I was 15 when the boy I desperately wanted to call my boyfriend asked me to hold his penis while he peed. I’d been waiting all summer for him to give me a sign that he liked me, and while none of my romantic daydreams had featured a urinating penis, I quickly chalked this up to a lack of imagination on my part. Why would you ask a girl to hold your penis if you didn’t like her? That was my reasoning, and it seemed sound.
As ridiculous and embarrassing as his request was, I didn’t consider refusing. Normal responses, such as, “Hmmm. That sounds icky. I’ll take a rain check for the rest of my life,” or, “Get that thing out of my sight! Gross!” did not occur to me. My friendships had always been based upon my acquiescence, and while penis-holding was a bit different than, say, using my seventh grade babysitting money to buy Nancy Kaminski a Pepsi even though she wouldn’t let me sit next to her during lunch, being a good sport had become a habit. Did I mention I really, really wanted to be his girlfriend? There is probably nothing Thomas could have asked that I would have declined, except maybe helping him to rob a bank. I’ve always had a deep fear of the law.
The sight of the ugly, dangly thing did not come as a shock. In fact, for a girl my age in a clothed culture, I’d probably seen more penises than most. My parents were part of what they proudly termed the counterculture: in 1967 they left the Baptist church to become Quakers, and over the next few years we visited Hopi Indians, stood in silent vigils against the war in Vietnam, suffered 110 degree heat at rallies to support the rights of farm workers and moved to an intentional community called the Bhoodan Center of Inquiry in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. When I was 11 we immigrated to Canada, and by 13 we were living in two large, majestic tipis. Skinny-dipping and outdoor showers were as much a part of my childhood as goat’s milk and organic whole wheat cookies.
Amongst my peers – all four of them in our tiny village - peeing beside the road at night was de rigueur. I preferred to squat behind a tree, and I imagined this small attempt at modesty revealed me to be somewhat uncool. Living in a small village with only dirt roads and friendly faces, the cloak of darkness created a world of our own, separate from the adults. Flashlights were for candy asses. The five of us in approximate age to one another would meet on the road to walk down to the lake or up to the meadow, or gather in an old school bus and listen to music. Afterward, Thomas and I would walk home together, parting outside his house. I lived the furthest away, and I’d often sing once I was alone, in order to alert any black bears who might be in the vicinity. I liked the songs you could really belt out: White Rabbit, by Jefferson Airplane, or I’m a Woman, by Maria Muldaur. Double-U Oh-oh-oh-oh M-A-eh-uh-eN. Lemme tell you again.
That night, at the spot where the road left the woods and his house became visible, he stopped. I assumed he had to pee; the boys drank beer so they were always peeing. There was a faint glow cast by a sliver of moon. I began to move a few steps away, but something suddenly felt strange, so I turned. He was standing there with his thing out, facing me. That was when he asked if I wanted to hold it while he peed. I can’t remember if he used a definitive noun, but if he did it wouldn’t have been penis, it would have been cock. To me, cock sounded aggressive and dirty, but the boys loved it, especially in its compound forms. They seemed to be under the impression that the term cocksucker had been invented just for their use, and they were determined to show their appreciation by inserting it into every possible sentence.
The smooth, warm skin was less squishy than I expected, and the liquid emerged in a long stream. It lasted a month. Even in the dark, I didn’t know where to look. The pungent odor wafted up in the steam. When he was done, we both laughed awkwardly, and that was that.
Except of course it wasn’t. From then on, his penis was always there between us, demanding attention like a kid brother on a date.
The next week, we were sitting outside after a dance, and he picked up my hand. My heart turned over. He put it on his knee and I swooned, imagining how romantic we looked. If only there was a full moon, I thought, we would look absolutely perfect. A boy and a girl, and the boy took the initiative to put the girl’s hand on his knee! Hand-to-knee holding! But the knee was only a brief stopover on a longer journey; after a moment, he picked up my hand again, and guided it somewhere else. Like a blind person reading Braille, I felt the heavy intersection of denim seams, so it wasn’t hard to guess where the hand had ended up. By this point it was The Hand, not my hand; it had become “Thing” from The Addams Family, an independent entity over which I had no control. Thomas reached down and began moving The Hand back and forth; he was making The Hand give the crotch of his jeans a massage. Then something moved in his pants, and I jumped a little, like when you start to fall asleep and then wake up.
He removed his hand from The Hand. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. Maybe we were done. Maybe he wanted me to remove The Hand.
“Keep moving your hand,” he whispered, “push harder.” I obeyed, but I didn’t know how hard to push or how fast to move. My ears began faintly ringing, but The Hand kept moving. My arm began to burn.
“Stop!” he said abruptly. The Hand froze. After a moment, he picked it up and put it on my own leg, as if returning a record he’d borrowed.
“Let’s go,” he said gruffly. It sounded like an order. Maybe he was mad. Maybe I was bad at rubbing. He stood up and began to stride purposefully toward the road. I hurried after.