The day I couldn’t find our household jar of Vaseline, I knew. Suspicions were confirmed when the missing jar showed up empty in the teenager’s bathroom cabinet, and just so happened to coincide with the fact that his showers went from being five minutes long to to 25 minutes long. Around the same time, I found a half empty bottle of my favorite cherry blossom body lotion mysteriously moved to a different location in my bathroom.
My teenage son had…ahem, been doing, uhhhh… yep. THAT. The M word. Let’s say it together folks, MASTURBATION.
I didn’t shriek with horror when it beat me against the head with the obviousness of it all, nor did I waste time jerking around the fact my little boy was no longer a little boy anymore. (See what I did there? Hang with me here, because humor is the only way you’re going to get through this conversation with your teenager.)
I thought I could just let it go and not mention it to him, and the rest of the family would all just silently suffer from cold showers and dry skin until he moved out. But at the same time, I entertained the thought that maybe he is worried that kind of behavior is somehow “wrong,” “gross,” or “sinful,” and I feared that no young man or young woman should ever be held hostage to such untruths about their own bodies.
So I went for it.
But not after first begging my husband to have the conversation for me, because I thought it should really come from a man who had been there and beat that. He declined out of embarrassment and fear, so I did what any modern woman would do — I immediately grew a damn pair of brave balls of my own. And then armed with all the masturbatory jokes I could memorize, I decided it was time to let my son know that the changes his body are going through, and the urges those changes bring with them, are 100% totally normal.
In other words, I was confident that I could easily express to my son that there is no shame involved in the natural and biological functions that are happening to him.
That turned out to be a whole helluva lot harder than I thought.
I had anticipated I’d be able to eloquently and compassionately talk about masturbation with a 14-year-old boy, as if I was describing flowers blooming in a garden at springtime to my grandma. Instead of the speech I had memorized and deeply contemplated for weeks shooting out of my mouth, something more instinctual (and I think more effective) came out.
And it went like this:
“OK, now listen to me because I will only ever have this conversation with you one time. First, what you’re doing is completely normal. Like 100% totally normal to the point that if you had no natural urges like that at all, I’d be worried. Since the dawn of time masturbating has been a thing, so your body isn’t doing anything it’s not supposed to be doing. Secondly, clean up after yourself. I do appreciate you doing the best you can to slink around and hide the fact that this is now a thing, but please leave no evidence of AND KIND, ANYWHERE, and at ANY TIME. Listen, I don’t mind cleaning up vomit and other bodily byproducts of illness, but I refuse to scrape the sticky remnants of my future grandchildren off the shower wall tiles, the bathroom floor, the bathroom walls, the toilet seat, and MY GOD MAN WHERE AREN’T YOU DOING THIS? Thirdly, no electronics in the bathroom, you get me? You’re also gonna have to be a bit more, ahem, efficient in the shower, because hot water is not cheap, so your 30-minute pleasure sessions need major cutting back. Finally, while you’re down there, every once in a while do a little ball check, and let me know if you’re having any strange pains, or feel new or weird lumps that you think should not be there. Yes, teenagers can get testicular cancer, and trust me, you want to catch that shit early. I love you son. Now, what do you want on your pizza tonight?”
For what felt like an eternity nobody spoke (it was maybe three seconds), but then my son shrugged his shoulders, exhaled deeply, and said with a sly grin that would make a Cheshire cat jealous, “Mom, you’re the best.”
And that my fellow teen moms, is how it’s done. Except if you have teen daughters, then…well, the details might change just a bit. Lemme know how it goes, will ya?