Guest Blog Post: When Your Mom Laughs at Sex Jokes by Ryan W. Bradley

In an effort to distract myself from the memoir I’ve been writing at the pace of an elderly snail, I began writing small essays about other portions of my life that wouldn’t be covered by the memoir. Shades of Early Manhood is a collection that has come out of these outcast essays. They are small moments, some of them more humorous than others, but all of them are little pieces of the puzzle of my life that continues to come together. It may be too much to ask that you pretend to find me funny, but you should try anyway.



When Your Mom Laughs at Sex Jokes 

by Ryan W. Bradley

I’ve never been caught masturbating. According to Hollywood this is a rite of passage for teenagers. I suppose it’s lucky I’m so neurotic that when I masturbated as a teenager I waited until the middle of the night to do so. Another emotional horror story I missed out on: walking in on my parents having sex. I don’t generally consider myself to have had a lucky childhood, but I do feel lucky I was able to escape these memories some people are stuck walking around with for the rest of their lives.

But you can’t escape sex and your parents colliding. For me this includes hearing my dad talk about my mom’s g-spot nearly two decades after their divorce, or telling a friend of my sister’s that his “machinery” still worked. Or my stepdad telling me in regard to me saying he shouldn’t read my novel that he and my mom already know I’m a pervert.

It was during the fall of 2004 when I was faced with the realization that my mom has experienced oral pleasure. I’ve always recognized, logically, that my parents had sex, probably still do in their respective marriages. And it doesn’t bother me. I believe it’s a healthy aspect of life. If people aren’t having sex, they ought to be. But I also don’t need to be faced with my parents’ sexuality directly.

I’d been kicked out of college after my sophomore year and was floating between my mom and stepdad’s couch and my sister’s. One night my mom decided to watch Robin Williams’ Live on Broadway with me. I’d seen the special when it aired a couple years before, but all I remembered of it was laughing my ass off.

Most of the special was fine. I laughed as much as I did the first time, and my mom seemed to enjoy it, too. Then it happened. Robin Williams did his bit about going down on a woman. If you haven’t seen this act, it includes Williams muff diving in the crook of his own hairy arm. I laughed and tried hard not to look at my mother beside me on the couch.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, sometimes using “we’re all adults” as a mantra simply won’t cut it in regard to your parents. Seeing your mother with tears of laughter streaming down her face because of a cunnilingus joke is one of those times.

Maybe no one ever walked in on me yanking my own chain. Maybe I never had to see my parents bumping uglies. But watching my mom try to catch her breath as Robin Williams buried his face in his own bigfoot-esque swatch of arm fur, well, it seems close enough. Rite of passage achieved. I certainly no longer feel the same about Robin Williams, as if I’d caught him and my mother having sex. And I’ll never watch stand-up with my mom again.

It was the kind of moment when adulthood collides with the reminder that your parents, too, are adults in a way that makes you feel distinctly immature. I’d say it was a coming of age moment, but for fear of a pun I’d better not.



Ryan W. Bradley is a writer. He is cool. I like him.

His story above made me remember watching Species with my father and Original Sin with my mother, and I heartily echo the fear one feels when a sex scene or sex-related act is combined with PARENTS IN THE ROOM. 

Ryan W. Bradley is the author of three poetry chapbooks, a story collection, PRIZE WINNERS (Artistically Declined Press, 2011) and CODE FOR FAILURE, his debut novel (Black Coffee Press, 2012). His poetry homage to Pablo Neruda, THE WAITING TIDE will arrive in 2013 from Curbside Splendor. You can visit his website here.

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  • Reply

    Harley May

    April 28, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    Yay. Because we’ve all been muff diving in the crook of Robin Williams’ arm what?

  • Reply

    David Eichler

    April 28, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    For the moment I thought Ryan was your pen name.


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  • Reply

    susan teppers

    April 29, 2013 at 8:54 am

    Yes, definitely unnerving: parents and sex. I learned about intercourse when I was roughly six. It repulsed me. I told my Mom: Jerry Lewis wouldn’t do that. (Jerry was my hero). It’s good you wrote about this, maybe it’s the purge you needed.

  • Reply

    Marsha Stewart

    April 29, 2013 at 7:38 pm


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