I grew up in a house of predominately women. Including myself, there were 5 females, and one male. Somehow, the animals also managed to be predominately female, with five female animals ( 4 cats, 1 dog) and one male cat. I was inundated with breasts, tampons, menstrual cramps, moodiness, makeup, bras, and bad hair days. I never had a sibling beat me up, unless you count some hair pulling and smacking, and I also never had someone tease me relentlessly the way a brother could. The teasing of a sister is such a different experience, and so interacting with boys while growing up was a real eye-opener for me.
What was up with these XY’s anyway?
I couldn’t quite understand the funny things men did. From their voices, farts, facial hair, body posture, interests, clothes, and jokes, I was enraptured, charmed, confused, and repulsed.
My oldest sister is ten years older than I am, so I remember when she brought one of her first high school boyfriends over. I was about four years old, and he was approximately 17. I found it hysterical to reach up and grab the inner thigh fat, right underneath the genitals, and say “Pookies!”
In my family, that’s what we called them: pookies.
By the grace of all things good, this man did not freak out that a four-year-old girl had just grazed his balls, but instead, smiled and laughed. I certainly didn’t even think about his penis at that point, but I found it funny to tease him. I was innocent, yet being flirtatious in a child-like way.
There were a few boys I came to know through my sisters’ social lives. My one sister had a best friend who I loved as a surrogate father. I drew him comic books and sat in his lap while doing Pee-Wee Herman impersonations. He was more attentive than my father, and easier on me than my sisters’ were. He ate anything you put in front of him, and he was never moody. I did not grab his pookies. I had learned my lesson the first time.
His presence alone was enough to turn the estrogen narrative just enough that you knew it wasn’t just me in the house who was mystified by Penis-bearing People: we all were.
My first male crushes were incredibly effeminate. This might be a testament to my fairly fluid sexuality, but I feel it was because these men were safe and familiar. One of my first heartthrobs was Ralph Macchio, the Karate Kid. When I look back I wonder how I could have been attracted to such a wuss. He wasn’t chiseled or sexy really, but he was sweet, doe-eyed, and darker-skinned. His voice was bordering NY squeakiness and a bit raspy. Growing up in a house full of Brooklynese– I never heard my mom pronounce the letter R when it comes at the end of words–he was comforting and ethnic somewhat, unlike the midwestern actors of that time. He wasn’t very manly, but I think that was the point. He was non-threatening. Even years later once I approached puberty, my main squeeze for awhile was the Dead Jim Morrison. Lanky with a head full of shaggy brown soft curls, he wasn’t a powerhouse of masculinity, yet he was the first (and only) guy without a shirt to stick to the walls of my room. I couldn’t imagine Jim Morrison as a “throw me on the bed and screw me good” kind of guy, because that wasn’t where I was at mentally. Pretty and striking, he was a man I could like and feel comfortable with viewing. He was right up there with Michael Hutchence, another Dead guy (Freud would say I have commitment issues), but an even more masculine version,and even prettier. Michael had a similar hair and in some cases, look to Jim, but he was the better of the two.
I grew up surrounded by men who wore makeup. Not literally, as I never saw my Dad wear any eyeliner but I sure as hell saw him buy plenty of moisturizer. I loved each member of Duran Duran, and never found it weird that Morrissey of the Smiths was celibate. I figured that just meant he would be more of a challenge.
The most jarring event for me involving my understanding of men would be seeing a penis for the first time. I admit that I truly was freaked out,and slightly revulsed. Hmm,maybe another sign of sexual fluidity? I’m not sure, but the veins were too much. The first one I saw was large, and the size, shape, hair, and veins just stood me on edge. I didn’t hate it, but I was a bit frightened by this mystical penis. Once I saw it, I had a pretty good idea that there was going to be some large amount of pain involved with sex.
The first two things I thought to myself (and I will never forget it) upon seeing a penis were:
That’s what’s supposed to turn me on?
It’s gonna hurt.
These were probably vividly clear images that should have notified me that I was not ready to venture down the road that I was about to walk down. It was nicer when boys were sweet, NY nasal, or curly haired demi-gods on my wall. It was safer.