I Don’t Get It


When Eve and I were on one of our numerous road trips this summer, What’s My Name by Drake came on the radio. She listened for a minute, then said “oh. Now I get what this song is about. And it totally ruined it for me.”

When I was young, one of the things I hated most was not understanding adult conversation. I always wanted to be in the know, no matter how disturbing the know turned out to be. The sad part is that I was so much worse at being witty and funny with adults than my daughter is. She has this dry wit that works even when she doesn’t know what’s going on, and adults are generally happy to have her sitting in and contributing sarcastic observations for as long as she feels like. I, on the other hand, would do stupid things like yelling in my dad’s ear, spilling someone’s drink or randomly throwing socks to get attention, until my mother suggested that I should just go somewhere and read a book. It was pathetic.

Worst of all were suggestive comments or dirty jokes. I knew there was something there that was both funny and forbidden, and I was desperate to crack the code, but despite reading above my age level, I never seemed to have the right key. Eve hates when she’s shut out of a discussion too, but she’s more scathing and less desperate about it.

We used to spend most of the summer in Saskatchewan with my mother’s Polish relatives, so in addition to the conversation being adult, much of it was in an incomprehensible language. I had a couple of cousins who were the same age as me but much more worldly – maybe it was all the copulating farm animals, I don’t know. But I remember one of them provoking horrified laughter from the assembled grown-ups by making a joke about a boy becoming a Boy Scout when he eats his first Brownie. And yes, once I got it I was equally horrified – he was, like, eleven, fer chrissakes!

Another one I remember was my aunt telling a joke about a newlywed couple staying upstairs at a farmer’s house for their honeymoon and never coming out to eat. When he asked if they were hungry they said “no, we’re living on the fruits of love”, and he said “well could ya stop throwing the skins out the window? You’re choking my chickens!” A distant relative who always liked me took pity on me for this one and asked my mom if she could take me into another room and explain the condom thing. Because of her, I tried never to brush my kids off with the ‘you’ll understand when you’re older’ thing – I explain it and let them decide whether they want to ask the next time.

Finally, another one of my aunts told the joke about the couple on a date where the man keeps uncovering weird body parts and claiming odd childhood diseases like tolio and kneesles – and then my mom saw me listening and made me go to bed before the punchline. I was in high school before I finally found someone who knew the whole joke, which was such a massive relief I can’t even tell you – it ends with ‘let me guess – small cox, right?’

Now that I am the adult, I find myself almost unable to pass by an opportunity to show that I GET IT NOW. A few months ago we were at a party and a friend was demonstrating how fast he could drink a beer (this was highly unusual, usually we debate current events and brainstorm ways to repair the ozone layer). He finished and said “that wasn’t my best. I had to swallow twice”. Without even thinking, I said “that’s what she said”, and then realized that the host’s barely teenaged son was in the room. My other friend slapped me and cringed and said “oh god – he got it, too.”

I’m not sure I’m welcome back there. But at least I didn’t make another kid feel out of the loop. The dirty, dirty loop.


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