Before you talk to your kids about sex, you must talk to them about art. Matters relating to sex are easy, because everyone can more or less fuck. Sex, in this respect, is a lot like language. Sex is one of the most animal things a human can do (biological), and language is one of the most human things a human can do (cultural). Language is also for everybody. Art is another matter altogether. It is not as universal as sex or as democratic as language. Which brings me to the first thing you must tell your child about art: Art is not democratic. Meaning: There is no fairness in art.
To get this message across to your boy or girl, I recommend showing them Martin Scorsese's documentary on Fran Lebowitz, Public Speaking. And what does she say about democracy in the middle of this excellent film? That there is too much of it in art, and not enough of it in politics. Give your boy or girl time to appreciate this insight. It's a deep one. Really, why is there so much democracy in the arts? Because the system would prefer that everyone explore their artistic potential rather than their political potential.
We live in a society that sees the artist as the ideal type. In the past, the ideal type was the "organization man," the one who was not about himself but about his company, who was loyal to his boss, who followed orders and was rewarded with the addition of rungs on his ladder up the company. After the 1960s, we abandoned that model. And who did we pick as the ideal subject for work in the 21st century? The artist. Not just any old artist, but the artist in the modernist sense: autonomous and creative.
The bosses of our time want us to behave like artists, not the factory workers of old or the organization types of yesterday. The metaphor of the artist is indeed powerful in our neoliberal era of de-unionization, entrepreneurialism, and creative destruction. Be yourself, be busy, be innovative. Bosses are all looking for artists to sell hamburgers, perfumes, seats in planes, and ads on the web. In short: Everyone should strive to be an artist. But what we should really strive to be is a citizen—that functionary in the public domain of fairness.
Only a pitiful few of us should ever turn to art. A great pianist, director, or painter is much like a bright rare bird in a dull and dark forest, a thing that appears only once in a blue moon. This is the truth no teacher or "life coach" will ever tell you, so parents must say it: Not everyone is an artist.
Here is a story that will help your child come to terms with the true nature of this unfairness. The story comes from the sad country of Zimbabwe, and it concerns a crime.
One day in the village, the hare came across a mbira (thumb piano) in a hut owned by the turtle. The hare took the mbira and began to play with it. Later that week, the turtle came across the hare playing what looked like his missing mbira. The turtle suspected the hare had stolen his instrument from his hut and demanded that he return it at once. The hare said it was given to him by a relative, and refused.
The turtle knew he was lying and took the matter up with the lion, the keeper of law and order in the village. As it was hard to prove if the hare had stolen the mbira, the lion decided, logically, that if the turtle had owned the instrument for many years, as he claimed, then he would be able to play it better than the hare. So he decided that a contest would be held at the village square between the hare and the turtle. The best musician would win the dispute.
The turtle played first and pretty much proved his mastery of the instrument. "Just listen to him play," hissed the snake in the grass, "it is the sound of one who has practiced for so, so many years." All the other animals agreed that it was his for sure. But now it was the hare's turn to play. He took the mbira from the proud turtle, sat on a stone, closed his eyes, and began a performance that astonished the whole village. Even the birds were amazed. None had heard such music before. So beautiful, so clear, so profound.
When the hare was done, the lion made his judgment immediately: "Turtle, I think everyone in the village is not stupid. Everyone knows the hare stole your mbira, though we can never prove it. As a piece of property, for sure, it is yours. But as a musician, we must not kid ourselves: That instrument belongs to the hare. Even if you bought it with your hard-earned money, I would still judge to give it to the hare. The mbira was never yours. Now go and find something that really belongs to you." The village animals applauded the lion's wisdom, and the turtle returned to his home sad and hurt.
The truth of this story is what you must make your child understand. If they do not? Well, go to any art walk around town, and you will see the consequences.