As I took a shower this morning and began washing under my arms, I regarded my armpit hair in a way that I had not done when I was an eight year-old. This is because I did not have any armpit hair when I was an eight year-old. With this realization, I sat down in the shower and began to cry, my bitter tears mixing with the salty Pert Plus in my hair to make a sort of bitter-salty mixture. I cried not because I knew I could no longer be that happy eight year-old boy, not because I knew that I would never again feel the heady drunkenness of dandelion wine, not because I could never be satisfied seducing middle-aged men for merely a shiny Go-Bot or tasty sixer of Chicken McNuggets. No. I cried because I had a renewed understanding of puberty, and how it is but a taste of the pain that awaits humankind as they leave the cocoon of youth and travel into the prickly world of adulthood.
Puberty, like everything that comes after, is a process of, “Little more… little more… liiiiiiiiiittle more… TOO MUCH! TOO MUCH!” As a thirteen year-old boy who was already a late bloomer, I watched impatiently as my pubic hairs started to appear. Slowly. “Come on!” I urged my sad little pubes. They appeared to need encouragement–some hadn’t even mustered the strength to darken yet, and remained an anemic blonde. But by the time the first specters of facial hair started to appear several months later, I was starting to grow wary.
Suddenly, all my follicles were in full revolt: my legs, formerly coated in the downy softness of a newborn duckling, now resembled barbecue scrub-brushes. My chest produced a dark, asymmetrical fan that served only to accentuate how infrequently my chest saw the sun. My eyebrows threatened to grow together into the dreaded Unibrow, which would subsequently limit my career options to substitute P.E. teacher or rape crisis center receptionist. TOO MUCH!
To see how this applies to other facets of life, one needn’t move far away from puberty to reach: sex. By the time a boy reaches fourteen, he has surely discovered the simple pleasures of masturbation. The most difficult problems when faced with one-on-none sex are “Is Mom home?” or, “Where are the kleenex?” or, “I hope there’s no one in the stall next to me.” Luckier boys may have the convenience of a jerk-off buddy, for those times when flying solo gets a little stale.
But by the time a boy reaches his later teens, when actual intercourse moves from the distant reaches of his imagination to a shimmering mirage just achingly out of his grasp, his jerk-off buddy starts calling him a fag, his friends don’t think it’s cool anymore that he can come six times in one hour, and he’s forced into the complex world of real sex. No longer can he just have a little fun whenever he wants. Instead, he must invest in a full-fledged relationship1. Time and money are wasted on dating just to achieve the same level of pleasure that first came easily from a firm grasp and perhaps something slippery. And later comes the enormous overhead of marriage, which may virtually guarantee the prospect of sex for a while, but later on guarantees it either won’t happen at all, can only happen illegally (as with the babysitter), or will happen all the time, which leads to premature death in penises. And men. TOO MUCH!
The lessons here are myriad. They include “Taking Showers will Only Make You Maudlin”, which is certainly wise but is only tangential to this discussion. The real lesson is, to quote the great mind John “Cougar” Mellencamp, “Hold onto sixteen as long as you can / Changes comin’ ’round real soon make us women and men”2. For those in the audience too busy trying to get laid or too stupid to understand this, I’ll spell it out for you: pathetic losers who choose wild American carnivorous cats as “nicknames” like to talk about puberty. Why, what did you think the moral was gonna be?
1 Keane, Sean. “Meat and Greet.” Heuristic Squelch, Vol. X, Issue 5. 2 Mellencamp, John “Cougar”. “Jack and Diane.” American Fool. Mercury, 1982.