My mom is a good Irish-Catholic, as such there are two rules every good Irish-Catholic lives by:

1. There’s no such thing as a good Irish-Catholic.

2. Good Irish-Catholics don’t talk about sex.

Let me first begin by stating that I am the youngest of 4 Irish twins and a 5 child family overall. No, I am not a quadruplet. Irish twins are siblings born less than a year apart. And my mother had 4 of them. And yes, she’s completely off her rocker.

That being said, my mother is also surprisingly liberal. A Kennedy Democrat of the old school. She believes in parity between the sexes and always encouraged me to “have my own life, make my own money, and depend on no man for no thing”. Only then, she taught me, can you be on equal footing in a relationship. And happy. And she is absolutely right (not that I would ever tell her that).

And she still has never spoken to me about sex.

My mom was too much of a prude to have the actual talk with any of us kids, but whenever the topic of teen pregnancy arose on the news, she was more than ready to mention what failed method of birth control we individually were: “Condom! Pill! Diaphragm! Rhythmmmmmmmm! IUD! And I still have no bloody idea how the hell that thing worked…which it didn’t! So what’s the moral of the story?”

“Just don’t do it”, we would reply in chorus.

Allow me to introduce myself: I am a Child of the Rhythm Method.

And it does no good to explain to my mother that most of those methods work perfectly well if you actually employ them. Needless to say, her liberalism only goes so far. But there is a fabulously scandalous story about how my mother had a nervous break down after I was born. Her doctor hospitalized her for two weeks under the diagnosis of “exhaustion”. Of course, to this day, she claims to have had her gallbladder out. Imagine the fun I had three years ago when she had it out again! I didn’t know they could grow back (I remark facetiously).

Oh, but the story gets better: After missing church for a good couple months, the parish priest, Fr. Scanlon, came to see my parents who were elbow deep in diapers, potty training, and sleep deprivation. He sat them down and, as gingerly as he could, asked them: “Jaysus! Margaret! Have you ever considered birth control?!”. Fr. Scanlon was a little on the liberal side himself.

All perfectly good stories to open up the conversation about the birds and the bees, the stork and what have you. But nope. Nothin’.

I thought my mom was going to give me the one-on-one sex talk when I turned 16. She was at her usual station, in the kitchen, baking for her own personal army, and I was at the table trying to do homework. She called out to me, I turned around, and she said we needed to have a talk. The dog picked up on something he didn’t like, and skeedaddled the hell outta there. I figured this was it, put down my pencil and gave her my attention.

“If there’s one thing you really need to know in life, this is it: always use real butter”.

My jaw hit the floor. Butter? For what? Sex?!

“Because I know they say margarine is better, but it just doesn’t have the same taste and texture, and if you want the God’s honest truth, lard is really the best thing for biscuits and pie crusts”.

So mom never did get around to the sex talk. Again, the ever good Catholic, she left it to the nuns. The women who practice virginity as a part of their profession. Not such a good place to learn sex about if you ask me. However, a friend’s older sister was quite outspoken on the topic and she told me pretty much everything I needed to know to at least get through high school.

As my friends and siblings have kids and the kids grow up, I have been placed in numerous situations where I have been asked The Dreaded Sex Questions. And I’m not at all comfortable speaking about such things, but I’m often considered a “safe adult” for the children in my life to go to, and I wouldn’t trade that relationship for anything, so I suck it up and answer the best I can. This is not something I learned from my mother but in spite of my mother. I’m determined not to be hobbled by religious-inspired neutering of my adult-figure responsibilities.

However, I did learn some pretty important lessons about relationships and sex from my mom:

1. You can go to bed angry. In fact, you should if you’re tired and you have a mouth like mine. It’s just safer that way.

2. Your lover also needs to also be your business partner. Marriage is a business. Two people devoted to the success of that business should do alright.

3. Precious few problems are truly insurmountable. Fight like hell for the relationship to work.

4. Always be honest, and brutally so, with young people when they ask you about sex. You give up the right to be a prude about the subject the minute you decide to be a parent.

5. I don’t know if there’s a #5, but the one thing I learned all by myself is that birth control works perfectly well if you properly employ it.