How to gross out a teenager (or two)

I’m coming to a place where I believe the teenage brain may indeed be so hormone-addled that basic connections of common sense and cause-and-effect are suspended until further notice. MRI imagining would reveal that teen brains light up when shown caramel brownies, but those same brains can look at unfinished homework and angry teachers and ask what’s on television, and also, hey, are any of those brownies left?

You would think that having once BEEN a teenager would allow a parent to better understand this phase, but you would be wrong. I can’t follow their logic, no matter how hard I try. And for some odd reason, calmly asking one of them if maybe, just maybe, they’ve suffered brain damage since you last conversed is not seen as nurturing or helpful.

I’m not sure they even understand each other, unless “understanding how to piss each other off” is a manifestation of said understanding. And I used to think that was just a sibling thing, but now I’m hearing about it amongst supposed friends, so I don’t know. Basically they’re all playing from a secret rulebook that changes constantly, but we’re the stupid ones for not knowing the rules.

[Sidebar: Things which make more sense to me than teenagers include nuclear physics, chin hairs that weren’t there yesterday but are now two inches long, my dog’s penchant for eating cat poop, PR folks who want to offer me the “exclusive opportunity” to interview people I’ve never heard of, and this eyelid twitch I recently developed.]

Lately it’s become clear that I am not to be informed of anything that happens at school that is so BORING and MUNDANE as things like tests, grades, or any actual learning, but if someone gets kicked in the nuts, WELL, that’s worth reporting. Obviously. Why would I want to know if work is being completed when so-and-so just got a mohawk? Geez, MOM.

Similarly, the fact that both of my children are finishing up the exact same science class—Chickadee at the high school, Monkey via Virtual School—and said class is one of those ones with a state-mandated standardized final exam DOESN’T MEAN that they could POSSIBLY work together or quiz each other or in any way at all acknowledge that they’re both preparing for the same test. Why would I even SUGGEST that? CRAZY TALK! (Chickadee is affronted by the mere suggestion that her brother could possibly be helpful to her. Monkey has pointed out that “Chickie hates it when I know stuff she doesn’t.” Totally looking forward to those test grades because I’m sure whoever scores higher is going to torment the other one for months.) (And my money is on… HA. Yeah, I’m not that dumb.)

Last night the kids and I sat down to dinner before Otto got home, because he was out for his weekly have-a-beer-and-unwind session with some of his colleagues. Being academics, they refer to this as their weekly colloquium, which is amusing to all involved. When I called the kids into the kitchen to eat, though, I was treated to a stark study in the difference in processing between my children.

Monkey arrived first.
Monkey: Why are we eating before Otto gets home? Oh, right, he’s at colloquium.

Then Chickadee arrived.
Chickadee: Why are we eating before Otto gets home? Oh, right, he’s out getting drunk with his friends.

For the record: I’ve known Otto for 23 years and I have NEVER seen him drunk. Quizzing my darling daughter as to why she felt the need to suggest that a single drink with his colleagues was tantamount to a random Wednesday kegger, it became clear that she was enjoying my reaction. Point to the teenager.

We sat down at the table and commenced with dinner. And then things got interesting.

Chickadee: Buddy says there was a random pube in the water fountain today.

Monkey and I both paused, mid-bite, to stare at her.

Chickadee: What? I’m just telling you what he said. And that apparently at my school people put pubic hair in the water fountain.
Monkey: What is wrong with you?
Me: About pubic hair. At the dinner table.
Chickadee: I’m just telling you what Buddy said. How do you think it got in there?
Monkey: How does he even KNOW it’s a pubic hair? Maybe it’s a regular hair.
Chickadee: I think he can tell the difference, dude.
Monkey: But how?
Chickadee: Pubic hairs are different! They’re shorter. And really curly.
Monkey: Mom’s hair is shorter than yours. And really curly.

(Did my son just insinuate that my head looks like it’s covered in pubic hair…?)

Me: Monkey. It’s different. You know that.
Chickadee: Maybe people were having sex on the water fountain.
Me: That sounds… unsanitary. Also uncomfortable.
Monkey: But no, really, how does he KNOW it’s a pubic hair? That doesn’t make any sense for one to be in the water fountain.

Mind you, up until this point, my teenagers are HAPPILY ENGAGED in this COMPLETELY DISTURBING conversation. But then I had to go ruin it.

Me: Monkey! C’mon, you know pubic hair is different. YOU HAVE PUBIC HAIR. IT’S DIFFERENT.
Me: What? He does.
Me, to Chickadee: You’re being ridiculous. You have pubic hair, too.
Me: Really? You are BOTH being ridiculous. EVERYONE HAS PUBIC HAIR.

Apparently we can conclude that (in case you were wondering), “random pube in a public water fountain” is somehow LESS gross than the idea that your sibling (or—worse!—your mother) has pubic hair.

So noted.


  1. Kim

    That’s the funniest dang thing I’ve read in a long, long time. Major points to the Mom!

