Monday, May 12, 2014

Project: MANHOOD

During my journey through Motherville, I have come to that wasteland we know as adolescence. That time when a sweet little baby becomes a maniacal mess of hormones and angst. I live with two of them - a boy of 17 and a girl of 15. In about sixty days, give or take, they will become 18 and 16 respectively and at this point they are beginning to believe that they are adults. Or close enough to being adults that I should pretend that they are. Teen Boy is right in the throes of a delusional manhood fantasy. Which means that I am not drinking nearly enough vodka. Back when Teen Boy was Young Boy, he was energetic and, quite frankly, disobedient. He wasn't "bad" exactly, he just had his own mind about things. It was always hard to get him to go to bed when it was bedtime, eat when it was mealtime, and sit his ass down when it was school time. So, I should not be surprised that Teen Boy also has his own mind about things. In Teen Boy's mind, at 17 he's a man and men don't have to call when they are going to be late (or not be home at all), they don't have to turn the lights off when they leave a room or a house, and they don't have to clean anything. Ever. Another perk to manhood, according to Teen Boy is that men get to blast their music, no matter what the hour. In fact, the louder your music, the bigger your balls. I'm sure all you men are nodding in agreement right now. It isn't just the age that has Teen Boy so confused about adulthood. You see, Teen Boy has a job. Let me be clear. I am happy for Teen Boy and super proud of him for being employed. At a time when so many black teenagers are without work, he got out there and got himself a job. I know exactly how he feels every other Friday when he gets a paycheck with his name on it and exchanges it for cash - cash that belongs only to him, cash that he can spend on any foolish thing he chooses and I can't say a damn thing about it. I know because I remember. I was his age when I got my first job and nothing, NOTHING brought me more joy than buying clothes that my mother hated and when she sighed and shook her head at me I LOVED saying in my most shrill voice, "Mom! It's MY money!" Teen Boy's inconsiderate behavior (coupled with my overreaction, if I'm going to be honest) hit a crescendo last week. He went to work, didn't come home and didn't call. His cell phone was dead and he left it at some girl's house. For more than 24 hours I had NO IDEA where he was. I didn't panic at first because it wasn't unusual for him to go out for long stretches of time and just be too wrapped up in his grown man life to call or text and say, "Hey Mom, I'm at (insert the name of whatever urban urchin he's hanging with here) and I won't be home until (insert some ungodly hour here)." But when morning came and still no word, I started to worry. But I still didn't really panic because I was so well-trained by his thoughtlessness. I texted his friends. I don't know all of their names, but I do write down all of the phone numbers that I find in his cell phone, written on scraps of paper and the call lists from the landline. I texted them all saying, "This is Teen Boy's mom. He never came home. If you see him tell him to call me." I went to work and the hours kept advancing and I never got a call from him. By 10 AM, my heart was racing a bit, I couldn't concentrate and my breath kept getting caught in my throat. I went to his Facebook page and scrolled through his friends and found a new friend, a coworker of his that I knew he'd spent social time with recently. I sent her a message. She called but had not seen Teen Boy in a couple of days. I was caught between the horror that something terrible had really happened to Teen Boy or he was just being an asshole. Clinging to the hope that Teen Boy was just being an asshole, I posted a message on his Facebook page, calling him out publicly and telling him that if he couldn't find his way to make a phone call, then he needed to find another place to live. I went to lunch and pushed my food around a plastic container and complained to a couple of coworkers about my parenting woes. They were sympathetic and assured me Teen Boy was fine, just "being a boy." And by the way, that is the dumbest excuse ever. Every single time a male child does something dumb, I hear that same knee jerk response, "oh, he's just being a boy." Now, if I hit him in the back of the head with a two by four, do you think anyone would say, "oh, she's just being an overworked, stressed out, unappreciated mom"? Anyway, Teen Boy called twice while I was at lunch and he asked, "Why are you looking all over for me?" I was surprisingly calm. Well, more accurately, exhausted from worry and relieved that he was okay. Turns out, he was at my parents' home the entire time. No, I didn't call over there looking for him, and yeah, I guess I should have. But why do I have to look for him at all? Why couldn't he just let me know? Didn't he have a duty to inform me when his plans changed? Funny thing about Teen Boy, he is super sensitive. So the Facebook thing really hurt his feelings. So he went to friend's home for two days to wear his pouty, "I'll Show Her" face. Same one he's had since he was two. He arrived home after sufficient sulking and we talked it out. He apologized for worrying me, sort of. I apologized for embarrassing him, sort of. But neither one of us is really sorry. We are locked in an inevitable battle. He wants his manhood and he thinks I am holding it hostage. So he's making a big fuss thinking he can annoy me into setting him free. Teen Boy, like all of the Teens, doesn't realize that adulthood can't be experienced with training wheels and it isn't something that can be withheld or hidden. It's a life sentence that is waiting for him like it waited for all of us. He hears rumors of late nights, lots of sex with girls, drinking and drugs, spending money on anything you want and no Mother there to scold you or take privileges or yell and scream. But most of the time adulthood is an endless struggle to keep your life held together with scotch tape and bubble gum, surviving one crisis after another, dodging debris, hoping for a day or two off so you can have a late night, sex with a girl, a drink, buy something you need and remember a Mother who used to bear the struggle for you so that you could complain about how she treated you like a baby. God, I hope he makes it. Originally written May 2012

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