April 2011

The age of heartaches and hormones

By Suzanne Strazza

So, I am standing in line at Walmart of all places. I am with my three sons (the two I gave birth to and the one who seems to live on my couch and calls me mom).

We’re in the impulse-buy area and when I finish unloading my cart, I turn around to see the boys clustered around something.

It’s not gum. It’s not Pokemon cards.

It’s the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Holy S@#^, I have teenage boys. When did that happen?

I stood there staring at them, mouth agape while they stood there staring at breasts, mouths agape.

The earth shifted on its axis and I was aware that nothing is the same any more. We have gone from sweet little boys to verging- on-gross young men.

There have been indicators along the way to this point.

There’s hair, boy-stink, eating meals every hour on the hour.

One’s voice has changed – he never even went through that squeaky thing. He just woke up one day and had a voice deeper than his father’s. The other one is the one who’s voice will crack for two years before it finally settles into a man’s voice, if it ever does.

They both have girlfriends.

Well, at this point, only one does.

The other one just broke up with his first love (not the first girlfriend, not by any means, but definitely the first love).

I went into his room a couple of weeks ago to find him in the fetal position in bed, curtains closed, sniveling.

When I tried to talk to him, he burst into tears, snot flying and actually hugging me. His heart was broken and I didn’t know what to do about it.

I knew that he had reached a milestone – the first broken heart stays with you forever, colors every other relationship that you have.

I dragged him out of bed and out to the desert for some fresh air and a distraction. He lagged behind all day, mentally drifting off to the days of making out at the school bus stop.

Two days later, he’s fine. When questioned, his response…

“Mom, I’m in middle school – we don’t dwell on these things.”

And during the time this is going on, his brother is quietly texting the girl who is 8 inches taller than he. He’s going to have to stand on a chair to kiss her if it ever gets to that point.

Actually, in the time it has taken me to write this, the other one and his giantess gal pal have also split. My home abounds with broken hearts and hormones.

They give me relationship advice, which, apparently I need. Not sure that pubescent boys are the best resource, but they offer it up freely, so I listen.

They tried to use the word “chick” but I put the kibosh on that one immediately.

They watch horror films. Gone are the days of worrying about “Pirates of the Caribbean” being too intense. I guess I was about 13 when Friday the 13th hit the big screen.

I was also 13 when I started drinking and smoking pot, so I now spend a lot of time smelling breath and scrutinizing their eyes when they come home from friends’ houses.

They have conversations that stop when I walk into the room.

It wasn’t that long ago that they told me everything. That I was with them everywhere they went. That a pack of gum in the grocery aisle was exciting. That they didn’t even know what a breast was except something used to feed a baby.

They snuggled with me in my bed and watched “Spirit – Stallion of the Cimarron.” Now they stay up all night watching things that I am sure would horrify me so I close my bedroom door and pretend they’re at their father’s house.

They leave without kissing me goodbye, although before school I insist on a hug.

It’s like pulling teeth some mornings to get that.

But there are other people whose company they would never part from without multiple kisses.

I tell them I love them and I hear nothing. And I know they can say, “I love you” because they do (or did) with their girlfriends all the time.


I think about the boys I knew when I was that age – all zitty and sweaty-palmed, braces and awkwardness. Slow dancing pressed up against each other, unable to separate due to unexpected and embarrassing bulges.

And now, that’s my son (s).

One of my mother’s favorite words is “snarky.” Loosely translated it means having the personality of a snake combined with that of a shark.

Teenage boys.

If one isn’t mad at me for something, the other one is. If they aren’t being nasty to their father, they are being wretched to me.

They come to the dinner table, rest half their asses on their chairs and inhale their food before I can even pick up my fork.

They rummage through the refrigerator at 2 in the morning.

One of them spends a LOT of time brushing his hair in front of a hand mirror. The other one puts on deodorant about once and hour.

They are loud. They listen to terrible music (which is also loud). They have awkward, gawky friends who think they are ultra cool. They have a lot of fun at my expense. They have secrets and inside jokes. They have an entire language that I don’t speak. They oogle at girls in swimsuits and fantasize about them in the privacy of their rooms. They have no need for me, would rather be with their friends and are most definitely embarrassed by their uncool mother.

But, at the end of the day, when I look around the dinner table and see two or three extra boys, when I go to bed at night and they crawl in with me to visit, when they tell me who their favorite swimsuit model is, when a heart is crushed and they need someone with whom to cry.

I know they still love me and they are still my babies.

Hormones, swimsuit models and all.

Suzanne Strazza writes from Mancos, Colo.