Jane and her friends have an annual Dye Day, where they turn all sorts of unremarkable white clothing into stunning fashion pieces of color. It’s quite a process, really. They use fancy, high quality dyes, about 400 pounds of salt, Jane’s grandmother Lillian’s 1940’s-style wash basin, a case of beer and a pack of cigarettes to give each of their families lots of colorful new garb each year.
Some of the clothes they dye are purchased new, but some are found via selective shopping at our local thrift stores. You can find some pretty remarkable buys if you know where to shop here, particularly if you have the option of changing the color. Dye Day is coming up this weekend, and Monday was 25% Off Day at their thrift store of choice, so Jane came home with a large bag of soon-to-be-colored goodies.
One of these items was a t-shirt that had the word “Belize” across the bottom, underneath a series of cartoonish depictions of green lizards. She held it up to show me; it probably caught her eye because Belize is one of the few places we have traveled to as a couple outside the U.S., and it’s a relatively obscure place.
As she held it up I noticed the depictions of the lizards were peculiar. What appeared to be 25 different small images of lizards arranged in a 5×5 grid was in reality a depiction of 25 pairs of lizards in a 5×5 grid. There were in reality only five different images of lizard pairs, each repeated five times. Of course, the math and specific layout isn’t as noteworthy as the fact that these lizards were doing things.
Naughty things. To each other.
I said, “Have you noticed what those lizards are doing?” I gave no thought to the fact that I was sitting at the table with Linus and Lily before I asked. I just asked, and when I did so Jane turned the shirt around, then gasped. Then, after gasping, she crumpled the shirt up and hid it behind her back.
You know what happened next.
“What!” screamed Linus, bolting from his chair to grab the shirt. “What’s on that shirt?! What are they doing?”
“Yeah, what!” screamed Lily, bolting from her chair to do whatever Linus was about to do. “What’s on that shirt?! What are they doing?”
“Nothing”, said Jane, which was clearly not true. “They are being naughty.” Those were her actual words.
The next 15 seconds were a cacophony of furious inquisition and mimicry. “Whatwhatwhat. Let me see. I want to see that shirt. Show it to me. What are the lizards doing? Tell me. What are they doing? Show me the shirt.” Multiply all of that by 2, with a slight delay for the second voice.
Now, I don’t blame Jane for this. After all, I started it. I could have probably never said a word about it and no one would be the wiser. It would have been a private little joke all for myself for the next five years every time someone near and dear to me wore this Belizean Lizard Sex Shirt and was oblivious the whole time. But no. When I see lizards being naughty I speak out.
It is true that Jane’s Taboo Reaction is somewhat stronger than mine. When the kids ask about Sensitive Issues (sex), she tends to defer to me, frequently after a gasp and possibly a blush. Her first reaction tends to give away that they are asking about Something Big. I have the same reaction, I just hide it better. And, since I’m more comfortable with the Antiseptic Detachment Explanation Technique, I tend to be the one to break it all down, in the birds and the bees sense. Of course, I say that like I’m an old pro, when in fact we’ve really only had one or three conversations about that with Linus, and none with Lily. But so far so good.
But there is no way, no freaking way, after the commotion that took place with the outing of that shirt, that it is going to be forgotten. Lily’s not old enough to care one way or the other or get too much out of the images, but Linus is going to be on the lookout for that shirt now, I 100% guarantee. And when he finds it, what will he see?
He’ll see one lizard giving it to the other in the standard missionary position. That’s fine, whatever. It might not even occur to him that that’s anything other than wrestling, other than Jane’s disclosure that it was “naughty”, the fact that she immediately hid the shirt from his view, and possibly also the lizards’ crazy bugged-out eyes and tongue hanging from their mouths. But still, that’s fine. I can explain the missionary position, I can explain that it’s tied to that whole sex and reproduction thing we talked about, and I can even possibly explain why the lizards look so damned happy about it.
Bottom line, he’s almost 8 now, and I think it’s probably OK for him to understand not only some of the mechanics of reproduction, but that the reproduction act also feels pretty darn good, so long as you are in a committed, consensual relationship with the other lizard. “Committed” meaning a dinner, or at least drinks.
I could even possibly, maybe, explain the image of the lizards getting it on doggie style. In fact, that wouldn’t be difficult at all. He may know that’s how dogs, horses, etc. have to get their business done. Lizards, too, perhaps, though probably only when one of them has had its tail pulled off. Still, I can explain that one.
But the image of the one lizard straddling the other’s face? No. And the image of the lizards in the 69 position? Please. These are a dramatic point of departure. First and foremost, they do not fit the “penis in the vagina” narrative at all. That causes the whole foundation of my Antiseptic Detachment Explanation to evaporate. The “why”, that being reproduction, goes away, leaving us with a “why” that more closely resembles: Because it fucking rules! Which also explains the Crazy Lizard Eyes and wagging tongues and outrageous smiles.
I’m telling you, if he ever sees that shirt, he’s going to know it’s about sex. He’s going to immediately seize on the idea that oral-genital contact is “naughty”, and thus a form of sex, and that lizards seem to have a very good time doing it. And what’s good for the lizards…
I can have a reproduction conversation with my son. Already done that. But I’m just not ready yet for the 69 conversation. Fuck. First, Chris Berman ended up spilling the beans to Linus about 9/11. Now, to my shock and surprise, the answer to the question, “If you don’t teach your kids about having a 69, who will?” is: Belizean lizards on a t-shirt from the thrift store.
Finally, even if I could explain why those crazy lizards are doing all those naughty things, the hardest part might be explaining why somebody thought it was a good idea to put a cartoon picture of lizards doing that stuff on a t-shirt as some sort of an advertisement to come to Belize.
The only answer I can come up with is that Belize must have a bunch of fucking lizards.