I am a man. I am fearless. I am the master of my own domain. There is nothing on this Earth that can break my will – except for when from behind me I hear a feminine voice from behind me utter, “we’ve got to talk”. Those four words send an icy chill coursing up down my spine with such violence that the sound of my butt cheeks clenching breaks the sound barrier and shatters all the windows in a three kilometre radius. A younger man would have turned around quicker than I, but youth has the advantage of far less worldly experience to mentally sift through for an inkling of what horrific atrocity that I have in avertedly caused to harken such foul dark words to be aimed in my direction. Did I leave the seat up? Did I forget to put the seat up? Did I foolishly attempt to leave the house without getting confirmation that my apparel was acceptably coordinated? Did she walk into the room that I had just left which contained a temporary mustard gas booby trap for the gremlins that were constantly out to get me? I was pretty sure I had used single word replies all day – I have discovered that the use of multiple word answers leaves a narrower spectrum of female interpretation thereby increasing the likelihood of her discovery that I was not listening as deeply as she supposed I ought to.
“Don’t worry, it’s not about something you’ve done,” my partner sighed as my fingers had dug themselves into the drywall to begin clawing an escape route. Not ever satisfied to allow me to relax totally in any given situation, she then added, “Yet”. If asked, I am sure that she would contend with that the gap between “we’ve got to talk” and “Don’t worry, it’s not about something you’ve done” would be nanoseconds. The truth can be told in the scratches in the wall behind me – it said ten years, three months and twenty days. With much relief, both the air in my lungs and my testicles expelled themselves from their respective body cavities.
It turned out that the eight year old boy, who in a fine example of chivalry, had offered to go to the store that my partner had just quit her job at, go up to the manager and “kick her in the fucking balls”. It had been an unbearable few months, the politics inside the retail store sounded monstrous: do this or we’ll cut your hours, we want this one out so we want you to write out a complaint or we’ll cut your hours, etc.
When there is talk about the wage gap between men and women in the workforce, how unfair it is that women are compensated far less than men, I often am left torn at whether I should be irate or if there is cosmic equality that no one else sees. Business is not a man’s world; whether or not it is because we have a penis that hangs down that throws us slightly off balance when we attempt to strut or our natural instinct of “if you can’t fuck it, kill it”, men need higher wages because we simply are far out witted by the natural business savvy of women. Women are thinkers, they plan things out, if they can’t fuck something, they don’t kill it – they torture the poor creature until it commits suicide. Deep down, I think women realize that the wage gap isn’t about the men at all, it’s about the pity women bestow on us helpless wretches. Women are far stronger in the business world than they are comfortable to admit, as my partner’s experiences at the store showed. I wouldn’t have been able to handle what she had put up with; I would have simply brought a club and started swinging the fourth day in.
Hence, I was proud of the boy willing to go into the den of lionesses to deliver a can of whoop-ass for his mama. What I should have said was, “oh” – a singular response that would allow the female brain to process whatever appropriate emotional response she was looking for him. Stupidly, I forgot my one word rule and regrettably uttered, “Good for him”.
“Really? ‘Good for him’? Really?” she crowed.
“Uhm, yes?” Apparently, being supportive of the boy’s intent was wrong. Damn the knowledge of words with more than two letters. There was a loud expulsion of breath from the woman who stood in front of me. I wondered if I had enough time to go get the sewing kit so that I could stitch my scrotum back on after she had torn it off and shoved it down my throat.
“Firstly, he swore,” my partner said slowly, her finger waving dangerously slow in front of her, mimicking the hypnotic dance of the cobra who is about to sink its fangs into the snake charmer’s nose. “Secondly, he is thinking of hitting a woman.” She paused for a second then continued. “Thirdly, he said ‘kick her in the fucking balls’. Her...balls...her...see? Do you get what’s wrong with this picture?”
I may be dense but I’m not stupid – this time I gave a grunt in reply. My partner’s eyes narrowed as she analyzed the phonetic descriptors and broke them down contained in my grunt. I could hear her synaptic computations discussing the results over their double doubles, my hands were slicker than the time I had to use a half bottle of KY on “Big Mama” Wilder in fret – I was pretty sure that it had been over forty days since I had last taken a hit of testosterone – which wasn’t my fault, but hers. She had been the one that told me I had to take out the garbage at the time the neighbour was trying out his new lawnmower. I tried not to look, but there were other men huddled around the yellow and orange chlorophyll mangler...the peer pressure got to me and I could feel the euphoria hitting me like a sledgehammer when I asked that fateful question, “So how many horses does it got?” At the time, it seemed so innocent, but as I walked back to the door I felt a remembered twinge in my loins – the eunuch within had found a strap on and was hell bent to use it. I was counting on two things to cover my indiscretion: the length of time and the quick trip I had made to the metrosexual shoppe where I purchased the ultimate testosterone sponge, the “Twilight” double feature. I could feel my gonads shrinking as my body fought the detoxification, the disbelief of a pouty vampire in daylight, a wimpy werewolf, but at the end of the treatment, with me lying on the floor covered in vomit crying out “oh Bella, who will you choose”, I had hoped that my slip from the wagon would never be discovered. The heavy price I paid was worth it – my partner nodded and asked if I would talk to the boy.
