We’re certainly no stranger to people in tights here on GeekDad, but they’re usually of the superhero variety. We’re doing something a little different this time, a guest post by a guy who wears tights on a regular basis, but set them aside for long enough to pick up the pen. Guest contributor Mick Foley is no stranger to anyone familiar with pro wrestling. Under his own name or as Mankind, Cactus Jack or Dude Love, Foley is a wrestling superstar who counts three World Wrestling Federation championships among his long list of accomplishments. That’s all well and good, but how does wrestling relate to GeekDad? I was surprised to learn that Foley is quite plugged in to the geek community. He hosted the “Extreme Warriors” series of Robot Wars, provided a guest voice on several episodes of Nickelodeon’s animated Avatar: The Last Airbender and has appeared at the Chicago Comic Con. Unlike most of us, Foley has also been immortalized in plastic as an action figure. Multiple times. Previous books written by Foley include the timely Mick Foley’s Halloween Hijinx
as well as two NYT Bestseller autobiographies. After several Daily Show appearances in 2010, he’s been given the title of “Senior Asskicker.”
Foley’s third autobiography Countdown to Lockdown:A Hardcore Journal has just been released. I haven’t had a chance to finish the copy sent by his publisher, but what I’ve seen has been fascinating. I haven’t watched wrestling for years, but Foley’s account of the business is really an interesting read. What’s most impressive to me about Foley’s latest book, though, is that he’s donating 100 percent of his advance to two charities, RAINN and Childfund International. It’s a big gesture and something the man obviously cares deeply about. You can pick up a copy of on Amazon, but for a taste of Foley’s thoughts on parenting issues and why he’s become such an advocate for RAINN, he’s provided this exclusive guest post for GeekDad. It’s not our usual bent on things, but it’s an honest and serious account of those awkward parenting moments we all face and the importance of parental support…
Read Modern Love: The Talk by Mick Foley after the jump.
MODERN LOVE: THE TALK by Mick Foley
My oldest son heads off to college tomorrow. He will do so in my old Chevy mini-van, his big graduation present—a vehicle he once proclaimed he would refuse to drive, until learning that the only thing less cool than driving one’s girlfriend to a date in a Chevy Venture, is having one’s dad drive him and his girlfriend to a date in that same Venture. I may have been a little tough on him about his grades during the high school years, but unbeknownst to me, he was quietly racking up an impressive amount of college credits while still in high school, so that he effectively enters his first year of college as a sophomore. Pretty impressive.
So, on this day—when he effectively enters adulthood—I think back several years ago, to that special night when I deemed him old enough to have “The Talk”. You know which talk I write of—the big one, the facts of life, the birds and the bees. The talk that every dad needs to have (or certainly should) with his son. I didn’t know exactly where to start. He’d watched me many years ago when I wrestled on TV at a time when the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) show could occasionally be a bit risqué. We had also caught the words “girl in thong” and “pretty girl in thong” on his computer history—a charge he vehemently denied, until crumbling under the weight of irrefutable evidence. But as far as actual knowledge about those birds and bees went, I really didn’t have a clue as to how much he did or didn’t know. So instead of dipping in my big toe and gradually wading into the conversation, I just decided to take the plunge. “You know how babies are made, right?”, I asked my son. I had caught him off-guard, but he did quite well, assuring me that he knew what parts went where and that there were no storks involved in the baby making process. So far, so good, but those waters I had plunged into were about to get decidedly rougher, as I attempted to navigate the treacherous bends and twists that come with trying to explain the raging rapids of the human sex drive. “Now, if the only time people wanted to use those parts you mentioned was when they wanted to have a baby, the world would probably be an easier place. But people like to do that stuff even when they’re not trying to have babies. Do you know why?” Hey, this was going pretty well. Then I saw that look on my son’s face, that “Cindy Brady draws a blank on the quiz show look” and heard him blurt out the first thing that came to mind: “Um, so they can spread AIDS?” Rough waters indeed. Obviously, there was much work to do. To quote a Jerry Reed song, “we’ve got a long way to go, and a short time to get there.” I did the very best I could, submerging my son in the deep stuff for as long as I thought he could bear it, before allowing him to fully catch his breath; to take in all of this brave new world he had just discovered. The next day, I bought him a book on puberty, and told him if he ever had a question to come talk to me. Thankfully, he never did.