  2. RuthWells

    Yeah, I think you won that round! As a follow-up, you should make them watch you perform all of “The Vagina Monologues.”

  3. Corey

    Thank you! Needed this laugh after some recent conversations with *my* darlings. I’ll have to think of ways to introduce random mentions of pubes just to make things less dramatic and more entertaining :)

  4. Nelson's Mama

    I’m with Monkey, why would any would pluck their pubic hairs out, transport them out to water fountain and purposely place them there? ;)

    When our kids were small they did Cherub Choir and we’d drop them off at church and go drink wine – it was communion.

  5. el-e-e


  6. Jen

    I’m taking parenting notes. :) ‘Cause THAT is a conversation I can totally see happening here. LOL

  7. Susan

    I am 100% in agreement that they should have to watch you act in the Vagina Monologues!

    • Mir

      I’ve both attended the monologues w/ Chickie and had her in the audience when I performed. She loves it. We offered for Monkey to come see it this year and he sputtered that we weren’t very good parents. HA.

  8. suburbancorrespondent

    “…sounds uncomfortable…” – HA! Good line. And, boy, do i recognize the tone of this piece. Your mistake is that you ARE trying to make any sense of it. You can’t. The teen brain (or, at least, certain teen brains) are nothing so much as a house of crazy mirrors that distort anything you’ve ever taken to be true. Good luck with that.

  9. Lori N

    I’m so glad you cracked the code on that one. Will note for further use. :)

  10. Holly

    Oh man, I just love your families conversations!!!

  11. js

    I don’t want to parent a teenager. Especially not a teenager GIRL child. I’m going to bed and sleeping until my tween baby is 21. Then we can all get drunk…er, colloquium, together.

    Also, as an aside, I am…old…and my husband and I are thinking of having kids but are having some issues with my…age…and getting pregnant. My daughter is currently fascinated by the fact that my eggs are…older… and I may not have as many as someone who is…younger…but if I so much as mention anything relating to anything gynecological, she also wishes she were deaf. But eggs, especially old eggs, are freaking hilarious!!!

  12. Susan Getgood

    Thank you for the laugh. I had a similar conversation with my son recently when my ex was complaining about my son using the laptop on his… LAP. For fear of damage, you know.

    It was at best surreal.

    • Mir

      (that’s all I have to say about that)

    • mamalang

      My husband does this! He can’t yell at me, but boy does he gripe about the kids doing it. Makes no sense to me.

  13. Erika Jurney

    +1 Mom

  14. kapgaf

    If you really want your teenagers to go bananas (bananas, Monkey, see what I did there ?) you should make them PERFORM The Vagina Monologues!!

  15. Andrea

    OH Susan. OH. My son & stepson are 10, and my husband thinks it’s hilarious to warn me about what will be going on in the bathroom one day soon. I am so not equipped to deal with this!!!!

  16. Mame

    I thought it was generally accepted that the teenage brain is so hormone-addled that basic connections of common sense and cause-and-effect are suspended until further notice. No, that’s not recognized scientific information?

    My mother didn’t ask if my siblings and I suffered brain damage, (I think that was considered a foregone conclusion), what she would say was, “Do you think you’re acting normal?” I recall thinking at the time that normal was highly overrated, and I still do.

    So they don’t make sense, but at least they’re amusing which is so much better than when they don’t make sense and they’re not amusing either.

  17. not supergirl

    This reminds of an exchange between my sister and my mom years ago. My sis was in her early 20s, and she had always been a Very Good Girl, but liked to freak my mom out. So she could feel like a bad girl maybe? I don’t know, but she definitely liked to try to shock my mom. One day, out of the blue, she said to Mom, “I had oral sex last night.”

    Mom’s eyes got wide for a moment, as you might expect. Jacque was grinning, pleased with the effect. Then Mom grinned back and quietly responded, “So did I.”

    I heard about this after the face. We were all horrified and also laughing so hard it didn’t make noise. Mom is totally allowed to have a sex life. It’s fine. She can have pubic hair, too, totally legit. We were all mature -ish adults. But to think she must have done that with Dad? OH NO! NOT ALLOWED EVER EVER EVER EXCEPT THOSE TWO TIMES TO CONCEIVE EACH OF US AND THEN IT WAS SACRED OR SOMETHING BECAUSE PROCREATION! Seriously, I think we may have been less disturbed were she having an affair.

    I may have told this story before. It was over 15 years ago, and I still think of it all the time. :) It was just as typical of my sister as it was atypical of my mother.

    • not supergirl

      ugh, after the fact, not face. Stupid typing fingers.

    • Mir


    • Kate in MI

      That is one of the funniest, most horrifying things I’ve ever read. And I’m totally going to remember it and hope to use it myself. Heeheheeeheeeeee.

    • s

      Your mother is brilliant!

      • s

        Oh and so is Mir!!! (And did I mention she has pretty hair …of the human head kind…)

        • not supergirl

          They’re both brilliant, and they both have lovely hair. :)

    • Jen

      I can’t stop thinking about this story! Your mom is awesome.

