What I love about having older kids are the really interesting topics of conversation that start from out of nowhere while walking down the street.
Like the one me and Oscar had the other day as we walked back to school from the doctor.
“How come if boobs are just big blobs of fat, they’re so interesting?” he asked.
I don’t skip a beat, as I have thought about this a lot.
“Because we are animals, and our instincts from the beginning are to turn to boobs for sustenance, for milk,” I said. “It’s a natural desire.”
It’s funny that my son brought this up when he did — just before my editor reported to me that my most popular column ever is the one where I wrote about how my boys loved my boobs.
Apparently, it is a popular topic. In a much-read story on Huffington Post aptly titled “Breasts: The real reason men love them,” Larry Young and Brian Alexander explain it better than I did.
“Fascination with breasts,” they say, “is an unconscious evolutionary drive prompting us to activate powerful bonding circuits that help create a loving, nurturing bond.”
It starts with infants, whose suckling stimulates oxytocin and dopamine to get a mother focused and forging a bond with the baby, they say. Then that same bonding circuitry gets replicated later with lovers.
I like that my son is thinking about this stuff, questioning and delving into the backstory behind desire. It is a lifelong quest, really, figuring what drives us to feel the things we feel, sexually or emotionally, understanding that we are sometimes just pawns in a game carefully orchestrated without our input. It helps to understand human instincts, though clearly it is important to learn that those instincts must be mitigated somewhat to live in polite society.
Sexuality is hard to explain, and as my boys get closer and closer to the point of exploring this question on their own, I am forced to think about it.
Hmmm. Sexuality. I remember dreams of kissing a boy in the third grade, I remember spin the bottle in sixth, I remember my first kiss after school in my room in seventh, then moving further along in the back of a car in eighth, further still in ninth. I waited until college to go all the way, mostly because I reasoned it was hard to go back once you’d gone there, and the one person I was close enough to do it in high school with was an exchange student who I knew was headed home to Sweden forever.
But my desire and need for bonding, physically speaking, has been a constant since my early days, as I imagine it is for most everyone, including my boys.
How then to advise them?
I hear tales from friends now of their children’s first kisses, and even likely first intercourse, and I want to cheer. I applaud the ability to forge intimate bonds (keeping proper safety precautions in mind) because it is hard, always, from the first time right on through marriage, to do intimacy well. A lot is at play with the desire and ability to intertwine with another human being and to allow one’s self to get lost slightly in the very natural but often very scary world of sex.
It is like a drug, a rush of dopamine that is as addictive as any of the most illegal substances. Although I didn’t say it to him yet, my still-innocent 11-year-old, the boobs are just the beginning. Care needs to be taken with who one chooses as a partner for this grand experiment, and how, but it is a positive thing, a natural thing, to seek the pleasure of another person’s body.
And that will always be my mantra.