A 40-something girlfriend of mine recently asked for my opinion on a matter that had to remain strictly confidential. How exciting was that? It's not every day that someone values my opinion on an issue that needs to be kept hush-hush.
Baby Boomer confessions: The birds and bees
She wanted to know when she should explain the ‘birds and the bees’ to her 14-year-old son.
Read more from James: Baby Boomer confessions: Sowing my wild oats
The question instantly gave rise to a number of questions in my mind. Firstly, at 14 years of age, is there likely to be anything substantive that he did not already know? Secondly, why would she not just base her behaviour towards her son on her parents' behaviour toward her?
I posed the first question. She responded by saying that she felt her son knew very little and certainly never said anything to her that suggested he was familiar with human copulation methods.
I suggested that it just might be that he knew more than he was letting on and that teenagers rarely discussed the extent of their sexual knowledge with their mother, especially when the teenager involved was a boy going through puberty. She responded by suggesting that he must have been going through puberty, because he asked her each week to buy a box of tissues, despite not having a cold.
Overwhelmed by her logic, I thought it best to ask my second question, to which she responded along the lines of: ''My parents never had the discussion with me. They never once in my life discussed any aspect of sex with me.''
She went on to say that she was nearly 18 before she had sex and, even then, she felt she knew nothing.
Another good opportunity to move the conversation along was frustrated by her question to me: ''How and when did your parents have the conversation with you?''
As it happens, I was able to answer without any hesitation, because I remember it as if it were yesterday. Given that I am 60 now and was 12 when my parents had the conversation with me, it was most certainly not yesterday.
I was standing with my parents in the kitchen. Dinner was over, my younger siblings were watching television while my father washed the dishes, I dried them and my overworked mother put them away.
Out of the blue, my father asked me: ''Do you know what a man and a woman do to make a woman pregnant?''
I thought about leaping into a discussion about the absence of stalks in Australia, when I decided it easier to just answer ''yes''.
As quick as a flash, and with apparently little reference to my simple confirmation, my father responded with: ''You probably call it fucking … or rooting … or something similar….do you?''
Again, I was poised to make a meaningful and insightful remark, when I decided that the best answer was simply ‘yes’.
That was it! That was my discussion about the birds and the bees.
I learned nothing other than perhaps confirming my suspicion that fucking had a purpose other than providing an opportunity to gaze upon a naked female body.
In many ways I felt a little let down, a little cheated that there was no more to my one and only ‘birds and bees’ education session. That said, I was also aware of the potential embarrassment that it saved all parties.
What this conversation did do, however, and I remember it clearly, was change the nature of my relationship and subsequent conversations with my parents. We now shared a knowledge that my younger siblings did not share (even though I knew my brother also knew what fucking was).
It created a new intimacy between me and my parents - and a new sense of status in my relationship with my siblings. Life would never be the same.
At 16, I lost my virginity - two years earlier than the girlfriend who triggered these musings. Despite my having the conversation with my parents that she never had with hers, I suspect I was as ill-informed on my first outing as she was.
Fortunately, she had learned a great deal in the subsequent 30 years.
Do you remember when your parents had the ‘birds and the bees’ conversation with you? Did that conversation, if it occurred, help you any?
What do you think I should have told my girlfriend about telling her son? How did you tell your son – or daughter – or both?
I did not tell my son. He just asked confirming questions of me when he was 11.