As soon as I hit puberty, my Italian heritage came to bite me in the ass. A lot of guys get peach fuzz for a while, but by the time I was 14 I almost had a 5’o clock shadow. This, of course, meant it was harder for me to go out on calls that were age appropriate (who wants to see a man-child with a Gandalf style beard plugging Hot Wheels? Anyone?). So we tried every concoction under the sun, except shaving. Mom was worried that if I started to shave, it would just grow back thicker. So, we tried Jolene Cream, which is basically bleach. It made it…lighter, I suppose, but God did it sting. That worked for a while…then Grandma suggested waxing it. Ow. Ow. Ladies, I’m sorry for any of you that have to go through that. It hurts like hell. We limped along like that for a while, trying the best we could to cover the fact that my biology was kicking in.

In the meantime, I was left to wonder about my body. I didn’t have a father to explain that what I was going through was normal. I just knew that all of a sudden I had hair in odd places. My arms – once relatively hair-free – had begun springing little jungles of hair. It was patchy, and I hated it. All of a sudden I had chest hair. And leg hair. And armpit hair. WTF. Seriously. I mean, it wasn’t like a hair sweater or anything – I didn’t look like a Furbie – but to me, I did. I was horrified. It didn’t help that Mom didn’t know what was going on either. I remember swimming with friends. My shirt was off (a rarity…even without the hair I was extremely conscious of my body), and I was feeling pretty good. I overheard Mom talking to one of my friend’s mom’s by the pool.

Mom: …is that…normal?

Friend’s Mom: Is what normal?

Mom gestured to me.

Mom: That.

Mom waved me over.

Mom: Danny, raise your arms.

I was a bit horrified, but I obliged. I already knew what she was talking about – she was voicing concerns that were already in my head daily.

Friend’s Mom: Armpit hair?

Mom: Yeah.

Friend’s Mom: …yes, that’s normal.

I didn’t believe her. I felt like a beast. I mean, it’s supposed to be some sort of rite of passage to get chest hair and all that, and I understood that intellectually (what I did know, I knew from books). But would this shit stop growing before I looked like a wooly mammoth? I sincerely hoped so, but I was apprehensive.

I remember one day, I was staring at myself in the bathroom mirror – it was right before a shower. I looked at myself, disgusted. I gave up…I grabbed a razor and shaved myself all over – chest, legs, ass, armpits..everything. Hell, I even shaved my forearms. I was tired of looking like a mountain man. Here’s the thing though: I didn’t know how to shave. Nobody told me I ought to use shaving cream. Or water. Or how to hold a razor. Or whether to shave against the grain or with it. I’ll give you a moment to soak that in.

Still with me? Good. So, I had painstakingly shaved myself pretty much stem to stern (minus my face). There were razor bumps (though I didn’t know what they were at the time), there were nicks from the razor blade and I was bleeding in places that one probably typically ought not to bleed. Thinking that taking a shower would now be the wisest thing, I hopped in. Oh my God, did it sting. My whole body. Every inch of my body that wasn’t red and screaming was scraped to death (I had gone over certain patches several times just to be sure I got the hair). When I put my shirt on, I bled through it in patchy pinheads. If this was the price for being hairless…well, fuck it. I’d just have to look like a werewolf.

Mom finally gave up on the waxing and bleach. They were valiant efforts, but they could not stem the tide of puberty. I was told that – finally – I should probably start shaving. Considering my first experience, I did so with great trepidation. I was finally clued into the secret of shaving cream, though, and that eased my mind a little. My first attempt made me look patchy and red.

Mom: Don’t you know how to shave?

Me: …not really…

I think she was surprised. I mean, I knew a lot. There were very few things I wasn’t knowledgeable about. Unfortunately, I never bothered much with biological issues in my reading. So, no…I didn’t know how to shave. We called Clint.

He gave me some great tips…suggested I shave in the shower, let the steam get to my face. Told me to go with the grain to avoid irritation unless I had a hot date.

I still remember him sitting there with a Marlboro dangling from his lips.