I assured her that I would certainly talk to the young lad when the opportunity for such a discussion presented itself. Opportunity, she said pointedly, was sitting on his bed waiting to be presented. Opportunity, I decided, had gotten a lot easier, found the Fountain of Youth and changed genders, since I last saw it.
Down the hallway I strode, knocking on the door to the eight year old’s bedroom. The boy sat cross legged glumly on the bed, his face supported by the two palms of his hands. I tried to establish a connection by emulating his posture, which after twenty minutes, three pulleys, and a pry bar I managed to do.
“hey,” I said.
“Hey,” he replied morosely.
“Sooooo,” I said, not knowing where to start I thought the best course of action would be to stick to the single syllable conversation technique that worked 50% of the time on his mother. Fortunately, like mother, like son.
“Why’s mommy so mad at me?” he decried. “Was it cuz I sweared? I didn’t mean to – it just kinda...kinda, slipped and I...” it was the boy’s turn to ride into the audible oral sunset.
“Yep,” I said, overjoyed that genetic behavioural echoes cross generationally. If it kept going this way, the boy’d have the entire thing talked out without me having to interject the word “and”.
The boy’s eyes rolled back as if he had a cheat sheet written on the back of his eyelids. With a huff and a loud, long sigh, the boy continued on.
“Let me guess – swearin’ ain’t right an’ I shouldn’ have said it.”
Well, damn, this having a ‘talk with the boys’ gig wasn’t half as hard as I figured it would be. That Jezabel! Imagine, her slumping into the room after the ‘grueling’ talk she had with the boys, claiming it was so rough that she had a horrible headache – well, what about the ache in my head, huh? Sure it perhaps didn’t have the mass of brain tissue that she has but Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick, it hurts just as bad - well, that excuse was now gone for her to use, yessiree bob, no more of that shi- it was a pity that the boy hadn’t learned the manly safety net of conversation: knowing at what point just to shut up.
“But I’ve heard you cursin’ and swearin’,” the boy reasoned, “so it can’t be so bad if you do it, right?”
No! So close yet to be ripped asunder by logic – well, puberty would put a stop to that, but in the meantime...
“Look, there are right words and there are wrong words,” I explained gently. “Most swear words are bad because they aren’t the proper words to use to get your point across in the best way to show respect both yourself and the person you are talking to. Sometimes bad words are used that have no bearing in the context of how it’s used.” I looked at the boy, thinking that I had made myself quite clear; the blank look on his face suggested otherwise.
“Remember the other day when you were yellin’ at Mr. Renquist?” he asked.
“I was discussing, not yelling...” I countered curtly. The boy had another of his mother’s traits however: selective hearing.
“Remember how you were yellin’ an’ called him a pussy?” This conversation was not going as well as I had first thought.
“I don’t think I used that particular word,” I said defensively.
“Mr. Renquist looked awfully mad - what does pussy mean cuz I don’t think that it was the right word.”
“It sort of means that Mr Renquist wasn’t behaving in a manner that was honest and transparent to reflect as it is expected to in an honourable society,” I said briskly.
The boy looked at me blankly.
“If people would use their brains and grow a set of balls, then some of the wrongs in the world wouldn’t exist.” The boy’s eyes widened in awe about the same time my temple decided that it was a grandfather clock.
“You can grow balls?” he said excitedly, “Like in the garden?”
“No, it’s just a way of saying that if people think something is wrong, they should do something about it instead of just letting it happen,” I said slowly. “Remember when you didn’t clean up after the dog and your mother decided at that time to put a blanket down for a picnic right where the dog had gone? If you would have said something, your mother wouldn’t have put the blanket down and then spent the entire time accusing me of having too many chilli dogs the night before.”
“So why didn’t you just say that?”
