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Photography by Mary Allison Tierney

“Boys are better than girls because they have penises,” my four-year-old-son Bryce announced during breakfast one morning. Glaring at his two- year-old-sister, he continued, “Girls have breasts, but penises are way cooler.” Thanks to Bryce, I learn something new about this part of the male anatomy almost every day.

I remember changing newborn Bryce on a cloudy April day. He had just fallen asleep at my breast, but I needed to change his diaper. I opened the Pamper’s tabs, and urine shot straight into my eye. The derelict penis went on to squirt the freshly painted wall. My mother, standing nearby, nodded, “Cold air just makes them go. Make sure you put a cloth on him before you do anything else.”

A couple weeks later, I was again changing Bryce’s diaper and noticed that his penis was standing straight up. I had no idea that babies got erections. I waited for it to go down but it didn’t. I became restless. Chortling Bryce seemed oblivious to the action below. Not wanting to smoosh his fragile organ into the diaper, I fastened the tabs loosely.

One day when Bryce was about three, I noticed him tugging at his penis in the bathtub. Casually, I asked him what he was doing. “I am playing with my castle,” he said. The circumcised ring around the tip of his penis did resemble the deck of a castle. I never looked at any penis the same way again.

Potty training a boy is extra tough. After six months of wet pants and extra underwear in plastic bags, Bryce finally got the urinating thing down. Then, he refused to use his potty and insisted on peeing standing up into the toilet. He seemed completely unable to control the first and last bits of flow. The steady stream would take a spasm-like loop around the bathroom floor. If I didn’t clean up the pee immediately after its arrival, my nose would remind me of it the next day. I asked my husband to give our son penis management lessons. He showed him “the varying hold”, which seemed to involve squeezing the penis varying amounts depending on the outflow. My husband also showed him “the shake”. A successful shake whisks the last bit of urine off the penis and into the bowl, not onto the wall. Bryce paid careful attention to his father’s repeated lessons.

Bryce gave me another penis lesson when he was five. We were watching “Singing in the Rain”. Although he loved the title performance, Bryce was somewhat restless during the romantic dances between sweet, wholesome Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly. Bryce was transfixed, however, when Gene danced with black-banged Cyd Charrisse, who played a gangster broad, more interested in money than love. She offered her long leg to Gene’s face. They danced in a low, tango-like style. By the end of the number, she dumped Gene and went back to her richer patrons. Afterwards, Bryce said, “My penis feels tickly.”

“Oh no”, I thought. Why didn’t Bryce’s penis get tickly when loyal, talented Debbie Reynolds kissed Gene Kelly in the sunset? Is he only turned on by vixens? Bryce’s next lessons in penis management will span decades.

Beth Touchette’s essay Two Mermaids appears in Mamas Write.

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Beth Touchette
Beth Touchette

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