Clint: Nothin’ feels better than a big pair of titties on a freshly shaved face.

Me: …ok…

Clint was crass and crude…something I really didn’t care for. Actually, it made me rather uncomfortable. But since he was my only source of “Man Knowledge” I decided it would be best to just nod and go along. Like I think I said before, the conversations were horribly uncomfortable and actually fairly graphic, considering I knew very little about sex in general. I’d leave his house with my head spinning, trying to figure out what he meant. I remember Mom freaking out that I hadn’t had the “sex talk” (again, not having a father around makes that kind of difficult) and she turned to Clint. He invited me over.

Clint: Sit down.

He pulled out a chair. He sat on the edge of his bed, smoking a cigarette. He looked at me a long time, considering, sizing me up.

Clint: You know what a clitoris is?

Me: Uh.

I was already red in the face.

Clint: The clitoris. The clit. 

He looked at me, saw I wasn’t getting it.

Clint: The VAGINA

Me: Oh, uh huh. Yeah.

Clint: Okay.

He explained, in vivid detail, how to pleasure a woman.

Clint: And wear a fucking condom.

Me: …okay…

I had no intention of having sex. Besides, it’s not like I had ample opportunity. Life on the road made friendships difficult and certainly didn’t leave room to be alone with peers (sexual or otherwise).

Clint: I fucking mean it. Resivior tip. Spermicide. Trojan’s a good brand. So’s Durex. You know how to put one on?

Me: Uh…I can figure it out.

Clint: Good! Go buy a pack. Play around a little.

I had exactly zero desire to do this. Besides, who the hell wants to go their mother and ask them to buy condoms? If that didn’t cause her paranoia meter to go off, I don’t know what would.

Clint looked at me again, and seemed to be considering.

Clint: High school ass, man.

He chuckled.

Clint: You’ll have easy pickings, sir. You’re a catch.

I said okay. I didn’t believe I’d have my pickings of anything, even if I wanted to.

Clint: And never, ever fuck a girl in the ass. Not even if she begs you.

Me: Uh…

Clint: I mean it. There’s diseases and shit. Literally shit.

Me: …uh…okay…

I really wanted to change the subject. He got distant looking, seeming to remember something pleasant.

Clint: Actually, go ahead and do it. But wear a fucking condom!

My Mom was another fount of wisdom when it came to sex. We had an awkward, very strained conversation.

Mom: So…you know…?

Me: Yes. I talked to Clint.

She seemed relieved.

Mom: Okay, good. Now…Danny…don’t ever get a girl pregnant.

I flushed.

Mom: Not ever. You get a girl pregnant, and your life is over. It’s ruined. Your career is over, your life is over. You’ll be a ditch digger. Do you want to be a ditch digger?

I did not want to be a ditch digger.

She scared the shit out of me. If I had sex, odds were, I’d have a kid pop up in 9 months. Don’t have sex. Not ever. Horrible things will happen.

Mom: There’s girls that will just want you to get them pregnant. Just so you can take care of them. And they’ll have all kinds of diseases and stuff. You’ll get very sick, and…and…your penis will hurt.

I was beet red.

Me: I get it, I get it. Just…that’s enough, okay?

Mom: I’m just telling you. Don’t get a girl pregnant. Your life will be over.

Me: Okay. Can we be done now?

If my Mother had a mantra throughout my teenage years it was Don’t Get A Girl Pregnant. She added it to her litany of fears – that I would be assassinated, that I would be framed for something horrible and go to jail, that I’d ruin my career. She went through these like a devout Catholic fingers rosary beads – daily, sometimes more. My own insecurities, along with Mom’s paranoia and Clint’s ham fisted and crass discussion, made avoiding sex rather easy. I didn’t seek it out (even if I wanted to, I had Mom practically at my shoulder day in and day out), and avoided it when the opportunity arose. It was something for dirty old men to drool over and mom’s to fret over. It wasn’t my concern. Besides, who would want to make out with Cousin It?

 

 

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