“I would but people would think I was replaced by an alien clone. So everything’s good then? You understand everything?” I asked in hope before the throbbing in my temple exploded. He again asked what pussy meant. “Well, you see, there’s a difference in meanings of the same word, sort of like nuts – they can be like almonds or peanuts but in bad language they mean –“
“Balls!” The boy cried out proudly
Exactly. The proper word, by the by, is testicles. In bad language, pussy can mean a coward or wimp and it can mean a woman’s vagina.” The lights were on but no one was home.
“He was acting like you and your brothers when I say its bedtime,” I simplified, hoping that would be an adequate explanation.
Apparently it was not.
“Remember when you thought I was sleepin’?” the boy asked. “I heard you say that you liked mommy’s pussy...”
Goddess, shoot me now.
“But you called Mr. Renquist a pussy...”
“And you don’t like him...”
“So who’s mommy’s pussy and if you like him so much why did you call Mr. Renquist somethin’ you like when you don’t like him?”
“Uhm.....” The boy continued on.
“You also said that Mr. Renquist should grow some balls – but ain’t us boys were borned with them?”
“Well, boys are born with them,” I agreed. The boy hadn’t heard, he was intensely peering down into his shorts that he had stretched out.
“Are they like vegetables? Can we grow ball out back? We could sell them at the farmer’s market! We could charge like lots of money cuz you talk all the time about dickless wonders so there’s got to be plenty of ‘em around who’d buy them, right? Then it wouldn’t take forever to save money and get Mario Galaxy,” the boy excitedly reasoned. I motioned for him to take a deep breath.
“Firstly, no, balls do not grow in gardens. Secondly, if you did your chores on a regular basis you would get your full allowance and you would not have to rely on your birthday for your gaming purchases. Thirdly it was a private discussion, young man, between two adults who....”
“People were staring at you from down the block,” he retorted.
“Adults were! Adults conversation so adults naturally would want to hear an adult conversation so they would....” When did I lose control of this situation?
“You also called Mr. Renquist a cock sucker,” the boy further accused.
“I certainly did nothing of the sort!” I protested but this did not deter the boy from continuing on.
“And you hate Mr. Renquist, right?”
“Hate is a strong word,” I fumbled out meekly.
“So being a cock sucker is a bad thing, right?”
“Well....” I wondered if the boy had been a Spanish inquisitor in a previous life.
“Remember the other night?” he asked.
“If I said no, would it make any difference?” I replied, my hands rubbing my suddenly heavy eyes.
“Remember when you thought I was sleeping but I wasn’t?”
“If I would have thought you were asleep, why would I remember you weren’t?” Apparently the attempt to dilute this situation with an argument in logic was not going to happen.
“Well, I heard you and mommy talking...”
“ An’ you told mommy hot damn I just love the way you suck my cock...”
“You were hearing things! Delusional, feverish!”
“So if its such a bad thing, why would you tell mommy that you loved it?” He finished, adding, “An’ where do ya keep the chickens? I ain’t seen any round here but you call on ‘em alot.”
I had no answer to give, nothing, nada, zip – so I did what every mature adult would do in this situation:
“Why don’t we have a talk about this when you’re a little older, okay?” I said, “It was just me not watching my mouth and using a bad word that I shouldn’t have.” The boy agreed but had one last comment to make on the subject.
“You sure say alotta bad words, dontcha? You should maybe work on your talkin’ more ‘propriately, huh.” This from a child who thinks the cultural highlight of his day is running over to his brothers, passing gas then running over to a door and shouting, “safety!” I decided it was a good segue into the next topic of our talk, but one thing was still on the boy’s mind.
“So using ‘fucking’ was bad because it was the wrong word,” the boy asked slowly.
“So what does fucking mean then?” Couldn’t the kid just take a friggin’ stick and poke me in the eye?
“Fucking,” I said, resigned that with the verbalization of the word, may be very last time that I’d be anywhere close to actually participating in the act, “Is slang, or the wrong word, for sex.” Usually I am all for health classes but at that moment; I was not impressed with their definitions imparted in grade three.
“Sex? Like a boy or a girl?” he said in a perplexed voice, “How does that make any sense? Girling balls? Boying balls? Words are really stupid.” I could have left at that, letting him happily think that words were stupid, but I am a stickler to correctness - not my own, but others of course.
“No, well, yes, sex does mean that,” I said, “But sex can also be said to be ‘making love’.”
“Making love?” Oh dear goddess, I just made it worse. “Like kissing? Ewwww, gross! That’s so lame!” Okay, he had the basic idea; I no longer had to look at his action figures of “Destructo” and “The Baroness” as manipulative explanatory tools.
