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This morning my colleague P treated us to a glorious impression of his 15 year old son, slightly worse for wear and trying to pass off being mouldy sodden drunk as ‘I ate a bad curry, Dad’. Apparently the young offender had been out with friends and got their hands on some booze. P wasn’t impressed but knew there wasn’t a whole lot of point punishing him just then. Apart from anything else the lad was green, sweating and well on his way to a punishment far greater than his annoyed if slightly bemused father could ever contrive. Faced with his son slumped in an armchair and slightly slurring ‘I’m fiiiine, Da’ in the optimistic belief that he could actually pull this off, P decided to engage him in a full length conversation just to see him squirm; I’m told this is one of the perks of fatherhood.

After a while, the conversation took a turn in which P asked if there were girls down there drinking with them. His son gingerly admitted to their presence. P said something along the lines of ‘well would you please be careful and don’t do anything silly, because you’re too young to be a father and I’m way too young to be a grandfather’. His son muttered something back at him and P decided to pursue it. He asked the lad if he needed any condoms and was greeted with the spectacle of his son writhing about on the chair and trying to fold his own limbs into himself in an effort to escape this mortifying question. P persevered until the desperate boy suddenly rooted about in his pocket and produced a condom which he waved about for a moment and squirreled away again. His father was both shocked and relieved.

This scene met with a lot of amusement and curiosity in the office. “Aspirational condom, if ever there was one”, “Ya, check the sell-by-date – dead giveaway”. When asked if he’d followed through and inquired whether his son had actually ever had sex and if he’d used protection, P said ‘Jesus, no! I couldn’t believe I actually got that much out of him!’.

I have since wondered just how common these sideways, awkward facts-of-life conversations  between father and son actually are? I had ‘the talk’ with my Mam quite early on and didn’t really have a problem asking her to explain things I didn’t understand. I don’t recall a specific conversation about contraception with her, good Catholic girls having no need for such things etc, but I think had I enquired frankly I’d have been told frankly. I’ve since spoken to other men about how and from whom they learned the facts of life and the existence of contraception. Both said they learned nothing either at home or at school about contraception. Nothing. “Most of it was innuendo from the lads. Just sniggers and stuff we saw on tv”.

What were readers’ experiences, the whos and whens? Do you believe girls and boys are treated differently when it comes to communicating sexual matters?

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