A Rose by Any Other Name

When I was about 12 or 13, my mother told me that I was going to have problems when I reached puberty. "Why?" I asked. "The males on both side of our family take a long, long time to mature. Your father was almost 23 before he started to shave and my brother was a very late

When I was about 12 or 13, my mother told me that I was going to have problems when I reached puberty.

“Why?” I asked.

“The males on both side of our family take a long, long time to mature. Your father was almost 23 before he started to shave and my brother was a very late bloomer. But don’t worry about it, your time will come.”

“I don’t care,” I said. “I’m not worried about anything.”

“Not even about the size of your John Henry?” asked my mother.

“No and I don’t want to talk about it,” I said. I wondered how my mother could possibly know that I was deeply concerned about the size of my penis.

The term John Henry caused me some confusion as a child since my mother and father referred to both penises and vaginas as John Henrys. Even at age five or six it dawned on me that the two organs were rather different – so why did they share the same name in our home? I never found out from my parents.

After I left home, I never used the term again. A penis was a penis. A vagina was a vagina. (Except when I was talking to the guys in the pool hall, but that is another story.)

My mother was right. I was past 22 before I started to shave and it was not until that time that I got serious about dating. Then, oh boy.

In my late 30s, I married a beautiful lady and things went along nicely for four or five years; however, one day, my mother came to visit us and when Kate, my wife, went to work, my mother said, “Just because you have a tiny John Henry, doesn’t mean you can’t have children.”

I was stunned. Of course, nearly all men feel (at one time or another) they are a bit shortchanged in that department, but so far I had received no complaints. I told my mother this and I also said that since I was now in my 40s I thought that we should refer to my John Henry as my penis.

“You can use that word if you want to,” she said. “However, I think you are concerned about the size of your John Henry and I want to know you don’t have to be. You can still have children.”

“Thank you, Mother,” I said. “But we are not ready to have children and if and when we do I am confident that my John Henry, I mean, my penis, will be adequate. As I said, I have had no complaints.”

“Well, have you had any compliments?” asked Mother.

“I don’t really want to talk about it and there is no way that you could tell the size of my penis, so let’s drop it.”

“I happen to know your John Henry is only this long,” said my mother. She illustrated the length of my penis by holding up her forefinger and thumb, leaving a space between them about the width of a dime.

I had to smile. I was much better hung than that. (Her illustration would shame a leprechaun.) “And what makes you think that’s the size of my penis?” I asked.

“Because when I went to visit my brother, I happened to look in his dresser drawer and I found some condoms. They would barely cover the end of a pencil eraser. Yet your uncle was the father of your cousin, so that proves that you don’t have to have a large John Henry to impregnate a woman. You are a lot like my brother.”

“Mother, your brother is a druggist. And when I visited him he showed me those condoms. He uses them on his fingertips to help count pills or something.”

“Really?” asked Mother.

“Really,” I said.

We both had a good laugh.

But when we stopped Mother asked me, “So you’ve had some compliments, have you?”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said.

“Nothing to be ashamed of,” she said. “You know, my brother could probably have had more children if he wanted to.”

That night after everyone was in bed I asked my wife if she thought I was well hung.

“Like a stallion,” she said.

“A big stallion or a little stallion?” I asked.

“A big stallion,” she said.

“Great. My mother hasn’t mentioned anything about our love life, has she?”

“No,” said my wife. “Now put your John Henry back in your pajamas and go to sleep.”

bittersweet

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jaron

jaron

Jaron Summers wrote dozens of primetime television and radio programs, including those for HBO, CBS, ACCESS TV and CBC. He conceived the TV and Film Institute of Canada. Funded by the University of Alberta and ITV, Jaron ran the Institute for 12 years, donating his services for a decade.

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