There comes a time in every man's life when he must sit down with his son and talk about the birds and the bees and -- if the kid really pushes it -- say a few words about sex, too.
This time arrived for me the other day with the realization that my son Sean had just turned 10 and was entering fifth grade, where he'll be taking his first course in sex education.
Personally, I have always thought it was better for kids to learn about sex on the street, the way I did. Plus the odds are that the people on the street know way more about the subject than I do, and can answer any questions without the incessant leg twitching and nervous gales of laughter that I bring to the proceedings.
Nevertheless, my wife insisted I have a talk with the boy, and she can be very difficult to live with when you say no to her.
She gets this look in her eyes that is just . . . scary. It's sort of like . . . well, OK, here you go.
There is a scene in the movie "High Plains Drifter" where the innkeeper of the small western town being terrorized by outlaws curses the Clint Eastwood character and refuses to rent him a room.
Well. Clint Eastwood listens to this nonsense and you can almost see the meltdown going on inside his skull. First he scrunches up his face and then his eyes start to narrow, and pretty soon they're nothing but twin slits, and the whole time you're thinking: That innkeeper is a dead man.
Anyway, that's the kind of look my wife can throw your way, a look that can leave you backing slowly out of the room and thinking: Geez, she doesn't have a gun, does she?
So my son and I had our little talk and I . . . I guess it went OK.
The talk began with some general remarks on puberty and the changes his body would be going through in the next few years.
Already I was in way over my head, but Sean just kept talking and talking, telling me all sorts of neat stuff about glands and hormones and how they function.
It is absolutely incredible the amount of knowledge these kids absorb. You see them sitting glassy-eyed in front of the TV, watching a Pee-wee Herman movie or playing Nintendo, and you figure their brains are shot to hell -- and all of a sudden they're tossing around words like "testosterone" and "estrogen."
At times like these, I find myself thinking: Hmmm, maybe I was wrong. Maybe he won't end up in prison after all.
Soon, however, we were navigating trickier conversational shoals, veering into a rather unnerving Q&A session on specific sexual activity.
Now that we had arrived at the good stuff, my legs were twitching like twin pistons.
The experts recommend that you keep these discussions fairly concise, and not inundate the child with more information than he needs.
But there was absolutely no danger of that happening here, as I had very little information to impart except the most rudimentary observations, such as: It's probably a good idea to wear clean underwear wherever you go.
Sensing that more was demanded of me in the role of a father, I launched into a rambling monologue about what a man and a woman might do when they really, truly, swear-to-God love each other -- providing they're married, of course, and the lights are off and the doors are locked and the windows are bolted, and so on and so forth.
"That's disgusting!" Sean said when I was through.
"Yes, it is disgusting," I said. "At least it might seem that way now, but in a few years, you won't think it's so . . ."
Which is when the conversation -- and don't ask me how this happened -- veered off into: Jose Canseco.
You talk about changing horses in midstream. Here we are getting into some fairly steamy stuff -- at least for me -- and Sean bTC says: "Y'know, the A's should have never traded Canseco."
So there was a brief time out as we kicked the whole Canseco issue around, eventually arriving at this conclusion: The guy's a great ballplayer, but a certified head case.
One thing's for sure, I'd never throw him the keys to my Jeep and say: "Yo, Jose, you look bored. Take 'er out for a spin."
Anyway, it was at about this point that I decided to wrap things up. Little clues in Sean's body language suggested he was growing restless, particularly the way he kept standing up and leaving the room.
Still, I felt much better after our little talk was over.
That whole business with the testosterone, well, I just found that fascinating.