Film: Not in front of the adults
Friday 16 January 1998
Let me start this piece by saying that I'm no prude. I can discuss sex without laughing and can argue for and against buggery without a smirk. More often than not, I'm "for". I also know London's Soho area like the back of my hand and have been to Bangkok twice. I need say no more about my maturity towards the subject. Surprising, then, that this fresh, unabridged, freedom on all things sexual seems to end when I'm at my parents' house. It's not that they're prudes either, it's just that we don't talk about it. We tread like rhinos over small children just to avoid the subject. They know I do it and I know they do it, so why discuss it? Religion, politics, the new bypass, work, Marks & Spencer's, crisps and football are all more popular subjects than sex in our house. That's the score.
Unfortunately, however, this leaves a huge barn door open for sex to enter our lives through many wild and varied directions. The grunting noises coming from the neighbours, magazines (particularly Loaded), drunk relatives saying stuff they shouldn't. And then, of course, there's telly. The bastard. The last time I was home was a good example. The folks wanted a video to watch that night. I knew I had to pick something safe, something that could mildly entertain but in no way shock. I got them Toy Story last time. Tom Hanks, toys, computer graphics. Winner.
This time, I went for The English Patient. Oscar winner, love story, action, good clothes, safe as a large marshmallow, I thought. An hour into it and we're still alright. A few Nazis, an unrecognisable third- degree burns victim, well spoken soldiers and that bloke off Auf Wiedersehen Pet. All clear.
Then... bang... hot sex rumpo-agogo... Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott-Thomas are at it like enraged oyster-gibbons. "Ooh... yeaahh... uhhh... uhhhh." Silence swept through our sitting room. "Uhh... yera... grrrr!!!" My mum has begun to look over the telly at the picture of me and my sister when we were at school. "Ummmm... uh... uh... uh... uh... uh!" My dad cleans his glasses. "Grrrrrr... ooh!" I attempt a dry cough which comes out more like the gurgle of a strangled rodent. The bottoms and breasts writhe about for what seems like hours. I reach for a newspaper and begin reading an article on the rise of car theft in Salford. Eventually, after maybe seven excruciating minutes, the rumpo is at an end. In our sitting room, there is an ungodly silence, as if a naked man had just run through the room.
None of us have said anything for the last five minutes. My dad eventually breaks the silence by claiming that Kristin Scott-Thomas looked a bit like my girlfriend. Amazing, since all he had to go on was Ms Thomas's arse bouncing up and down on the telly. I make a mental note to not bring my girlfriend here for a while.
This is in no way the only time that has happened. Off the top of my head, I can remember the dire thriller No Way Out with Kevin Costner and Sean Young. Costner had been a favourite of my mum's for a while. Then... oof! His arse was like a steam train pumping into the love depot of Sean Young's thighs. There's another film, I forget the name of, with Julie Andrews. A Blake Edwards' one. Could be like The Pink Panther, we thought. Not on your nelly. Andrews whips out her breasts halfway through, and my dad spills his coffee. Discerning Andrews' fans were probably not ready for this, and nor were my parents. The hills were most definitely alive, from what I saw.
A rule of thumb in these situations is to be wary of every actor in every film. British actors specifically. All of them are quite capable of smart haircuts and appearing in a fine film or TV drama involving Venice and big dresses.
Easy fodder for the parent, usually. But be warned. These same actors are not afraid of flopping the tackle out. Jeremy Irons is one. English Gent he may be, but if there's an arse and penis required for a specific scene he can't drop his keks quick enough. Helen Mirren needn't bother wearing pants, either. Jenny Agutter was another one. You're usually safe with Americans, though. They're more glaringly obvious than your Brits. More inclined to whip out the old Joanna and tinkle on someone's ivories.
You'd think the 9pm watershed would be a good guide, but it's not. Nature programmes cannot be overlooked. Monkeys, elephants, rodents, snakes, weevils, orangutans, mice, worms, geese and more rodents are all at it every five minutes under the dulcet tones of Attenborough. Sex is sex in our house. The silence is as strong if it's a rabbit as if it's Kevin Costner.
Mind you, maybe it's just me and my family that find this situation difficult. It could be that your family and everyone else's families are all "getting it on" in front of each other all the time. A huge bohemian one-for-all sex extravaganza going on in the sitting room after dinner. But, somehow, I doubt it. So what's the answer? Well, never go home to your parents is one. And if you do, beware the telly. Tread carefully in the video shop. Do not trust Jeremy Irons. And especially not Costner. As for me, I've already lined up the film for the next time I'm home. Last Tango In Paris. Me mum and dad love Brando. Cheers.
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