First, remember that your parents might not want to bring up this subject because they don’t know how much you know. Approach them first. Talk to them when they’re relaxed, maybe after they’ve had a glass of wine or they’re getting ready to send you to bed and Netflix their favorite show.
Second: Let them know you’ve seen the video, but if they look uneasy, don’t go into a lot of detail. Acknowledge that you know what Trump said, but don’t quote him verbatim if you don’t have to.
Third: If they ask where you first heard about the video, tell the truth — you saw it on the front page of the newspaper they were reading; or on a YouTube clip featuring Samantha Bee or John Oliver or Steven Colbert; or you saw it while surfing your parents’ Facebook page. Whatever the real answer is, just tell them that.
Fourth: Remind your parents that all this probably doesn’t shock you as much as it shocks them — tell them you’re a middle-schooler and you’ve heard middle school boys talk in recess and during PE. Cite a few examples — for instance, tell them about Andy Perkins who likes to jump on the gym mats and yell “Ow, My Balls!” Or, ask them if they remember that time when they took you to see “Frozen” and they started giggling at the lyric, “Why have a ballroom with no balls?” Tell them that you got the joke, even though they thought you didn’t.
Fifth: Admit to them that you find it surprising that a man with the mentality of a middle school boy is running for president, but reassure them that you’ve heard this kind of talk before, even if the boys who talk that way usually get detention at your school.
Sixth: Ruminate on the injustice of the fact that so many of your friends still get time-outs and detentions, but the Republican candidate for president doesn’t.
Seventh: Be aware that there’s a chance that your parents might ask you about the “F” word and if you’d ever heard it before. Be honest: Tell them that you have. And if they ask where you’ve heard it, tell them the truth about that too. Tell them that you hear it on the sidewalk every day when you’re heading to school. Tell them you’ve heard it in the lyrics for “Hamilton,” your favorite album that they let you blast in your room. Although it’s true that you’ve also heard your parents saying the word when they think you’re asleep, it’s best not to mention that. You’re having a frank discussion with your parents and you don’t want them to feel too weird about it.
Eighth: By the way, they probably won’t ask you about the “P” word. Which is just as well because then you’d have to admit that Donald Trump and the front page of the New York Daily News did actually expand your vocabulary.
Ninth: Above all, remember this: It’s been a long while since they were in middle school and they might not remember what it was like and that there were a lot of creeps there too.
Tenth: Here’s something important to remember too: Your parents might think that seeing the video destroyed your innocence and that you’ll no longer be able to regard politicians as role models. Reassure them that this is not the case — let them know you grew up in the 2010’s, which meant that you grew up knowing all about Anthony Weiner.
Eleventh: Try not to rub your parents’ faces in the fact that you’re growing up knowing so much more about the world than they did and that you can only imagine how they would have reacted if someone showed them “Transparent” or “The Amy Schumer Show” or “Girls” when they were in middle school. Not that you’ve seen those shows at any of your friends’ houses, of course. At least, you don’t have to tell them that you have unless they specifically ask.
Twelfth: Most probably, they’ll want to get this conversation over with as quickly as possible, so if they ask what you think the Trump video means for the presidential election, don’t get into a long-winded explanation — just crank up “The Reynolds Pamphlet” from “Hamilton” and dance around the room to the part where they sing, “You’re never gonna be president now!” They’ll get it.
Thirteenth: By the way, the final presidential debate will be on soon, but chances are they’re not going to want to watch it with you. They might not want to watch it all. Be understanding about that. Know that it’s harder for them than it is for you. Know that they’re trying to bring you up right in a world that’s far more vulgar than they ever imagined it would be. Know that part of them still thinks they’re bringing you up in a world where misogyny, racism and anti-Semitism are all in the past. Know that their parents probably thought that too. Hope that your children, if you have children, will grow up in a better world too.
Fourteenth: You can probably just stream the debate on your phone in your room while your parents think you’re doing homework. And if a certain candidate in the debate uses the “F” word or the “P” word or says something else misogynistic and vile, remind yourself that your folks might not be able to handle talking to you about it right away. Let them imagine you didn’t hear what the fellow said. Allow them that fantasy at least for a little while.
Fifteenth: Remember: Your parents were patient with you when you were growing up; try your best to be patient with them — even though it’s hard sometimes to remember that they’re older than you, try not to tell them that.
Oh, and last of all: Be patient with America — soon enough, 2024 will be here. And, assuming that this country is still intact, you’ll be able to vote then.
Adam Langer is the Forward’s culture editor and the parent of a middle-schooler. Contact him on Twitter, @Adam_Langer
Adam Langer is the Forward’s culture editor. Born and raised in Chicago, he now lives in New York. He has written plays, films, criticism and a memoir, but most of the time, he writes novels.
He is the author of the novels “Crossing California,” “The Washington Story,” “Ellington Boulevard,” “The Thieves of Manhattan” and “The Salinger Contract” as well as the memoir “My Father’s Bonus March.”