It's hard to be a liquored-up fornicator,
but someone has to do it. In an era when conservative policymakers promote abstinence
and substance abuse programs that are ineffectual at best and
dangerous at worst, someone has to stand up for the truth.
Of course, suggesting we need to return to a more honest, tolerant
approach to teaching kids about sex and booze, I risk being called
a lush. Or a slut. Or a slutty lush. A sloshed slit. A luscious
sot. A shlursss...
OK, maybe I had one too many this morning. But I've finally
cracked. The straw that broke the camel's back wasn't the Drug
Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program for 5th graders which,
it's been widely reported, does not reduce drug use among children
and may, in fact, increase it.
Nor was it the disturbing new statistics showing that students
who undergo abstinence-only education have more pregnancies and
STDs than students who learn standard sex ed. When groping in
the backseat, the teens who took vows of abstinence are totally
unprepared for their hormone-fueled passions. Politicians take
note: These kids have sex at the same rate as other kids. Ironically,
the fire-and-brimstone abstinence advocates are right. Knocked-up
and infected, these kids really are in Hell.
What caused me to crack, though, was a benign outgrowth of all
these misguided attempts to manipulate children's behavior: new
sanitized lyrics to Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World" as
sung by my son's middle-school chorus. Here's an excerpt of the
original 1971 version.
Jeremiah was a bullfrog
Was a good friend of mine
I never understood a single word he said
But I helped him a-drinking his wine
And he always had some mighty fine wine
The cleaned-up version replaces the last two lines with this
blather: "And he always had a mighty fine time / Yes, he
always had a mighty fine time."
Later, when the narrator sings, "If I were the king of
the world," he tells us what he'd do: "Throw away the
cars and the bars and the wars / And make sweet love to you." The
neutered new lyrics: "And spend more time with you."
This song, uncensored, is fantastic and upbeat and, well, groovy.
Released during the Vietnam War, it spent weeks at the top of
the charts and served to celebrate what was good in a world torn
apart by a devastating war and powerful new feelings about sex
roles and racism.
What's got me hitting the bottle this
morning is that well-meaning
people are serving pabulum to kids who not only could handle
the original lyrics, but might actually benefit from them. Say
the little morons titter at the "make sweet love to you" line.
What's so bad about that? And isn't that what terrific school
programs, like my son's choral group, are for? To introduce ideas,
sounds, and experiences in a controlled environment?
If the only exposure kids get to sex in popular culture happens
outside of school --- in cynical movies and TV shows, Google
searches for "butt," and porno found in dad's sweater
drawer --- haven't we lost a chance to redefine the topic?
Liberal Christian critics of the religious right's abstinence
movement posit that --- in addition to spreading pregnancy and
disease --- it teaches young people their natural urges are shameful.
I don't know much about Christ, but I'll wager he's a lot more
tolerant of human displays of emotion and sexuality than some
of the folks teaching on his behalf. What better expression of
humanity can there be than offering a tender promise of making "sweet
love" to someone?
"Joy to the World" even captures the spirit of Silent
Spring author Rachel Carson by elevating the lowly bullfrog's
status to "good friend." My husband cautiously agrees,
but he notes the song might promote man-on-frog relationships,
driving innocent children into the sticky webfeet of the North
American Man/Frog Love Association (NAMFLA).
Even Jeremiah's "mighty fine wine" has a place in
the world of civilized children --- it's a major Bible refreshment
and something of an art form in the creation. Making wine ---
like making a good meal, making a work of art, and even making
love --- requires patience, artistry, and a little help from
Kids can learn about moderation by sipping small amounts of
diluted wine on special occasions without being, as the DARE
program implies, drunks. They can learn about patience in sex
education classes that teach them to control sexual urges without
feeling like sinners.
Don't go erasing our phone number from your playdate roster.
I'm not going to dance naked while serving your little whippersnappers
Pinot and Oreos. I talk a big game but trust me; no one will
be more oppressed than my kids as they navigate the temptations
and dangers of adolescence.
I just wish that as a society we could
teach our kids to anticipate the pleasures of adult life instead of hypocritically shunning
and repressing things we actually enjoy. Kids see right through
And it's just so coarse. Americans, in our soul-crushing attempts
to control behavior, replace connoisseurship --- which can be
applied to food, wine, romance, art --- with crass commercialism
as it flashes across screens everywhere we look. It's depressing.
It's enough to drive a girl to drink. Pass that mighty fine wine
this way. Hey, that frog is kind of cute.