This weekend, my Mom showed up for a visit with a folder full of information about her upcoming knee-replacement surgery.

There was a handout on exercises you can do before your surgery, and one on places to do your rehab after. And then, at the bottom of the heap, was the pamphlet on “Sex After Your Joint Replacement.”

I snatched it.

“Jenny, put that back,” my mother said mildly. “You’re not mature enough to read it.”

“I’m mature. I'm almost thirty-eight years old, and I have two kids, and OH DEAR GOD THERE ARE ILLUSTRATIONS.”

Fran grabbed for the pages. Not fast enough (her bum knees slow her down). "This is the BEST DAY OF MY LIFE," I told her, and read out loud. “Intimacy might feel strange and even painful with your new hip or knee."

“I’m warning you…”

“But look!” I said, showing her the picture of a middle-aged woman astride a not-entirely-happy looking man. “You can use pillows to help!”

I flipped through the pages and started to notice something: all of the recently re-hipped or re-kneed people in the Joy of Sex-style drawings getting jiggy with their new parts were in heterosexual pairings. It was obvious that whoever had put the pamphlet together had at least given some thought to inclusion and diversity, because there was an interracial couple, but there was no boy-on-boy or girl-on-girl action.

“Mother,” I asked. “Where are the gays?”

She gave a noncommittal “hmm,” which is the noise she makes when she wants to pretend we aren’t related, and tried to read the paper as I dredged up the language from my days as an early 1990’s English major.

“This,” I declared, “is a profound act of erasure. Don’t you even care that you’ve been marginalized?”


“Unless that’s part of what they do when you’re under. Maybe you’ll wake up with a new knee and you’ll want to date men again! Doesn't that concern you at all?”

"Hmm," she said, and grabbed the pamphlet back, ignoring my suggestion that she write a letter to her surgeon demanding equal-time representation in the literature

Parents. They just don’t listen.