It’s been a while since I’ve talked penises. Raising a 12-year-old boy ensures they’re never very far from my reality. My son loves to talk about his penis and the fact that almost everything gives him an erection nowadays. Sometimes in the middle of the Victoria’s Secret commercial he’ll say, “See? I’m getting hard right now.” “Well, stop it,” I tell him.

He hasn’t gone through puberty yet, nor has he masturbated. How do I know this? Because he’s thrown out comments like, “I don’t think I ever want to masturbate,” to which I inwardly smirk and think, “Honey, as soon as you discover that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow I’ll hardly see you anymore.” Which is fine. I actually can’t wait for him to start masturbating because when he’s tired of playing Xbox he drives me nuts.

“I’m bored,” is the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard to me. “Read a book, clean your room, go outside…” None of these hold any appeal for him, but when the day comes when I can say, “Go masturbate then,” I’m certain the suggestion will be met with approval and glee.

I’ll admit there’s a precarious balance between being a “progressive” mother and a “prude.” It may sound like my son and I live a clothing-optional lifestyle and still shower together because we’re so open with each other, but trust me when I say half the time I’m crying, “I’m your mother! You shouldn’t be telling me these things!” But who else can he talk to about male bodily functions? “Go ask your father,” doesn’t apply here, and friends aren’t always a reliable (or healthy or realistic) option.

For as sexually open as I am, sometimes I am rendered speechless. Like when my son asked me how to masturbate. “Um, you’ll figure it out when the time comes,” I mumbled, praying he’d just drop it. He didn’t. “But like what do you do?” I stopped what I was doing and looked up. “You just kinda…you know…move your hand up and down and stuff.” Are you uncomfortable reading this? If yes, then imagine my discomfort in person. Yikes.

If I don’t answer his questions I’m terrified he’ll turn to the internet for information. A few months ago he wanted to impress a girl at school so he Googled “How to get a 12-year-old girl excited.” You can imagine what came up. So then we had to have the Porn talk. I gave him my best spiel about how porn creates unrealistic expectations about women and if he watched too much of it, eventually he wouldn’t be able to have sex with a real woman. Short of resorting to “Your penis will fall off if you watch too much porn,” I think he got the message, but come on—porn at your fingertips? A mere click away? What teenage boy is going to be able to resist the temptation? And it’s sad. It literally makes me want to cry, because I didn’t watch my first porn until I was 18, and it was a joke at that. I was living in Italy at the time, and my gay friend and girlfriend decided it would be a hoot to go to a porno theater to see a movie in Italian. Except that it ended up being in English with Italian subtitles, the floors were icky sticky, and a man sat down next to my girlfriend and began to masturbate, so we fled, laughing hysterically while wanting to throw up at the same time.

My next porn experience was in my early 20s right after the Pamela Anderson/Tommy Lee video came out. My gay friend (a pattern I seem to have with porn) came over and said, “We gotta watch this. I hear Tommy Lee’s cock is huge!” And it was. But we spent the whole time snickering and counting how many times Pammy gushed, “I love you, baby.”

Porn just wasn’t a reality while I was growing up like it is today. Now it’s an obsession. So I made my son promise he wouldn’t watch any until he was 15, the compromise being that I would buy him a nude magazine when he was ready. When he asked me for one, all these thoughts went through my head before I agreed. Thoughts like: “I guess Playboy wouldn’t be so bad, right? After all, I started looking at my dad’s collection when I was 8. Although that’s the reason I have such a fucked-up body image.” And, “As long as it’s not Penthouse or Oui (is Oui even still around?), both of which horrified the crap out of me when I was younger due to its extreme graphicness. Remember the Vanessa Williams scandal? How could one forget? And Madonna with the hairy armpits and pussy…cat.”

And then I had this thought: “Too bad there isn’t a magazine I can buy filled with pictures of teenage girls with various body types specifically for teenage boys to masturbate to,” which was immediately replaced by: “There are undoubtedly tons of them out there, but it’s freaking illegal to use underage girls in porn and Holy Hell, what was I thinking?”