About that same time, I noticed my daughter, two years younger, had developed a taste for fashions that my wife and I didn’t think were all that flattering on her. They weren’t inappropriate or anything— just not entirely flattering on my beautiful little girl who was going through a slightly chubby stage, without realizing she was going through a slightly a chubby stage. “Don’t say anything to her”, my wife said. “It will break her heart.” Foolishly, I did say something, and though I did it as gently as possible, just as my wife predicted, I broke the poor girl’s heart. Tears were literally streaming down her face, as I apologized as vehemently and as sincerely as possible. Later that day, when the tears had dried and a gift of considerable financial heft had been offered and accepted, I approached my daughter to ask the type of question whose answer is pretty much self-evident. “Is that not the type of thing you feel comfortable talking with your dad about?” A shake of the head confirmed my suspicion. “How about I leave that type of thing to mom?” Certainly, I was a man of my word when it came to my agreement with my daughter. I remained her friend, her board game partner and (according to her recent Sweet 16 speech) her hero, but when it came to the possibility of an emotionally challenging discussion, I shielded myself as if I was Dracula fending off the first rays of daybreak. Mom handled “The Talk”, thank goodness, and I enjoyed a very nice, good-natured relationship with my daughter, watching with great pride as she outgrew that chubby stage to become a beautiful, sensitive straight-A young woman. Sure, there would be boy problems up the road, but as far as I was concerned, her path to maturity had been a gentle meandering stream. No plunge necessary.
Then, two years ago, following a chance meeting with singer Tori Amos, I became involved with RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network), and as a result, have come to feel that I might just have to take that plunge again—to have the type of discussion with my daughter that I had long ago pledged to avoid. I began my relationship with RAINN (which Amos co-founded in 1994) as a donor, and then, after seeing the great work they were involved in— education, prevention and crisis intervention in the fight against sexual violence— decided to take their forty hour training course to become an on-line volunteer. I have been an online volunteer since the beginning of February, and can honestly say that it feels as important as anything I have done in my life. Every week, I interact with victims of sexual violence who are scared and alone, vulnerable and confused—reaching out to an anonymous stranger on the other side of a computer, so that they may start reassembling the shattered pieces of the lives they once led. Often, these visits with survivors are oddly uplifting; being a part of that first step on the road to healing brings with it a sense of subtle joy that is incredibly gratifying. Other times, the visits can be a source of sadness and frustration. More often than not, that frustration stems from the visitor’s hesitancy to let anyone close to them—especially a parent— know anything about their suffering. Seemingly, the younger the victim, the less likely they are to even think about sharing their secret. “This doesn’t make sense”, I’d think. How can someone shut out the ones who love them most at a time when they are most in need of that love? But time and time again, week in and week out, I would encounter the same situation— victims of rape, abuse and assault more frightened of a parent finding out than any number of legitimate concerns: injury, psychological trauma, a repeated attack.
Marriage vows usually contain specific words about love— “for better or worse, in sickness in health.” But no one takes parental vows. “For better or worse, in sickness and in health” are words that a parent seemingly wouldn’t need to tell a child about parental love. That love is unconditional. Until that love is needed most, at least according to the young people, male and female, that I interact with on the RAINN hotline. Worse than worried, they are convinced that their parents won’t understand, especially in cases where alcohol or drugs have been used, or where flirting or kissing has taken place. They are afraid that their parents won’t understand or that they’ll be blamed or even punished for what has taken place. Apparently, most kids feel that their parents love is indeed conditional, and as a result, they often choose to suffer silently. As a volunteer on an anonymous hotline, I cannot make anybody do anything. I can only offer suggestions. Maybe I can offer a suggestion to anyone out there who loves their kids, wants the best for them, and can’t imagine them suffering through incredible trauma all by themselves. Have a talk with your kids. Tell them about some of the unfortunate realities of life, and assure them that you’ll be there for them in good times and in bad, in sickness in health. Let them know that a parent’s love is indeed unconditional and that they can turn to you in any situation. Just don’t let them know that you’re taking parental advice from a pro-wrestler.
If you’ll excuse me, I need to go follow my own advice. I may have avoided “The Talk”, but I believe it’s time that we had another type of talk. It might be the most difficult talk I’ve ever had, but it might be the most important one as well. Those waters up ahead may get a little rough, but I think it’s time for dad to take the plunge.