It's my mom's fault. My inability to explain things to the kids with straight talk. My brother only wanted to know what the word "virgin" meant that summer evening while we ate dinner as a family in 1980. After a lengthy explanation where Mom described "purely driven snow", "virgin wool" and things that had never been touched, she asked him, "Now, Joe. Are you a virgin?"
He replied, "Nope. I'm a Gemini." He was eleven.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in the Salt Lake City airport waiting for my two oldest sons to board a Southwest flight to Denver. Because they're 12 and 10, I decided to forgo the $50 each way unaccompanied minor charge. They've flown many times with Chris and me, and were excited to travel alone to spend some time with their grandparents.
The boys didn't seem nervous, until I finished the Mom Pep-Talk.
"When you get on the plane, don't pick an empty row. You won't have control over who chooses to sit with you. You're small, clean and quiet so you'll be attractive seatmates to everyone. Do NOT sit next to a man. Any man. Not that all men are bad. It's just that the majority of crimes are committed by men. Look for a woman. A clean woman... with kids. But if she doesn't have kids with her, look for someone who looks like she probably has kids. Or an old person. Old women are usually very safe. You can sit by an older man as a last resort, but only if he's really old and doesn't look creepy. Not that you can tell if someone's creepy or bad by how they look. Because sometimes someone can look nice and clean, but they're creepy... don't worry about that right now. Avoid a large person if you can. Large people aren't bad, it's just an issue of personal space. Does that make sense to you? I don't mean to sound unkind... I'm talking Jabba the Hutt large, not normal large. You know, where they might leave some DNA on you. But look out for the slender people who are shedding skin or don't seem clean. It's a hygiene issue. Look for someone who has good hygiene regardless of their size. Know what I mean? It's important not to judge people by their appearance. Just look for a clean, mom-type woman... although women commit crimes too... just not as often. You'll be okay..."
I babbled and confused and worried them. They wanted to know what kind of crimes people would commit on an airplane. I explained I would hate for someone to lift one of their iPods.
Oldest Boy is a germaphobe like me and can now add to his growing pile of nightmares, the vision of a Jabba the Hutt-like person invading his personal space and sharing germ-ridden DNA, then stealing his iPod.
A woman, the clean kind with a handful of children, was in earshot of my terrifying pep-talk and instructions. She understood everything I was trying to convey to my sons and assured me she would keep an eye on them, even offering to sit with them if necessary.
The boys made it to Denver, had a great time, and returned safely with no tales of traumatic events [other than my pep-talk], no flesh-eating diseases, and all of their possessions. Oldest Boy told me he scouted the moms in the boarding area for the return flight and found one to sit with them. [He still listens to me and values what I say. Good news, bad news.]Oldest Boy and Middle Boy in Colorado - June 2010
In case anyone was wondering... I'm not a virgin either. I'm a Gemini.