African Reflections, Part One: The Lion Mates Tonight

Category: Weekly Columns

ShortRib (my wife) and I went on our honeymoon, shortly after getting married at the end of last year. It was an exotic african reflections trip and one we wouldn’t have undertaken, given the subsequent economic collapse, had we not already paid for the trip (which was non-refundable). We were thoroughly excited, with my only concern being leaving GuitarHero (my 15-year-old) and JugHead (my 12-year-old) with an adult friend, for so long, with us so far away.

The lessons we all learned and the experiences proved, as is so often the case, beyond anything we anticipated. Our honeymoon consisted of two parts; the first was a safari in the Masai Mara Game Preserve in Kenya and the second, a cruise in The Seychilles Islands (Madagasgar, Assumption Island, Meyotte, Mahe and others). The Mara’s 1,510 square kilometers of open savannah, woodlands, and tree-lined rivers create an eco-system, which supports huge numbers of lions, often in prides, elephant, giraffe, a variety of gazelle species, zebra, cheetah, and many others. The rivers support crocodiles and hippos in abundance.

However, what you see is unlike Disneyland’s choreographed Jungle Cruise. Patience, luck, weather, the time of year, and the skill of the guides determine your sightings. We traveled in Land Rovers, which had removable sunroofs and windows that left us often feeling dangerously exposed. We were beyond fortunate by encountering several prides of lions, herds of zebras, antelope, various gazelles, elephants, a cheetah and her two cubs, plus so much more.

Given it was our honeymoon; we were also surprised to encounter several different species in the throes of mating. We saw turtles do it; antelopes do it, and a pair of lions doing it. Isn’t there a Cole Porter song in there somewhere? But, by far, the most entertaining and ultimately ironic lovers we saw were the pair of lions. The guide explained that they mate many times a day, for seven days in a row, during which time they’re not eating.

Seeing these mating animals had the unexpected effect of reminding me that I had a job to do, at home, in having part two of the sex-talk with GuitarHero. A while ago, he asked if he could begin dating. When I asked him what dating meant to him, he didn’t have an answer. Further, when I asked him if he knew the risks and rewards, both emotionally and health-wise of intimate relations, he gave me that typical teenage embarrassed look, combined with the of-course-I-know-it-all expression.

I realized I was now in big trouble. We had to have “the talk.” But, times have changed. My Dad took me to a BBQ joint, I even remember the sawdust on the floor, when I was a young teen and awkwardly tried to explain the birds-and-the-bees to me. I really didn’t have a clue before or after, what he was talking about. For that matter, I’m still trying to figure it out.

Kids today think they know more, but do they? So, I decided GuitarHero and I would have a two-part conversation, as I realized there were really two important components to the talk. One, being the emotional and the extremely different impact and resulting expectations that boys and girls bring to sexual intimacy. The other talk dealing with what I term the mechanics and risks.

The lions seemed to have their own dance, so to speak, but it was clear the different role each gender carried. I needed and wanted my son to respect that the girls may behave in a way to elicit the boy’s approval and attention while, for the boy, it may have less meaning and importance. To me, this was as important as discussing the mechanics, birth control, and the risks associated with heading down this path. I wasn’t particularly worried my son would be as indifferent as the male lion, but I was concerned that he’d care for the emotional impact of any intimacy he had with a teen girl. And, we did have that talk a few months back.

Bringing this story to full circle, we encountered the same lioness the next day. Evidently her tour-of-duty of seven days of mating had ended. Starving, she had just made a kill and was carrying, in her mouth, a dead warthog. In the distance, her mate of the previous seven days, was lingering, hoping for a tidbit. And, in the animal kingdom, it was clear the male lion paid no attention to the needs or wants of his mate. She had to fend for herself after their rendezvous. As a result, her interest in him was nil.

Hopefully, my teen will do a better job of taking care of his woman, if and when he gets one. But, now with some further inspiration from my animal friends over in Africa, I will finally have to have Part Two of the talk. You see, I chickened out.

Check out this YouTube clip, for a good laugh, that slightly relates to this week’s column.