I first discovered the miracle of the boner in fifth grade. I had no idea what made it start, I had no idea how to make it go away. It would either just hang limply or suddenly stand at attention. Who was I supposed to talk to about this? I told my friend Mike, who had a sister in high school and consequently was pretty knowledgeable about sex.
“It’s a stiffy,” Mike said. “I get ’em, too. You’re supposed to stick them in girls’ pussies.”
“They let you do that?” I wondered.
“My sister does, all the time,” Mike replied matter-of-factly.
“Cool,” I said, somewhat in awe. “I don’t know any girls. How do you make them go away?”
He shrugged. That summer, we often rode bikes to the Playboy factory in the industrial park, searching for discarded issues in the Dumpsters. We’d hide behind the bushes in Mike’s backyard and ogle these newfound sexual objects, these women. If a girl was particularly attractive or in a particularly erotic pose, we’d gladly drop our pants and show them our boners, but beyond that, we really had no idea how to get them to go away. We just knew, even in the fantasy world of Playboy, that women would be gratified by the mere sight of our 11-year-old units.
Something had to be done. I needed to consult with an expert. At the time, my father was working two jobs, so he was barely home. I decided to go to my mother. I told her that, every once in awhile, unprompted, my penis stiffened.
She looked at me for a long moment, then solemnly led me to a bookcase in the garage (where all great reading material should be kept, bookended by Chilton’s auto guides and a socket set) and pointed out a series of thin hardcover books, titled The Life Cycle, which dealt with the various, horrible aspects of puberty. “If you ever have any questions like that,” my mom said in that wise matriarchal tone she had, “just consult these books.”
In the 30-minute sex ed class we had in fifth grade, we men discovered a term called “masturbation,” but nobody really knew what it meant. We knew it was a way of gratifying ourselves—and, more importantly, making the boners disappear—but we didn’t know anything beyond that. Nothing about orgasms, very little about ejaculations, and most detrimentally—nothing about how to masturbate. The first thing I did when consulting the books was look up “masturbation.” It said something to the effect of, “You can stimulate yourself by encircling your erect penis. This is called masturbation.” I looked up “encircle” in the dictionary, and I was on my way.
As was often the case during this period, I snuck and watched late-night HBO. I had analyzed The Cable Guide‘s subtle codification of nudity: BN meant butts, N meant boobs, and SSC meant everything. I had discovered a film that HBO often played called Husbands and Lovers (I often confused it with Woody Allen’s dramedy Husbands and Wives—this was a horrible mistake to make while in boner territory, and it led to my early and unwarranted dislike of his work), which not only had women on display at almost all times but also had a bit of male nudity. It was the closest thing to porn I had ever seen at the time.
Upon discovering how masturbation worked, I waited for two weeks before Husbands and Lovers was on again, and I was ready to finally try masturbation out. I huddled under a blanket in the dark, clicked on the HBO, waited until that nudity got my li’l guy going, slid my hand around my penis, and—
Nothing happened. What the fuck, man? I just sat there, hand limply surrounding my unit, until it got all warm and sweaty and finally shriveled back into oblivion. This was the first—but certainly not last—failure of my unit.
In the fall of sixth grade, I often spent time with a kid named Dave, who was the resident porn junkie of my little clique. We’d go and hang out at his house after school, listening to Pink Floyd and sneaking peaks at his dad’s ridiculously huge collection of Playboys. On a really overcast, windy day, we stood outside the school waiting for his mom to pick us up. I sat on my gigantic backpack, and he stood, keeping lookout.
He looked down at me and asked, “Do you masturbate?”
“No,” I said glumly. “I don’t know how.”
“Oh man,” he said, “it’s so easy. You just pull on it with your hand.”
Pull on it? Yes, I could see how that would affect things. This was the component I had been missing all along. I just sat there with my wet-noodle hand surrounding my dick, expecting something to magically happen. That weekend, I decided I was exhausted and needed to take my nap. Under the light of my extremely nerdy, illuminated globe, I removed a large, empty box from my top closet shelf, grabbed a Cindy Crawford magazine from my secret supply under my bed, and attempted this pulling concept.
I was slow and goofy at first, sliding my hand forward and completely off before I learned it’d save time and energy just to gently rub back and forth. The main thing I remember about these early incidents was the smell of semen. It smelled weird to me, and while I retain a sense memory of the odor, I can’t place it to this day. The closest thing I could say is it was something like salt and rubbing alcohol, but that doesn’t really do it justice.
Many a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode was defiled by my masturbatory tendencies, and I slowly improved in efficiency and technique. I wished it wasn’t such a private thing, because I could have bragged about many things that humiliate me now—number of times per day, disturbing locations that don’t involve my bedroom or home bathroom, the shortest time from grip to spurt.
While I’m no longer beaming with pride at my masturbatory habits, I will say that, as I’m currently alone and often a little depressed, waxing the poetic warlock really does the job of perking me up, and I’m thankful for that.
Happy night-before-Mother’s Day, everyone!