Next time, gimme that G-rating

Here’s a tip for married men with children: The next time you’re going to a movie with your mother-in-law and teenage daughter, make sure the film is G-rated. Consider a cartoon. Under no circumstances take them to a movie with an R-rating that has consenting adults doing consensual things — and I don’t mean ice fishing, which might indeed be consensual, but the adults are always wearing lots of clothes and usually they’re talking about smelt.
If you do make the egregious mistake of going to an R-rated movie with lots of skin (and the film isn’t an educational video for dermatologists), by all means do not sit between the two ladies.
The other night I went to a movie with my 75-year-old mother-in-law, a lovely woman who views ripped jeans as sexually provocative, and my 13-year-old daughter, who certainly doesn’t dress like a tart, but already owns more fishnet tights than her grandmother has sensible shoes. Why did I do this? Because, apparently, I have pudding for brains. My family was visiting my mother-in-law in Manhattan, and we had just arrived after a six-hour drive. After dinner we went for a walk, and there was the cinema and there was the movie. It was about to begin, and so in we went. My wife had the common sense to keep walking.
My mother-in-law said she knew nothing about the film, but she thought one of the actors in it was cute. My daughter agreed. Then, in the first few minutes of the movie, my mother-in-law reinforced the rightness of our decision by remarking upon how handsome this actor looked in his sweater vest.
Unfortunately, the actor didn’t keep the sweater vest on for most of the movie. Nor did the blonde actress keep on her stylish array of coats and blouses and pants. She did keep on her bra in one pivotal scene (though, in truth, I have no idea why), and I was uncharacteristically grateful. Normally when it makes sense for an actress to take off her bra, I’m all for it.
Right now, the prurient among you are dying to know what movie we saw. Well, after confessing in this very space to having seen “Jackass 2” with my wife this past autumn, there is no way I am going to tell you. People already speculate about whether I have any judgment; there is no point in making it absolutely clear I have none. Besides, I want to leave it up to your imagination, which is more than the director of the film did for me.
Usually, I’m pretty comfortable with nudity in a film, especially if it’s relevant to the story. It doesn’t have to be relevant to the story, of course. Oh, who am I kidding? It doesn’t even have to make sense. The problem this time, I discovered, is that there are some movie moments that are better shared with your significant other than with your mother-in-law and your daughter.
Just for the record, my parents were every bit as incapable of picking appropriate family fare as I am. Among the first movies I saw in a theater? “Goodbye, Columbus.” I don’t recall any sex in “Goodbye, Columbus,” but I do remember a lot of talk about a diaphragm, and when my parents wouldn’t answer my whispered inquiries about what precisely a diaphragm was, I finally shouted my question aloud in the theater. My mom whisked me into the lobby for popcorn with supersonic speed.
In any case, I’m honestly not sure whether it was my daughter or I who was most uncomfortable in the movie the other day. But I do know it wasn’t my mother-in-law. Why? She had the good sense to use the film as a teaching moment. “Never sleep with a man on a first date,” she instructed her granddaughter, who, it was clear, was praying to be abducted by aliens that very second. “You can get away with that in the movies, but not in real life.”
Next time? We’re off to “The Little Mermaid.” At least she wears a bra made of clamshells.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on January 14, 2007.)

Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of nineteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Sleepwalker. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and The Double Bind.

3 thoughts on “Next time, gimme that G-rating

  1. Courtney says:

    I know just what you mean. I went to see the movie Jarhead with my dad last year and although I am a married 30 year old, we discovered you never really get old enough to see R rated movies with your father! Because the marine in the movie was away at war, most of his sexual experiences were alone, a fact that DID NOT make them any easier to watch! Your blog made me laugh out loud remembering the silence on the ride home…Thanks for that.

  2. Donald Kendall says:

    I wonder what the film is that you went to?
    A friend of mine suggested THE HOLIDAY, but I doubt there would be that much suggestive sexuality or nudity. Several years ago my sister took the family (my mom and dad and myself) to see CRUEL INTENTIONS, becaus eit was an updated version of DANGEROUS LIASONS. WHAT WAS SHE THINKING!! Every time something suggestive was going on on-screen I could hear my mom in the theater do a loud throat clearing.

  3. Donald Kendall says:

    A few years ago my sister took my family to see CRUEL INTENTIONS. Big mistake. I remember my mother in the backseat make throat-clearing sounds everytime a “suggestive” scene was going on; the actual running time is 93 minutes so there were 93 minutes of “suggestive” scenes. No one was happy when that movie ended.

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