Yesterday I took my mother and my daughter shopping. Ladies’ morning out: new bathing suit for daughter, conference clothes for Grammy and me, ice cream. We’re sitting on the bench outside Baskin-Robbins, licking our ice cream cones thoughtfully, when Emily asks, in a very loud voice, “What’s a prostitute?”
Now, although we’ve had a basic version of what a friend of mine calls The Plumbing Talk, I don’t think that her understanding is going to stretch to encompass a complete answer to this question. Plus, if I were going to give a complete answer to this question, it wouldn’t be in Colonial Williamsburg, on the bench outside Baskin-Robbins surrounded by tourists and their children on spring break. Oh, and my mother.
Me: (stalling slightly, but also genuinely curious) Where did you hear about…that?
Emily: It was in my audiobook.
(Mother’s eyebrows rise. I think to myself that I must check and see what she’s listening to these days, since it clearly isn’t Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Farm. Of course, it’ll probably turn out to be the Old Testament.)
Me: Well. Ah. When two people are married, they keep each other company. You know, so they won’t be lonely.
Emily: (unimpressed) Yeah.
Me: So some men don’t have a wife to keep them company. And they can’t find a wife because they, er–
(I’m thinking, “Lack the capacity to form real human relationships.” Paraphrase, paraphrase.)
Me: –er, don’t really want to keep someone else company. They don’t want to be lonely, but they’re selfish. They don’t want to put any effort into having a real wife, they just want company sometimes. When it’s convenient for them.
(This is turning into a long explanation. Emily has gone back to the ice cream cone. Not sure she’s listening any more. Mother is, though.)
Me: So they pay someone to keep them company.
(Emily looks unshocked. I guess that sounds like a pretty rational solution.)
Me: Which is BAD. Very, very, bad.
Emily: Can I suck the ice cream out of the bottom of my cone?
You know, I’m supposed to be a writer and good with things like, you know, words.