Call me the pas­sion killer

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The rea­son I hate an­i­mals is be­cause I went out with so many as a teenager. Which is why, when my daugh­ter reached pu­berty, I wanted to ground her un­til she hit menopause.

When I was young, the gen­er­a­tion gap was Grand Cany­onesque. Our par­ents had no idea what we were get­ting up to. We were sex­u­ally ac­tive long be­fore we were emo­tion­ally or phys­i­cally ready. With no school sex ed­u­ca­tion, (in the ’70s, we only dis­cussed the word “pe­riod” if it was next to “Hel­lenic” or “Juras­sic”) sex­ual en­coun­ters proved about as re­lax­ing as am­a­teur ovar­ian cyst re­moval.

I was de­ter­mined to pro­tect my daugh­ter from sim­i­larly bad ex­pe­ri­ences. But how? One of the big­gest dilem­mas of mod­ern par­ent­ing must be when to al­low boyfriends to sleep over.

I had al­ways con­sid­ered my­self rather lib­eral. But the cur­rent trend for “mixed sleep overs” turned me into the Sex Nazi. Af­ter a night lis­ten­ing to mu­sic, kids of­ten just want to “crash out”. If they’ve missed the last train home and a par­ent won’t pick them up, you can’t ex­actly cast the pale youths out into the wilder­ness. I would put the girls and boys at sep­a­rate ends of the house, then pa­trol the cor­ri­dors with a cat­tle prod, just to make sure no­body was where they shouldn’t be.

But the real test comes when girls reach the age of con­sent. If your daugh­ter is in a sta­ble, long-term re­la­tion­ship, surely it’s prefer­able for her to be mak­ing love un­der your roof than in a cold car or dark park? Then you can also make sure that it’s safe and con­sen­sual. Post 16, if kids are con­tra­cepted and pro­tected, and emo­tion­ally ma­ture, who are you to stand in the way of them ly­ing down? The down­side is hav­ing to deal with daugh­ters’ beaus over break­fast.

Com­par­ing notes with other mums, it seems that when­ever our teenage daugh­ters are down in the dumps, they get them­selves a new boyfriend. Your eu­pho­ria when she breaks up with Spi­der, a gui­tarist who looks un­der-dressed without a ski mask, is short lived as she then im­me­di­ately takes up with Fang – a poet who keeps fit by do­ing step aer­o­bics off his own ego. Chook, Spi­der, Fang – your daugh­ter ob­vi­ously chooses all her boyfriends from some max­i­mum-se­cu­rity pet­ting zoo. But if you make the mis­take of whin­ing that her new bloke looks so much like a hard­ened crim­i­nal you’re send­ing off his photo to the FBI for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, the re­bel­lious minx will no doubt marry him.

No. A wily mother must re­sort to more in­no­va­tive steps to de­ter male suit­ors from stay­ing over too of­ten. I find play­ing Bar­tok at full vol­ume is very ef­fec­tive. Al­ter­na­tively, you can keep the TV welded to gar­den­ing pro­grams and hide the re­mote. But the way to re­ally curb his X-rated en­thu­si­asm is to try to join in the fun. If you come home to find teens en­twined half naked in your liv­ing room, the best con­tra­cep­tive imag­in­able is to start belly danc­ing and groin thrust­ing along to the mu­sic. If your move­ments are suf­fi­ciently vi­o­lent, your daugh­ter’s boyfriend will start to won­der if there’s epilepsy in the fam­ily tree. Some quin­tes­sen­tial Mum Danc­ing Ma­noeu­vres re­fined dur­ing the 1980s can clear a room full of li­bidi­nous male teenagers faster than a fire alarm.

But be­fore you get too po-faced and pu­ri­tan­i­cal, it helps to re­mem­ber that teenagers are God’s pun­ish­ment for hav­ing sex in the first place – prob­a­bly in your par­ents’ liv­ing room.

Kathy Lette’s lat­est novel is The Boy Who Fell To Earth.

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