Training Wheels

by: L.P. Hanners

In defense of my penis….

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I found my happy feeling when I was seven years old. Upon catching me red-handed, my parents succeeded in teaching me that it was something improper to do in front of other people. In retrospect, what happened was a healthy reminder to my parents to knock before entering my bedroom. Having no sense of my sexuality at the time, the yearning for the immensely satisfying sensation was the only thing carrying me through the act of masturbation. It was also, I quickly realized, a breakthrough activity for falling asleep. I would drench my sheets in sweat some nights. I would do it half a dozen times. Once, I did it nine times. It continually makes me feel strange to know that my personal record was set twenty-five years ago as a nine-year old, and before the discovery of Kathy Ireland in bikinis in Sport Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition.

You might have this image in your mind of a boy with a huge smiling face going to town on his erection like it’s an amusement park. The weird truth is that I hadn’t even had a boner yet despite all my wanking. My first one would actually mildly hurt. What I had been playing with this whole time was my unusually long foreskin. I was uncircumcised. It never bothered me until later on in life when I started seeing pictures of other penises, all of which appeared circumcised. I stress the word “appear” because most foreskin is able to be fully peeled back in time for puberty. Not mine. For me, puberty began with mounting insecurity revolving around the head of my penis. I remember taking a shower in a locker room with my schoolmates when I was thirteen, and being shocked that my dick looked different. I kept expecting to run into another classmate with a penis like mine but it never happened. I decided I couldn’t bare to let my guy out in public again. I couldn’t bare letting anyone see it. I couldn’t bare being the kid with the weird penis.

I touched a vagina when I was fifteen, and it was just as great as everyone said it was going to be. Finally, there was life beyond first and second base. I discovered the thrill of giving a girl an orgasm, but there was nothing for her to do to me because my pants were always on. I was perpetually overprotective of my bathing suit area. My girlfriend at the time was understanding of my virgin ways, and I was able to keep my secret from her. Still, I was slowly making process. Upon mastering the art of dry-humping, I became obsessed with venturing beyond second and third base. My girlfriend would as well, so we eventually parted ways. She got the point that it was easier to have sex with someone who wasn’t afraid to.

As I advanced through my teens, a car and a job entered my life, and I developed a crush on a girl I worked with. She was three years my senior and had tattoos and a child. She was a woman. With persistence my future self could learn a thing or two from, I attempted advances for weeks. There was no doubt I wasn’t enough of a man for her, but even then, despite my ineptitude, I had crazy game when it came to my sense of humor. I made my mark wherever I could. Finally one day, I got the nerve up to ask her out on a date to see Marilyn Manson’s Antichrist Superstar tour, and my cool card was finally laminated. For better or worse, she let me into her life. She got me high for my first time, and it was too much for me to handle. She never smoked weed with me again after that. As we drifted closer, it didn’t make any sense to put off having sex any longer. Her hands naturally gravitated towards getting inside my underwear. “Let me play,” she would say. At that point, my cool card had too many gold-star stamps on it to backtrack and explain why I wasn’t up for the vagtastic voyage.

At first, I confined myself to my room pacing back and forth trying to find the bravery to just yank the crap out of my foreskin and peel it off myself. But it was too much. I realized my only option was to get my parents to arrange for me to get a circumcision. I visited a urologist. He prepped me with the lie to tell everyone about why I was going to see the doctor: urinary tract infection. Four weeks into my relationship and three days before the two-week Christmas vacation began, I told my girlfriend and my high school teachers that I needed time away to recover after surgery.

I was administered anesthesia for the procedure. When it wore off a few hours later I was in a lot of pain, all of which I was unprepared for. The head of my penis was exposed for the first time in seventeen years. I could barely walk. My dick looked different. It felt different. I was left with something so unfamiliar that it was depressing. Having no one to talk to about my circumcision only made it worse. I had traded in one set of insecurities for another. It was the worst Christmas vacation ever and I became quite neurotic about refusing to see my girlfriend during the transition. All she wanted to do was finally have sex with me, but now I was more freaked out about it than ever.

A few weeks after the surgery I thought I had recovered enough to try being brave about having sex. I told my girlfriend I was ready, and she came over right away. My hands instinctively followed hers as they went down into my pants. My fake urinary tract infection covered-up the fact that this was the first time I had ever let a girl touch my dick before. I realized quickly that my penis was in no condition to be touched, especially by anyone who wasn’t me. This was the official beginning of my sex life however. I felt strongly that I owed it to myself to suffer through this as long as I could. The pain became worse when she went down on me. It was pitch-black in my room so she couldn’t see all the crazy faces I was making as I fought the urge to express the agony. Eventually though, my girlfriend realized that my equipment wasn’t working properly.

A few weeks later I lost my virginity. It was horrible. After that relationship soured, I had sex with a few more girls during high school. Also horrible. One of them was even so callous as to spread the rumor around that I was bad in bed. My anxiousness with the opposite sex followed me into college. I didn’t have sex with a single girl during my years away at university. It was a shame to waste that era, but I had to get to know my penis before anymore catastrophes occurred. In the end, it took three more years to get used to the rewiring of the nerve endings in my penis, but it wasn’t smooth sailing after that either. The damage had been done. Significant portions of my life had been spent stuck in a twisted lull when it came to my relationships with the opposite sex. As I grew older, I became more anxious and introspective. There are a few scenarios that play out in my mind frequently when I’m with another woman where I’m basically sabotaging myself.

One is that I can talk too much. This has happened at least three times. It’s always when I hook up with someone I’d rather not fuck it up with. Someone who I’ve had a crush on for a long time. Because sex is something I can rarely just jump into with awe-inspiring confidence and grace. I’m very good at talking myself into thinking the timing is wrong with these girls. Second opportunities are hard to come by for us blabber mouths, so having my heart stomped on is a feeling I have come to know all too well. Another problem I have is that condoms feel uncomfortable. If I’m not completely in the moment, condoms can become such a distraction that it’s a complete turn off.

All of this is unfair. It’s unfair to the ladies.

I have spent so much time obsessed with getting these moments right, and the lofty expectations are debilitating. My approach should be different. There’s an old saying that goes: “Happiness is like a butterfly. The more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But when you least expect it, it will come over and rest upon your shoulder.” I need to learn to live in these beautiful moments instead of shitting on them and regretting it for the rest of my life. I’m obsessed with my own terms, my impossible standards, and when I’ve spent so much time courting someone, it’s wrong to unleash all my baggage on them at once, like they knew what they were getting into. A long-term ex-girlfriend of mine recently told me that they felt, based on my attention, I wasn’t present during our relationship. My respect and revelation in that assessment grows and lingers with me to this very day. Thanks to my ego, I’ve always ignored responsibility in the harsh underminings and mistakes that become habitual in all of my relationships. It’s impossible to learn from these failings, since the specifics are always up for debate. I think it’s most important to remind myself that I can always be a better man for every single moment.

So, if we almost hooked up in college….now you know. I apologize. My penis was basically still in training wheels.

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