“Well, yes, kissing is a possible factor in the act of sex,” I confirmed for the boy. Unfortunately, my usually Swiss cheesed brain became lucid. “But it doesn’t mean kissing has to be a part of sex. I remember the time I was in Hat Yai and she offered, for an extra 250 satangs full lip service but just down the street there was this vendor selling this kabob deal for 2 bahts and I was like a kilometre from the hotel so I couldn’t just run back and grab more because it was really hot out and the energy expansion of running to and back, plus the likelihood of both being in the same spot plus the energy gained from the kabob would not equal the expansion with the hoo....” The boy’s mouth curled and his nose scrunched. I think the term used nowadays is “too much information”. I thought it best just to wrap this up.”Good. So no more bad words, just use the proper words, right?”
“I think you should have this talk with mommy,” the boy said in response.
“Why?” Not really wanting to know but being a masochist, my psyche demanded it.
“Remember when you thought I was sleepin’ but really I wasn’t?”
“Vaguely,” I whispered.
“I heard mommy tell you to fu...uhm...sex the shi...uhm...poop out of her pu....er vagina – I don’t think she knows her body parts that good.” I assured the boy that his mother did in fact know her body parts, that she was, unfortunately, very acutely aware of where her poop came out of, where it didn’t and what things were acceptable around the differing areas.
The eight year old asked if our talk was over, I assured him that we did have a couple of other things to discuss. I had the distinct impression that he was looking forward to the remainder of our conversation as I was. We both sat silent for a few moments. The boy would look at me, begin to open his mouth, and then turn back to staring forward. He did this several times until finally he managed to figure out what he wanted to say.
“Is she mad cuz I said I was gonna kick her boss an’ hittin’ girls is bad?” The boy offered. Okay, the swearing aspect of this talk didn’t go as I had planned, but the boy was astute to be guessing where the issues were. This was going to be the easiest talk I ever had with any of the boys.
“Cuz I was only doin’ what you would have been doin’,” the boy concluded.
That little shit. Where the fuck would he get some inane idea of the sort? It looked like I was going to have to change my methodology and put to rest some misconceptions right there and then.
“Now look here, boy, hitting women is just plain wrong,” I intoned in my best authoritative voice. “have I ever hit a woman? No! Have I ever thought of hitting a woman? No!” The boy’s eyes focused on mine. After being conditioned to use as little words in a sentence as possible, yet with the stare that was insinuating that I should elongate my point, I began screeching through the mazes of my mind looking for additional words that matched the mental search words “hit” “women”. What my brain forgot to do was put quotation marks around those two words together which resulted in the googlization of what should have been a straight forward message. “Sure, I’ve hit on women, I mean, I’m a guy, it’s what we guys do, but hitting on is not hitting them in a physical sense, though I’m sure that sometimes women feel that we guys should have just used a club because it be a lot less painful than some of the lines that we use but as I said, I have never hit a woman, never intend to and kid if you don’t stop me right now you’re mother is going to make sure that if I ever have an opportunity to hit on another woman there won’t be anything to back it up...” the boy caught the hint.
“Huh? So why’s hittin’ girls bad?” he asked, “Don’t seem fair that they can hit us and we ain’t ‘posed to do nothin’ ‘bout it.”
“Hitting girls is wrong because we have an unfair advantage of being more physically...able,” I told the eight year old as if I were handing him the Dead Sea Scroll containing the walkthrough of “Spyro: Eternal Night”. The boy digested the information carefully.
“So you mean that boys are stronger than girls?” he asked, eyes wide with the hint that he had just stumbled upon a revelation.
I held a finger up to allow me to take a second. I walked over to the bedroom door, opened it up slightly and peered through the crack down the hallway. I could see his mother’s foot as she sat on the far side of the kitchen. I gently re-closed the door and led the boy to the farthest corner of the room then bent down close to him. We both listened intently for a moment – no sounds of feet coming from the hallway.
“Yes, we are,” I whispered into his ear. I straightened up and proceeded to explain that we, as men, had to always be polite and respectful of women.
“Oooh, so that’s why,” he said.
“That’s why what?”
“Remember that night when you thought I was sleeping?”
“I would hope that you would be sleeping every night.” The boy ignored my statement.
“Well, I wasn’t.”
I was quickly beginning to realize that assumptions about children were quite often wrong. In the pit of my stomach I felt a tightening of my stomach and though I really didn’t want to hear the answer, I asked what he not sleeping one night had anything to do with the differences between boys and girls.
“I was wonderin’ if maybe sometimes mommy was scared of ya. Now I know she is an’ that’s why she was doin’ what she was doin’, an’ that’s okay cuz she was scared an’ makin’ sure to correct ya,” the boy said matter of factly. I pressed him on what he saw his mother doing; I quickly regretted this action.
