“No, Delilah … you don’t gangbang,” I said softly, almost absentmindedly, as I stroked the animal’s soft furry head and underbelly. Curled in my arms, Delilah was purring blissfully — and I was even feeling rather relaxed myself.

“What did you just say?” my mother, who was sitting across the table from me smoking an after-dinner cigarette, said suddenly, an odd look on her face.

It was 1994. I was 14 years old and I had recently discovered hip-hop; rap; well, gangsta rap really. Snoop Doggy Dog and Dr. Dre, Notorious B.I.G., the Wu-Tang Clan — their lyrics floated through my head constantly, a strange but beautiful and fascinating tapestry of violence, bravado and poetry. At that moment, I had been reciting Coolio’s “Fantastic Voyage” to myself:

Niggas are the same from Watts to Brooklyn /

I try to keep my faith in my people /

But sometimes my people be acting like they evil /

And you don’t understand about runnin’ with a gang /

Cuz you don’t gangbang …

Staring down at Delilah, her tiny gray head, her squinting, innocent eyes, the calm rumble of her contentment, I reflected on the powerful truth of these words: No, Delilah did not understand about running with gangs — she did not gangbang.

“Oh, I was just joking around with myself I guess,” I said to my mother, who had crushed her cigarette in the ashtray and was staring at me: “I was imagining Delilah in a rap song … I just said that she doesn’t gangbang.”

“Robert, don’t use that word,” my mother said quietly, seriously. She looked uncomfortable, and that was making me uncomfortable. I could probably count on one hand the number of times my mother had told me not to do something.

“Well, I don’t see what the big deal is,” I said quickly, wanting to laugh it off.

“It’s a very derogatory word … very disrespectful to women.”

“What? No — it’s got nothing to do with women,” I said. Clearly my mother was confused about something. Of course, she couldn’t really be expected to understand — what could a 46-year-old white woman possibly know about gangbangers? I had tried to play her parts of Enter the 36 Chambers and some other favorites, but they were beyond her comprehension. I, on the other hand, knew all about gangbangers, original gangstas, studio gangstas, real muthaphuckkin’ G’s — just about any type of G you could imagine, really. I decided to illuminate her:

“Mom — gangbanging means, like, you know, being a gang member. The black guys in the gangs in Los Angeles and whatever — and some rappers, the real ones — they’re gangbangers.”

My mother just shook her head at me.

“Well, what do you think it means?” I said, suddenly feeling defensive.

There was a long, awkward pause. My mother lit another cigarette.

“A gang bang,” she said tentatively, “is when many men have sex with one woman at the same time. It’s very degrading. You shouldn’t even joke about it.”

I suddenly had that same terrible feeling I’d had, years before, when after being tormented on the playground for my ignorance, I’d asked my mother what “horny” meant. Oh dear God. We never spoke about sex, and for it to come up now, in this bizarre context — it was almost more than I could bear. (Delilah, perhaps sensing the horrible tension hanging over the table, hopped down from my lap and dashed out of the room.) My mind was racing — what was my mother talking about? I’d never heard of this before. Why would a bunch of men even want to have sex with the same woman at the same time? Had I been misunderstanding all these rap lyrics all this time? I considered myself a student of rap slang, and it seemed impossible that I could have gotten it so wrong.

“No … I mean, come on … I don’t think that’s what it means. That’s not what they’re talking about. But, well … okay, I won’t say it again. Sorry. That’s really not what I meant.” I rose from the table as quickly as possible and dashed upstairs to my room.

Fourteen years later, Delilah, who was maybe a year old at the time, is still having kittens like clockwork. She’s so fertile that my friends often joke about it: “Man, she’s having more kittens? She’s such a ho! She must’ve had kittens by every cat in the neighborhood.” I always smile and laugh — and, inwardly, cringe. Perhaps the sweet, slinky, and always mysterious Delilah does, in fact, gangbang.

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ROB WILLIAMS is a mercenary copywriter and copy editor who lives above a meat market in the East Village in New York City. Find more of his stories at itmustbebobby.com.

17 responses to “Gangbang”

  1. Simon Smithson says:

    Rob, have you ever read Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk? There’s a particularly excruciating scene that’s very similar to this…

    I am so glad I’ve never had this conversation with my mother.

    Welcome aboard!

  2. Irene Zion says:

    Oh Rob,
    This must have been so confusing.
    Thinking you knew it all.
    Thinking your mother couldn’t possibly know what she was talking about.
    Finding out you weren’t so sure of yourself anymore.
    Must’ve been pretty hard on your mother, too.
    Does she remember this?

  3. Anon says:

    Ah, sex misunderstandings with Mom. My most mortifying was the flip side of your story. Back in the 80s, my brother had shown her a “portable scalp massager” – this gigantic, toaster-sized thing that strapped onto the back of your hand and… well… vibrated. And, see, Mom wasn’t so hot on retaining details – she’s sort of a “big picture” person.

    So, standing in a crowded, inner-city neighborhood drug store, she suddenly blurts out, “Oh! You know what? I should see if they sell vibrators here. Like the one your brother uses. The strap-on.” I was fifteen. Jesus fucking Christ.

      • Anon says:

        Thanks so much for your outpouring of sympathy. It’s always nice when the traumatic scars of my youth can serve as guffaw-fodder for the public.

        • Anon says:

          I must admit, the dyslexic nature of your emoticon has perturbed me somewhat but far, far less than the graphical happy moron that shows when I type it the “right” way. I shall now adopt your method for this board. Perhaps it could be like a royalty – I’ll trade you a mortifying story of my past in exchange for usage rights for your emoticons.

        • Rob Williams says:

          I feel I should clarify that the sarcastic comments above by Anon about “the traumatic scars of my youth” and “guffaw-fodder” were not made by me, Rob Williams, the author of this post. In fact the story is meant to be guffaw-fodder. I don’t understand the intent of Anon’s comment.

        • Anon says:

          Yeah, I get that a lot (;. I believe that life itself is meant to be guffaw-fodder. I just felt like pretending I was sensitive. My apologies for any intent-hijack!

  4. Zara Potts says:

    Oh no. No no no.
    Oh I can just imagine how you must have squirmed. I like the way you write about your mother’s smoking during this conversation. Grinding out a cigarette butt can be such a good full stop. And then lighting another one, I could almost hear the disapproval in her inhale..
    Welcome.

  5. sheree says:

    Brilliant post!

  6. Amanda says:

    Ohhhhh my gosh, so great. I learned about the broader definition of “fag” and “homo” and “total gayer” from my mother in a similar conversation. Apparently, those are not all fancy ways of saying “stupid”. Who knew?!

  7. Erika Rae says:

    Delilah was smart to run out of the room like that. Awkward! My mom and I never talked about sex. The closest we ever got was when she asked me if I knew what the little pink box she sometimes set on the back of the toilet was for. Kryke.

  8. Joe Daly says:

    Oh my goodness, that was a fantastically awkward read! Really funny. I enjoyed how the situation got to be like Chinese handcuffs- the more you tried to extricate the subject from the conversation, the more it dug in!

  9. Mary says:

    That. Was. Great. So funny. I love 4-year-old you… and your mom… and Delilah. Great family moment there. *snicker*

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