Conundrum

By Aram Saroyan

Essay

When I was a junior or senior in high school at Trinity in New York, Paul Krassner published an interview with Norman Mailer in The Realist in which Mailer stated that he thought masturbation had the effect of muting or blunting or otherwise desensitizing one’s sexual compass, so to put it.  I thought this was interesting and provocative, although it fell short of exerting a strong influence on my own habit.  Still, I admired Mailer, and if I couldn’t emulate him I did read him with sincere interest, especially Advertisements for Myself, which contained his heralded sequence “The Time of Her Time,” comprising fifty pages about Sergius O’Shaugnessy’s efforts to give his Jewish girlfriend an orgasm. 

I have seven-year-old twin boys. I’ve been a single mom for almost three years, and in the time leading up to my separation, we had a family bed. I mean, the boys had their own room, but most nights we slept together. This made sense being that I breastfed them until they were two, but it was also a parenting choice that made sense to my co-parent and me on a personal level. The family bed.

As time has gone on – as the boys have gotten older – it’s made more and more sense to redefine boundaries. We talk very openly in our house, and the phrase “personal bubble” is used to describe limit setting and expectations. Nonetheless, I remain steadfast in my belief that the human body isn’t something to be ashamed of, and in many ways the boys are still too young to sexualize it. We have basic rules of courtesy in the house, like to knock on the door before entering bathrooms or bedrooms, but we don’t always remember to shut the door in the first place.

So, imagine my surprise when, as I was getting dressed one day recently, one of my sons came in and, for reasons I’ll never understand, lifted up my breasts, looked at me, and said, “Didn’t these use to be up here?”

Cue the sound of a needle skipping off a record.

Cue the sound of my door closing. Forever.

Mom’s bubble just got bigger.