The boy related that one night, when I thought he was sleeping but really he wasn’t, how he had heard strange noises coming from his mother’s bedroom and chose to investigate. I was face down handcuffed to the bed with his mother spanking me with a ‘feather duster’ telling me how much of a ‘”bad boy I was’”. At the time he thought his mother was being overly mean to me, even when he misbehaved he received a timeout, never a spanking. Whatever I did must have been really, really bad. But it made sense to him now: obviously I had forgotten my manners and his mother had been correcting me.
It did not seem to be the appropriate time to discuss that particular misconception the boy had, especially if he went back to his mother with any information which would preclude any sort of repeat behaviour on her part. I took a deep breath and proceeded to shatter the young lad’s utopian views of his world.
“Girls do not have balls, the correct term being testicles,” I gravely intoned. The boy’s jaw dropped. His eyes became moist saucers afloat on the pallid sky of his face.
“Sure they do – they just keep em’ up high,” he sputtered, “They drop out when they open their legs up.”
“I’m afraid, little buddy, that’s a negative.”
“But...but...if they don’t have ba-testicles,” the boy stammered, “What do they have?”
“Remember, it’s called a vagina?” I said informatively. “It sort of looks like tent flaps hanging upside down – but without the zipper. Nothing hangs down from it...unless you’re a stripper strapped for cash on a particular time when you really shouldn’t be performing.” In hindsight, I probably could have not included that last bit of information.
I had expected questions about this piece of the female anatomy, perhaps leading to questions about his own anatomy. I didn’t expect the intense rage that flushed his face red while his tightly drawn fists became bleached as he began to huff and puff as if he were standing out side a straw house. I asked what was wrong.
“Ooooh, that Marcy! She is such a cheater!,” he answered through gritted teeth with a slight hyperventilative series of pauses. He then related to me the game that the normally gender divided recess play time at school that the grade three class had developed to embrace the concept of gender harmony: “kick me in the balls”. I would have assumed such a game would have been originated by one of the girls in his class but to my dismay, yet disturbingly unsurprising from my previous encounters with the child, the eight year old’s classmate and best friend, Chester, had been the creator of the game. The girls joined in the ‘fun’ later on, after witnessing the boys standing facing each other and then winding up to see who would drop first. The girls decided that though the activity forced them to interact with the enemy, the results would be far more satisfying with active participation than passive. It had been a mystery to the boys on how the girls were “winning” as often as they did, especially since the boys had discovered that kicking slightly to the side, crushing the ‘balls’ to the side of the leg rather than straight up produced a prolonged roll on the ground. To make the game further enchanting Chester had recently refined the game to include the rallying cry of “Oh my fucking balls!” once a target had been bull’s eyed.
My first thought was to express my opinion that the continued playing of that game would not lead to those particular set of balls being in any way involved in the act of fucking. Instead I told the boy that the game was not ‘healthy’ for him. Unlike his siblings and 95% of the prepubescent population on the planet, the boy had taken to heart the lessons from his health class. He constantly checked his meals against the “Canada’s Food Guide” chart to ensure he was getting the recommended nutritional requirements. He went as far as to check his activity levels against those in a ratty old copy of “Canada’s Fitness guide” his mother had when she was in school to ensure that he was healthy inside and out. Finding out that the game was unhealthy, the boy immediately promised to cease playing the game – after he kicked that Marcy right up her vagina, that is.
I groaned what I thought was innerly at his last comment, but it must have loud enough to infuse past my skull and skin to his little ears. He assured me that he wasn’t going to kick Marcy in the vagina – he would pay one of the other girls a dollar to do it.
Phew! That was close, I thought to myself. I didn’t think that I could go through this conversation again. I thought that I should double check whether or not the boy had the information lodged up in his cranium.
“Do you hit girls?”
“Do you swear and curse?”
“Are you going to hang around Chester ever again?”
“Yes.” Damn I was hoping to slip that one past the boy.
“So, are we straight on everything?” I asked, hoping that indeed he was.
“Yep,” he said with a nod and a smile. “Do everything opposite of what you do and mommy ain’t ever gonna get mad at me again!”
I wanted to tell him, no, that was not the lesson being learned today, but after careful consideration, he was probably on the safest course of action. My young student smiled, gave me a pat on the arm and asked for a dollar before racing up the hallway to put on his shoes shouting back that he was going over to Samantha’s house to ask her a favour for school the next day. The kid was a natural scholar, it was funny that his report cards didn’t reflect that. I told him to have a good time, and then sat down at the kitchen table. I was pleased with myself – I only hit a few potholes on this particular stretch of the road of parenthood and I think the boy actually learned something.