Clearly I’m not, as my brain seems to be clouded with penises and porn.


Sex Ed

Last night I was sitting in front of my laptop doing what I do best—wasting hours of my life on Facebook—when it happened.

“Mom, did you and my dad ever have sex?”

Because it came so completely out of the blue, I froze like a deer in headlights, taking some time to process the question. A flurry of answers flooded my brain all at once: “No.” “Only one time.” “What do you think?” (Answer a question with a question in hope of veering off topic.)

“Yes,” I said. “That’s how we made you.”

My 11-year-old son stared at me in horror and confusion, or rather, as if he were watching a replay of Miley Cyrus twerking on the VMAs. “Ewwww, how did that happen?”

I hauled myself out of my chair and went over to join him on the couch, thinking, Choose your words carefully so as not to scar him for life. Was I supposed to get technical here and explain that sex was like putting 2 Legos together? Be funny and say, “Well son, it usually happens when you’ve had too many shots…” Lie, and tell him it didn’t happen until I turned 30?

“It happens when 2 people love each other.” (I was careful not to say “a man and a woman,” because I want him to grow up to be progressive and tolerant.) Just as I was forming the anatomical visuals in my mind, he dropped another bombshell question: “Why aren’t you and my daddy together anymore?”

I wanted to tell my son to read my blog, except I’ve written too many posts about his penis. Instead, I said that sometimes people love each other, but can’t live together—which is a total cop-out answer, I know. But is “Because honey, your father is Dysfunctional with a capital D” any better?

“I’ll always love your father, but we’re not able to live together because we don’t get along. I love him, but I’m not ‘in love’ with him like a boyfriend and girlfriend should be.” Gah, I felt like a politician spewing a sound bite.

“I don’t want you to get a boyfriend,” he said. Oh man, really? It’s already been 10 years. Is it going to be like that for the next 10? A vision of a tombstone with the words “My Sex Drive” flashed in my mind and I wanted to sob.

When I asked him why, he said, “Because then you won’t pay any attention to me.” Awww. I am his world, this much is true.

“I will always love you and I will always pay attention to you. If I ever get a boyfriend, I have enough love to go around.” (Not enough energy, but love, yes…)

And then in typical boy fashion, he farted loudly. We both laughed, the subject was changed and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. A mother can only take so much at one time.



That’s not a turret, my friends

Everyone knows I’m counting down the days until my son goes back to school—eight, to be exact, so I can write in peace again. My writing goals were so far from being fulfilled this summer that I’m embarrassed to even call myself a writer. Writers write, after all.

Even though I failed miserably in the writing department, I also had Son Goals this summer.

1. Do one cultural thing—and eating ethnic food doesn’t count. WIN. We went to the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles. This is when my son’s ADHD comes in handy, because while I adore museums, I adore them in short doses—meaning I cannot spend hours upon hours in one. Unless it’s the Louvre. So we whizzed through everything pretty quickly, yet still came away feeling very yogurty (cultured).

2. Get my son to finally sleep in his own bed. Yes, I know how old he is…sigh. This has been a bone of contention with every human being I know. Opinions ranged from my son possibly turning gay, to winding up with an Oedipus complex in the future, to him being twenty and still sleeping in my bed. It’s not like I haven’t tried over the years; it’s just that I wanted the decision to be his, rather than us having to wage battle every night. WIN. We both decided once he turned ten in July, it was time. I’m happy to report so far, so good. And I won’t have to witness his very first wet dream.

3. Teach son that Mom is not a maid. This one has been particularly difficult for me, because not only am I borderline obsessive-compulsive, I’m also a control freak and a perfectionist to boot. See, no one else can do “it” as well as me, so I may as well just do “it” myself. A lot of women are like this, which comes back to bite them in the ass. My ex used to say, “Why should I clean the bathroom, wash the dishes, do the laundry…when I know I can’t do it the way you want me to do it?”

