The first time my Dad gave me any advice that could be considered relationship advice I was 19. It was just a few weeks before I left for my university studies in Australia. There was no big prelude to give me any sort of inkling as to what this was going to be about. He just cut straight to the chase saying to me “I trust that me and your mother raised you the right way – with morals, to be always respectful and God fearing. At the stage that you are right now there is not much we can really forbid you from doing. Especially now that you are going to be living alone, 12000km away from home and us your parents. We wouldn’t let you go that far and spend the money that we are spending if we didn’t trust that you fully understood what is expected of you. You are young adult now. A man. You are going to have certain urges, be even more enamoured than you are with women now and vice versa. That’s perfectly normal. But I wouldn’t be doing my job as a father if I didn’t educate on the potential consequences of recklessly following through on those urges. Everywhere around us people are dying of AIDS. It’s no secret that’s what killed your uncle. But people, and even families avoid discussing it. And yet people continue dying. I am not going to tell you not to have sex, but what I will tell you is that if you choose to please always take precautions and use condoms. Respect and love yourself enough to at least take that precaution. That being said I would rather you didn’t rush into it” And just like that he was done.
I was gobsmacked. I had never discussed girls, let alone sex with my dad until that moment. It was something that had always remained unspoken. I mean even at 19 I was a virgin, a baby and maybe even a bit of a prude. Yeah I liked girls but I had never seriously been in a situation where sex was an objective or even a possible outcome. My six years at an all catholic boys boarding school had seen to that. I had had girlfriend’s but it was mostly innocent. Whilst I had fooled around a bit, the actual act of sex had not been an even remote possibility in my mind’s eye.Not forgetting that it was logistically impossible. I spent 8 months of the year at an all boys boarding school and the rest at home with my parents. If the street lights came on and I wasn’t home, somebody was going to get hurt real bad. I never missed curfew.
But here was my dad telling me to use condoms. Where from? How? Why? To him it was a foregone conclusion that I was going to have sex some time in the near future. I wanted say to say to him “Don’t worry dad, I’m still a virgin and I plan on staying that way until I get married.” But I didn’t. Eyes to the floor I just kept quite and nodded hesitantly.
In retrospect I am glad I didn’t say anything. It seems my future self knew better. Because only a few months later now at university I lost my virginity. And thanks to that practical advice from my dad, the only thing I seemed sure about during that forgettable experience was the need for using protection. How quickly things had escalated from just a few months before when I had my self imposed vow of chastity. And it wasn’t even with a girlfriend or someone I loved. This was just some random girl who though I looked like Will Smith (I don’t) that I had only hung out with a handful of times. Left to my own devices and away from the shelter of boarding school and my parents my resolve weakened. I easily succumbed to the casual hook up culture that is prevalent in university life. No one actively pressured me to do it, it was something that all of a sudden felt like the next logical step.
I remember though that I was too embarrassed to tell my partner in crime that I was a virgin, but I am sure she figured that out. I had no idea what I was doing and a little over a minute later it was over. I cringe just thinking about it. I didn’t have any regrets though, even though I had previously planned to stay celibate til marriage. At that point that was the right decision for me and seeing as I placed no value at the time of doing it with someone I loved, I am glad my dad had that talk with me. Just hearing it from him had made sure that it was always going to be at the forefront of my mind.
Years later, I was much older but not that much wiser I was back home at my parents. Having lived away from home for years I had grown some balls and figured I could pretty much come and go as I pleased. On one such occasion I ended up sleeping over at a girls house. When I sheepishly returned home in the early hours of the morning my dad wasn’t too impressed and he let me have it. This talk I brought onto myself. After establishing that I had slept over at a female friends house, he went on to ask me if we she was my girlfriend. She wasn’t. She was a friend (with benefits). Although I didn’t disclose the benefit’s part.
No matter, that was just the launch pad he needed. He pointed out that I was grown man fully capable of making my own decisions, but he was my father. And he wouldn’t being doing his job if he didn’t say anything. No one else might tell me this but I had to hear it. He pointed out that I was an eligible bachelor, with a very bright future in front of me. Most women will see you as a good match and probably fall over themselves to be with you. And that could make me a target. Whilst I had achieved quite a bit he knew very well I wasn’t responsible enough yet to be a father. so he gave me this advice. If you are going to sleep with someone, at least make sure that on some level you can visualise that person as the potential mother of your child. If the very idea of that person carrying your child makes you uncomfortable then keep your pants on.
The point he was making was that by indulging in sexual intercourse, protection or not I needed to be cognisant of the possibility of pregnancy. The expectation was that once that happened there was no shying away from the responsibility that lay ahead. He put it to me that I wouldn’t end up happy if I ended up marrying someone just because they got pregnant. Neither did I want to be an absent father or have someone else raise my kid. The way he saw it, I needed to be more thoughtful of the potential consequences of my sexual ambivalence. And the way I took it, if I can’t envision whoever I sleep with being the mother of my kids, then I shouldn’t be playing Russian roulette with my penis.
At this point in my life that is the most relevant and practical advice that my dad could have given me. And I am grateful for that.