  18. Rachel

    Awesome. +1 to you, Mir! My kids are really good at changing the subject very very quickly when something related to s e x comes up. Unless they bring it up. Ditto for anything gross.

    And now I have 1 month and 9 days before having 2 teenage girls. In another 3 years I’ll have 3 teenage girls. I didn’t like teens when I was one, and while mine are (relatively) wonderful, I still prefer toddlers. They have similar brain functions, toddlers & teens, but with toddlers you can have some chance at physical control. And toddlers don’t cut off circulation to your legs when they sit on your lap.

    • Nancy R

      Rachel, we are living parallel lives…we hit the two teenage girl mark in 4 months, and three teenage girls
      in 3 years.

    • not supergirl

      Rachel, I was just describing my 12 year-old pre-teen as a toddler with better gross motor skills the other day. I think your comparison is absolutely right! Get this, my brother-in-law now has two nine year-old girls (not twins, blended family), a six year-old girl and a 3 year-old girl. He also has a wonderful and moody (we have this in common *grin*) wife and a 4 year-old boy. He keeps saying that in ten years, he and Jasper (boy) are just going to have to move out for a while. I think it’s cute that he thinks he has that long before it’s unbearable. ;)

  19. Little Bird

    Thank you, I just came with in a (pubic) hairbreadth of shooting diet coke out of my nose. If you ever are in my part of the country and have the kids in tow, feel free to stop by for dinner. No really, I’ve a feeling it would be extremely entertaining!

  20. Myssie1963

    My niece used to torture her teenage son by using this computer program which said whatever you typed in a weird computer voice. She had it say “Andy loves his public hair, he braids it every day” over and over again. It was HILARIOUS! Good times….

  21. Chris G

    OMG I could hear that conversation with my two boys growing up…..they would bring up random stuff like that, and I would get tangled in and cite that we all have pubic hair and they would be grossed out…..They could be studying and have a problem with it but wouldnt get help from the one who understood. It never helped that the younger one was better in school….have fun with that one….

  22. Jamie

    This is the most awesome entry and comments! Thanks for the laughs!

  23. MaryP

    Teenagers are such prudes. They think they’re all radical and cutting-edge and way far ahead of parents sexually — “I will SHOCK MY MOTHER by talking about PUBIC HAIR at dinner, and thus prove how sophisticated I am” — but should parent say something off-script, indicating in ANY WAY that they are not shocked, (or worse, that they have an actual sex life), the teen falls apart.

    It’s highly entertaining, really. Heh.

  24. Rebecca

    I am SO sending my son the link to this post!!! Thanks for the laugh!

  25. Nancy

    You should have very dryly said, “Well, it wasn’t mine cause I shaved them all.”

  26. Jan

    Um, I’m inclined to agree that discussions of ACTUAL PEOPLE, especially ones I’m related to and/or sitting at a table with and their ACTUAL PUBIC HAIR is more disgusting that a actual-but-at-this-moment-theoretical pubic hair at school.

    Also you’d be hard-pressed to distinguish between pubic hair and moustache hair in a public drinking fountain. I’m just sayin’.

    • Brigitte

      Heh, I’m kinda like that too. I can talk the most disgusting pervy-talk – so long as it’s THEORETICAL. The second it’s someone I know describing something they’ve actually done, I’ all LALALA I can’t heeeear you!

  27. Heather

    Ohhh mercy lol.

  28. Mary K. in Rockport

    That eyelid twitch – it moved from me to you, and you can pass it on to another beleaguered mom when you’re through with it.

  29. Chris

    That is impressive. I agree on the point to Mom.

  30. Kristin

    I like Nancy’s response.

  31. Jessica (the celt)

    Great, now we need a book for teenagers that’s called Everybody Has Pubic Hair. They can read it after they outgrow the other one.

  32. Becky

    I am so glad I am simply at the stage where farting and poop jokes are funny. However, THIS?! This was EPIC. Point to mom for grossing out BOTH kids at once.

  33. bj

    You won that dinner, right?. Go Mir! Go!

  34. Katie in MA

    Point (game, set, match) to Mama. Well played, Mir. Well played.

  35. skubitwo

    sorry, mame’s response and brain damage comment reminded me of bill cosby’s monologue on kids and brain damage….totally not correct for today’s sensitivities on child rearing, but so, so, so really true for actual real life and what actually happens in the house.
    so old, i heard bill cosby before he was public tv. sorry.

  36. Paula / Hamburg

    Be prepared that there will be poop talk at dinner in the future. Our son loved to embarrass all of us in the middle of eating. He still does sometimes. We better had tried to stay cool and ignore it or gotten up and left the table…
    Or maybe topped it by farting in his direction? Hmmh

  37. Aimee

    Newsflash: teenagers are weird.

  38. dad

    Been there. Done that.
    Dain bramage…you have to learn to work around it.

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