Theoretically, I’m supposed to let my son wash dishes even if he doesn’t use scalding hot water to get them clean, right? Or I need to let him fold clothes even if the sides and hems don’t line up, right? Wrong. I’m so not there yet, and if I could go there, I’d worry I’d crack all my teeth from gritting them so hard. Maybe next year. I give myself a FAIL for this particular goal.

4. Go to the beach. We live in Southern California. It would be truly pathetic if we didn’t get to the beach at least once. My excuse for not doing anything that requires me to drive into Los Angeles is fear of traffic. I can’t stand not going more than twenty-three miles per hour for two-and-a-half hours. And yet there are folks who do it every freaking day. Maybe they use the time to learn Cantonese, or they relish the time away from their nagging wife and bitchy teenage daughter. But me? My blood pressure goes up and I wind up feeling like I have a ruptured aneurysm.

But for the sake of my son’s happiness I braved the traffic, and because we brought three different kinds of cookies with us, instead of high blood pressure, I had a sugar-induced high, which felt much better. We brought one of my son’s friends with us, so I did have to be hyper-vigilant about making sure the undertow didn’t suck him out to sea. Besides a flock of seagulls ripping open and devouring our family-size bag of potato chips while we were swimming, it was a great day.

On our way home, as we were stuck in traffic and playing that game where you spy words beginning with the letters of the alphabet (words beginning with Q and X are impossible to find, btw), my son decided he had to pee. There was no way I was going to pull over, so he thought it’d be fun to try and pee into an empty plastic water bottle. I told him it was a good thing his penis was small enough to fit inside the opening of one. He had a ball trying to stick his penis into the bottle, and it was all fun-and-games until I considered the repercussions of him spilling a bottle of urine all over my car seat and floor. Fortunately, he was unable to pee sitting down while belted in, so all in all, I’d have to say this day was full of WIN.

Has anyone had a summer more exciting than mine?


I have said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m at a loss sometimes when it comes to raising a boy. I didn’t grow up with brothers, or male cousins. I haven’t the faintest notion of how males work. If I did, I probably wouldn’t be single.

Girly things I can relate to. I know about getting periods, and breasts, and gynecological exams. I can do makeup, and hair, and clothing coordination.

I don’t know the first thing about penises, except that they’re demanding, and seem to take precedence over all things. For the past few days, my son, who’s almost ten, has been obsessed with his penis. He and I can be sitting on the couch, having a perfectly lovely conversation about reading, and suddenly he’ll pull down his pants and treat his penis like a finger puppet—making it speak and move. Sometimes, it’s a volcano, threatening to explode. (I don’t want to read too much into that one.)

When stuff like that happens, my brain goes off in a hundred different directions, trying to decide the best way to handle these situations.

A sexually-repressed mother would probably slap her son, and tell him to never let “that thing” out again—which may result in him growing up and unleashing “his thing” every chance he got.

A sexually-liberated mother might tell her son to embrace his penis, to never be ashamed of nudity—which may result in him growing up and embracing his penis every chance he got.

I find myself falling somewhere in the middle: I don’t want to see his penis, especially in our living room, but I don’t want him to be in therapy over it later on either. I realize he’s discovered his penis in a way that will now make it front and center his entire life. I also can’t help but think that if I had a daughter, I seriously doubt we’d be talking about her vagina in the third person.

Or maybe not. Maybe there are little girls out there who liken their vaginas to, oh, I don’t know, flowers, or walk around pretending their vaginas are meowing.

When your child’s genitalia takes on the importance of say, a best friend, how should a mother react?

I don’t want my son to be embarrassed or ashamed of his budding sexuality, but I also don’t want to have conversations with the “little guy,” if you know what I mean.

So far, I’ve humored my son, and told him to keep the little General in his pants, or I’ll chop it off and throw it in the dumpster. But then I wonder if joking about it may cause irrational fear of castration in his future.

When push comes to shove (no pun intended), all I really want is for my son to learn to use his penis for good, instead of evil.

Anyone have any helpful advice they’d like to share?