Like many veterans of the 60s, my parents pride themselves on their openness about subjects their own parents’ generation considered too taboo even to acknowledge. When it comes to candour about these matters my mother, who is not only a former hippie but French, is doubly credentialed.
So whenever she and I go to the movies, I try not to think twice if the poster features a scantily clad woman or if the review has warned of explicit sexual content, as it did when we went to see Brokeback Mountain.
After all, why should a mother and son feel any discomfort about watching a man lubricate his penis with his own saliva, right before thrusting it into Jake Gyllenhaal with all the explosive, repressed passion of a lone gay cowboy in a red state?
Under normal circumstances, that particular scene probably wouldn’t have made much of an impression on me. It’s just that, with your mother sitting right beside you, you may, even in spite of the most cosmopolitan attitudes, begin to worry that some small, irregular motion on your part will betray you as reacting to the fleshy images with anything other than detached interest.
You suppress the urge to breathe deeply, taking your air in small sips. Your oxygen debt gradually accumulates, and when you finally give in, heaving as if your life depended on it (because it does), you look up at the screen to find Heath Ledger in the middle of a groaning, pyrotechnic orgasm. As he collapses in a heap of post-coital exhaustion, your mother, having caught the escalating rise and fall of your shoulders out of the corner of her eye, asks you how you’re doing.
Shortly after you’ve started to take your mind off breathing, Ennis and Jack are scampering by the stream in their full frontal glory. At this moment, it comes to your attention that your boxer shorts are tightly bunched around your inner thighs, and you realize that you won’t be able to tolerate the discomfort for much longer.
Your hands inch slowly toward the front of your pants to loosen the offending cloth. When you finally discover that it won’t budge because you’re sitting on the slack, you attempt to manage without hands, squirming your hips restlessly in the seat – just, as it happens, as the two men’s wet, muscular frames lock in a passionate kiss.
The credits roll, and the two of you emerge quietly into the late afternoon glare. She finally ventures to break the silence. ‘God, Jake Gyllenhal is so sexy, don’t you think?