Husband, being so much better at fighting the big fights, convinces me to overlook the fetid Petri dish that is our son’s room. From a boy who lined up his matchbox cars all neatly parallel-parked along the join of his wall and floor, he has somehow mutated into a curdled cheese stinking thing. And no, I am not embroidering. You can’t enter the room for fear of getting your feet tangled in clothes dumped around the floor or falling to your death by striking your head against sub layers of drumsticks, metal parts, rock specimens, tennis rackets and nail clippers. I’ve taken to hurling his clean laundry from the open doorway in the direction of his chest of drawers, as a form of silent protest. [Pointless].
Last week, he finally sorted through his carry-on bag from our holiday. I actually saw him examining a sandwich baggie against his window, wondering how the bunch of grapes he’d munched during the flight a week previously had transformed into purple sludge. Anything to support his interest in science, but not at the expense of light oatmeal wall-to-wall carpeting. Putting that aside, we needed to focus on the 88 page math assignment he’d ‘forgotten’ to tackle over the break. So I uttered not a peep about the minefield upstairs and tried to retain my composure as we discussed cause and effect. You keep food in your room, it will transmute into suppurating matter. You do the homework, you get us off your back.
How is it possible to have been a teenager, albeit a female of our species, and not recall this life transition? It all comes back to me when my firstborn metamorphoses into this grunting, monosyllabic, eye-rolling creature. I can see his downy cheeks in the right light but can’t nibble or stroke them. Those days are long gone and physical contact is not okay. I mean, how creepy would it be to walk down the highroad and see a middle-aged woman (me) licking behind the ear of her 12 year old who is now a full inch taller than she is, right? He’d have to have lost his leg for me to be permitted near him with a tourniquet and, even then, he’d look deeply embarrassed to submit to these tactile, and, hello, LIFE SAVING ministrations. So what am I supposed to do when my simple request for daily showering escalates to DEFCON 1 before I can even hand him a fresh towel? Scratch that: breathe deeply, open his door, fling a towel into the murky depths of his boy-cave and retreat. What is it about a young man revelling in his own stink? Why won’t the girls in his class taunt him about the greenhouse effects of his B.O.? The rippling stench of his socks? Don’t they see flies buzzing wherever he walks, like those around a fresh turd on a summer pavement?
The reason becomes clear when the doorbell rings on a Sunday afternoon and I stall, on my side of the peep-hole, trying to gauge the level of urban threat posed by a skinny longhaired he/she in dungarees. Might it snap its gum loudly enough to harm my eardrum? Might it be unable to communicate beyond text speak acronyms? LOL. I decide to throw caution to the wind and welcome our son’s classmate into the house by daring to utter the following three words: “Hello. Come in”. This is the first time our son has brought anyone home in a long, long while so, in my mind, I’m turning cartwheels, lighting sparklers and dancing the Lindy Hop. But Son looks kinda sick and deeply annoyed that I’ve had the unmitigated gall to stand on our front stoop and address his guest. As I mutter something about being ‘in the middle of something’ and retreat backwards as if from an audience with the Sun King himself, I realise that this girl, with her stooped posture and greasy bangs has entered our home because, like, her own mum is soooooo lame.
She and our son are both suspended in their tweenie disbelief. Neither sees in the other the awkward gawkiness of a body in the wrong skin. They see through and beyond the shiny forehead, lank hair and fidgeting hands of the other. The shared exasperation felt towards parents is something they can bond over. I crouch at our bedroom window, straining to hear their tender parting on the front porch mere feet below, and hoping they don’t sense my, frankly, weird presence. She mutters something about a pet turtle, and he uses a couple of expletives to empathise. There are non-sequiturs and nervous pauses, their voices tumbling over one another and then ceasing abruptly. She is as painfully self-conscious as he is whiffy and, right there, just beyond my interlined curtains, is Love’s Young Dream.
Cynthia Coleman Sparke is a Franco-American Londoner who specialises in Fabergé and Russian works of art, (see Russian Decorative Arts, published by Antique Collectors’ Club, 2014). When not being a sensible grownup, she likes nothing better than to howl with laughter with friends and family. Raising two teenagers with her husband provides plenty of fodder for humorous writing.
For other musings, see notestoworkingmommyself.blogspot.com