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.

Showing 11 comments
  • Kathy

    Ahh…but a mother is a mother :). Love it!

  • Heather

    NO ONE is good with words when that kind of conversation pops up w/ our children? (And it always “pops ups”- it never comes when we are prepared.) Thanks for the laugh!

  • Heather

    My husband just reminded me of a story… our then 8 year old daughter came up to him one day and asked what a STD was. We were SHOCKED!!!! My dear, baffled hubby exclaimed, “WHERE DID YOU READ ABOUT THAT!?!?” She got the magazine… it was the abbreviation for standard. Oh. Phew!

  • Lynn in WI

    Waiting to hear what book she was enjoying. 🙂

    I think you’re very fortunate that she asked the question while eating ice cream. You may have been on the hook for much more information had she not had her cone to think about!

    Well done.

  • Kathy F.

    When my son asked the same question (we were reading the Bible) I replied, “It’s a woman who takes money from a man and allows him to treat her as if she were his wife.” His response, “You mean she does his laundry?”

  • Amy LeForge

    Bwahahahahaa! Isn’t that always the way things go with kids? I’ve been lucky with the older boys (age 11) who do NOT want to know anything anything about sex or women. Any time dh and I try to discuss anything, it’s all “blah blah blah I’m not listening!!!” with their hands over their ears.

    The younger boys (age 7) though? They’re a totally different story. We were in the feminine hygiene aisle at the store and an older boy asked, “What are these?” I answered with, “I’ll have to tell you something you don’t want to hear,” and he and his twin nearly ran to the front of the store to avoid the story. The younger ones were right there with “Bring on the details, Mom!”

    I’m so in trouble a couple of years from now.

  • A Daring Adventure

    You did a wonderful job! I love your explanation.

    Well done!

    Yes, having your mother there would certainly make what was already a difficult explanation even more so…

  • Siobhan

    In January my 5 yr old asked “Why ARE those women standing there like that?” (we were in central Bangkok at night). “Well, umm, they’re waiting for someone to pick them up.” “Why Mummy?” “Well, err, aah…” Thankfully the curiosity of the older children wasn’t aroused right then…but when the question did arise weeks later I didn’t think of such evasive words such as “men just want *company*”….well chosen.

  • Ellen

    Yes, but writers get to think through what they want to say and how best to say it. You weren’t prepared! How were you supposed to cope?!

    You coped very well, actually. I liked the “keeping company” euphemism. I’m going to remember that.

  • Christina

    Laughing, laughing, laughing, at the whole thing. And then at Kathy’s comment.
    We live in Dallas and sometime in the last year my oldest daughter saw the store “Condoms To Go” (lovely, no?) and said,”Condoms To Go…what is that?” We were driving; I am nooo good at this kind of question and so wanted my husband to be there! I said,”A kind of store,” (good one, Mom!) and she said,”What kind of a store? Is it a lunch store?” “No.” “Is it a scuba diving store?” “No.” “Is it a safety store?” I said,”Kind of.” And then she said something to her brother and never mentioned it again. That is just how the conversation went.
    I’m still not over the “she does his laundry” comment.
    I also agree…having ice cream involved was definitely to your advantage in the end.

  • polly

    very well told! (and hilarious.) I’ve been to that baskin robbins so many times and can perfectly envision the scene with all the tourists and your attempt to explain what a prostitute is…. –my second laugh of the morning (the other was from your post on the cincinnati conference).

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