At six months, Oedipus found his manhood while splashing around in the tub. His father was proud while I assured myself that the discovery was developmentally on target.
He would yank, pull and stretch the thing like silly putty. I thought it looked painful. But what do I know? I've never had that equipment. He seemed to like it. A lot.
A couple of months later, we noticed that to relax he would twirl his index finger all around his belly button. This was a bit disconcerting as I come from a long line of people with aversions to belly buttons.
Seriously, I don't even like to write about them, much less talk, touch or watch someone else fondle theirs. But I looked on as my son's protruding belly was flaunted in my face and finally accepted the fact that everyone has his own way of doing things. If Oedipus needed to do this bizarre "action," I certainly wouldn’t stop him.
Then he moved north to the nipples. This was downright strange. I called my younger sister in Denver and copped to my critical ways: "I thought your son was strange for needing to hold on to your left ear. I'm sorry I judged him."
"Why the sudden confession?" she asked.
"Because my son has taken to giving himself purple nurples," I replied.
"Titty twisters?" she asked.
"Not full on… but, yes," I said.
"Oh. That is weird."
Once his hands grew big enough, he found a new system. He fondled both his nipples with the thumb and middle finger from the right hand, while circling his belly button with the index finger from his left hand. (I'll give you a minute to try that on your own.)
Upsetting, I know.
How would I explain this to my Italian babysitter?
"Have you ever heard the Rick James song 'Superfreak'? I asked her in Italian. She hadn't. With nothing else to offer, I just came out with it.
The babysitter looked at me as if I had two heads and I was the freak.
"Maybe I didn't understand you," she offered.
"No you did. It's just very strange. I wanted to warn you so that you weren't alarmed when it happens."
When I returned a few hours later said babysitter was smiling. "You were right. I've never seen a child do this."
It was then, like a born-again Christian participating in some kind of perverted Christmas miracle, that Oedi refocused on his manhood. It was the day before Christmas. By then his motor skills and higher reasoning were developed enough to figure out that he didn't need to be in the tub in order to have access to his junk. Bath time became anytime and anytime became all the time. We were Stateside and I was horrified.
"Joy to the World" blared on the Bose stereo — making for a rather sardonic soundtrack — while Oedi stared at the ceiling fan (another of his passions) and practiced his newfound favorite activity. Marco nodded and smiled. "I know what means," he said. Meaning, he understood this particular male obsession was, well, male.
"He's a sexual deviant," I quipped, though I knew this behavior was normal (sort of) and that it would pass (maybe).
When I expressed my concerns to my sisters they agree on the overall appropriateness. Then they witnessed it first hand.
"He really likes ceiling fans," said my youngest sister. Then: "Wow! I feel like we should give him some privacy."
"Okay," my older sister chimed in. "Maybe you need duct tape."
They were not helping.
And it didn’t help that we got no nighttime reprieve. While sleeping Oedipus would tug at it through his PJs, ultimately forcing the one eyed snake out of his size five Pampers. Since we were bunking together on vacation, this caused more than one unfortunate "accident" in the midst of our slumber. I can honestly (and sadly) say that I was pissed on so much that I was… well, pissed off. And I was beside myself.
I thought about the duct tape. And possibly a chain with locks. Or a chastity belt of sort.
By the time we returned to Rome after the New Year I had resolved to chill out and be less prudish about my son's "pisello." Our return brought jet lag. Jet lag brought lethargy. Lethargy brought a lower libido (for my son) and just like that…the habit was broken. He was too tired to tug and I was relieved.
"I think this phase has passed," I reported to Marco.
He cocked back his head and laughed. "Kissy, this phase will never pass."
There are some things a mother does not need to know. This, I decided, was one of them.