Illustration by Jordin Isip
On general principle, I’ve always maintained that kids can and should receive a certain amount of exposure to the grim and the gritty. I’ve never thought that we do them any favors by weaving cocoons around them and piping in nothing but fairies and happy endings. Accordingly, my kid has always had some Kull the Conquerer, Coen brothers and Marilyn Manson mixed in with her Laura Ingalls Wilder and Pooh. When unspeakable horror enters our home via the nightly news or the front page, I never push it aside — I take off on it. Terrorist bombings? Sure. The Ebola virus? Why not. Genocide, global warming, AIDS — all have been perfectly ordinary topics of dinner conversation. But now the kid is 9, and next year the school is going to be teaching a class called “Health.” Which means she’ll be subjected to some psychologist’s idea of frank talk about drugs.
Now, I am an upstanding, taxpaying, ridiculously overcompensated attorney at a topnotch law firm. I have been married for 13 years. But in my youth — which in my case lasted until I was nearly 30 — I indulged quite regularly and enthusiastically in a variety of unlawful substances. LSD in high school, with mescaline an acceptable substitute; cocaine in college if I could scrape together the dough. But speed was my true love. The rush, the intensity and, best of all, the illusion that important things were happening — it was harmony from the first. In my early 20s, I left school and moved into a converted garage in North Hollywood, tipping the scale at a whopping 85 pounds.
Eventually, I quit. Let’s just say that there were no 12-step programs involved, but there were many, many visits to the dentist. And I often think that my daughter would be better served hearing about drugs from somebody who’s been through it and survived. I resolve to tell her all as soon as I get an opening. I grit my teeth as I contemplate the painful sweetness of such complete honesty. “Yes, dear,” I will say. “Many’s the night I rummaged through the trash to find a discarded wad of aluminum foil that held a few white corrosive crumbs.”
“How clearly I recall the night on which a strung-out lunatic crawled through my bedroom window and held me at gunpoint while he waited for my dealer boyfriend!”
It’ll be tough. But I’ll tell it, I assure myself.
Weeks after this resolution, the kid and I are driving home from Exposition Park (we’d been to a bug show), and she asks from the back seat, “Mom, what’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever done?”
Here it is! The moment has come. I take a deep breath and slowly, distinctly state, “The stupidest thing I’ve ever done is to experiment with drugs.”
“You experimented with drugs?” she asks without a trace of shock or revulsion.
“Yes,” I say, and bravely prepare to go on.
“But, Mom, really! What’s the absolute stupidest thing you’ve ever done? Like hide someone’s lunch box or tell a really big secret?”
I am as deflated as a silvery pouch of cherry-flavored Capri Sun sucked dry. Maybe someday I’ll give the kid a straight shot of cold, hard truth. But on this sunny afternoon, the time has not yet come.