheels or not and maybe you don't think people should go around trying on their shoes, but I think it is pretty cool that I have a grandpa that cares about my sex life enough to talk to me about it. No matter what he says, I found it to be a gesture of great love to sit us down and make sure we have figured everything out in the bedroom.
In this world of sexually taboo everything, it was refreshing to know that my Pawpaw isn't scared to talk about something that he thinks matters a lot. What would the world be like if all grandparents did this? Can you imagine?
Here's to trying on your shoes and flappin' the sheets!