No sooner had I finally drifted off to sleep after an hour of restless tossing and turning than the back door slammed, bringing me upright in my bed. "Shit!" I muttered as I got up to investigate. I heard my son tromping up the stairs followed by his bedroom door slamming. He was clearly not a happy lad.
I crossed the hall and knocked on his door. "Jesse, what the hell's going on? What's all the noise about?"
"Just leave me alone! It's all your fault anyhow!"
Well, I couldn't very well ignore that, could I? "No, I'm not going to leave you alone until you tell me what's going on and what's all my fault. Come on, son, open up and let's talk."
"I don't want to talk about it!" He sounded like he was on the verge of tears. I know sixteen-year-old boys struggle with raging hormones and everything bad that happens to them seems like a crisis in the making, but the emotions are still legitimate and they have to be dealt with. It was times like this when I was reminded of how much I missed his late mother. She was such a natural at dealing with these kinds of things.
"No deal, Jesse. I'm not going away so you may as well open up."
He opened his door without making eye contact, sitting on his bed and staring at his feet. I put my hand on his shoulder as I sat next to him. "Now tell me what this is about and why it's my fault."
"I'm sorry Dad. I didn't really mean that. It's really personal and I don't feel right about talking to you about it. I guess it's just something I'll have to live with."
"Jesse, the more personal it is, the more you should be talking to me about it. Who knows you better than I do?"
With a sigh, he looked at me and said, "It's about genes, Dad."
"Jeans? What, your Levis? Is something wrong with them?"
He chuckled in spite of his crappy mood. "Not that kind, Dad. Genes, like inherited characteristics."
"Oh, OK. What about genes? Is there something wrong with yours?"
"Oh, jeez, this is so embarrassing!" Another big sigh, "Yes, there's something wrong with my genes. My ... my penis is too small. There, I said it! Are you happy?" Now he did break into tears.
I hugged him to me and brushed my fingers through his hair. "Tell me what happened, Jesse. What brought this on?"
"She laughed at me, Dad! God, I wish I could die." I just held on to him. There was no point in going on until he got control of himself. After a few minutes, he settled down some. I handed him some tissues and he blew his nose.
"Now tell me what happened, Son. Just start talking and it'll come out."
"You know I had a date with Wanda tonight. After the movie we parked down by the river and, well, you know how things go – we started getting pretty steamy and she said she wanted to 'do it'. When she got my pants unzipped and pulled down, she just looked at it and said 'What am I supposed to do with that little thing? I changed my mind. You can take me home now.' I've never been so embarrassed in my life, Dad. I'll never be able to look her in the face again."
Now it was me getting angry. "It's Wanda who should be embarrassed, Jesse. I can't imagine anyone being so rude and thoughtless. Son, all Wanda managed to communicate was her astounding stupidity. I don't even know what you saw in her in the first place other than her unusually large breasts. Obviously her mind isn't nearly as well developed."
In spite of himself, he laughed, "That's funny, Dad. I hope I can remember that line if I ever talk to her again."
"Why would you ever talk to her again? Look, Son, you don't have anywhere near enough experience to know what good sex should be like and what does and doesn't give a woman pleasure. I know there's more pornography on the internet than probably anything else and I'd be a complete fool if I thought you hadn't found ways to access it. No teenage boy is going to miss an opportunity like that. But, Jesse, that world isn't real. It doesn't teach you anything about making love, it only shows people having sex – not the same thing. If you think that guys with ten-inch penises give and get more pleasure than guys with five-inch penises, you couldn't be more wrong. Making love to someone is a whole-body experience, not just your genitals. There is nothing wrong with you or your penis, Jesse, and don't you ever believe otherwise. You get some sleep now and don't let Wanda's crude insensitivity cause you any more pain. She isn't worth it."
"Thanks, Dad. I suppose you're right. Good night."
I considered mentioning my concerns about contraception but then figured the timing wasn't quite right.
I thought about Jesse's anxieties all through the next day. I knew I was right in what I said to him but I was also pretty sure he wasn't convinced. This was a serious problem and unless we got him straitened out, it could cause some real issues with his emotional development. No parent wants to see that happen. The problem is how to get his self-confidence restored. I didn't think a therapist was the way to go. That might reinforce his belief that there really was something wrong with him. No, this was an extremely delicate matter and it needed the touch of someone who knew exactly what they were doing. I was pretty sure I knew the right person; the problem was how to broach the subject.
About two years after my wife died, we had a block party in our neighborhood with a bar-B-Q, stickball, volleyball and we even hired a small combo and laid down a portable dance floor. It was a great party and, as far as I could tell, no one overdid it on the beer and wine. Jesse was thirteen at the time and, of course he and his friends separated from the 'old people' as soon as they could manage it. During the course of the evening after things had quieted down a bit, I met a lady from the next block down and we danced a few dances together. Her name is Liu Yi. Liu's husband had been an aeronautical engineer traveling all over the world and had met her in Shanghai. He convinced her to marry him and they immigrated to the US and moved to our neighborhood. Mr. Yi died of a heart attack less than a year later and left Liu alone but very well provided for.
She's quite a lovely woman, about forty, and keeps herself fit and trim. We seemed to hit it off the evening of the party and started dating from time to time. We even discussed marriage after a few dates but we didn't feel the timing was right. We're still very close and Jesse even refers to her as his Auntie Liu. She thinks he's adorable. One of the little 'secrets' Liu shared with me when marriage was a consideration is that, before she met Mr. Yi, she worked as a high-class escort in Shanghai. My response to that revelation was that her past was her business and no one else's; it certainly didn't affect my feelings for her. She explained that she was sharing that information only in the name of total honesty.
So where does she fit into Jesse's problems? I figured, if anyone knew how to go about educating him and restoring his confidence it would be her. I struggled with how to ask her advice without making too obvious a reference to her former profession. I called and asked her out to dinner and she accepted.
About half way through the meal, Liu put her hand on my arm and said, "Martin, you've been working up to something all evening. Why not just come right out and say it?"
I chuckled. "You read me like a book. Am I really that obvious?"
"Yes, you are. Now, what's this all about?"
So I took a deep breath and plunged in. "Liu, I have a problem. No, Jesse has a problem. Well, actually, we both have a problem." As we finished off the wine, I tried to explain what Jesse was dealing with and how stymied I was trying to think of a solution. "Please don't be angry with me for coming to you, Liu. I couldn't think of anyone else who might be world-wise enough to offer any useful advice."
"How could I be angry with you, Martin? I'm touched that you would trust me enough to share Jesse's heartbreaking experience. Let me think about it and I'll come up with some ideas. If you don't mind, I'd rather deal directly with him rather than having you as a middleman. I will not mention this discussion. Do you agree?"
"Of course I agree, Liu. Jesse thinks you're about the greatest thing since sliced bread. I know he couldn't be in better hands."
Auntie Liu's story:
Martin came to me with a problem. Well, actually, he kind of snuck up on me with a problem by asking me out to dinner. We met three years ago at a block party and have been dating ever since. After my husband died, I really didn't have much interest in becoming involved with another man but Martin turned out to be something special. Learning we were both widowed opened up an area of common interest and it grew from there. Martin is such a kind, capable and loving person that he's almost impossible to resist. He has asked me to marry him and I'm very much tempted but I haven't quite grown comfortable with the idea yet. Moving into a ready-made family strikes me as being as risky as running through a minefield. Jesse, his sixteen–year-old only child is adorable and calls me his Auntie Liu.
.... There is more of this story ...