Posted by: jhvn | 12/11/2012

Why Do Mothers Do These Things?

When I was about 12, my mother sent me to a dancing class on Friday evenings. It was torture! I had to approach one of the girls sitting primly in a row and ask her to dance with me. Of course by the time I had made up my mind who was  prettiest, some guy who knew her had already swooped in, and she was chatting happily and gliding out on the floor with him.

I could barely even speak to a girl.  My feet wouldn’t go where I was told by the teacher they should, so of course I stared at them hoping to make them work. My cluncky movements were anything but graceful.  I felt like a total clutz.

The class was in the city where my parents grew up, a 20 min. bus ride from the corner near my house to a city corner near the dance studio. To get home from the ordeal, I had to walk alone back to the city corner to catch the bus. It was dark. I would shiver from embarrassment and the  cold. The bus took forever to come. And I had to pee. The urgency would begin about half-way to the corner.

In my eagerness to escape the scene of my humiliation, I always forgot to use the toilet, so I squeezed hard hoping I would not leak. When my wait mercifully ended, I got on the bus carefully so I could hold it in, hoping the driver would not notice my strange way of climbing up the steps. I sat there riding home, tormented by every bump in the road, every slamming on of the brakes, every jerky start. By the time I finally got off the bus, my underpants were usually wet. That chilled me even more. I hoped my pants didn’t show the leak. My parents got used to my dash to the toilet room as soon as I got in the door, and they didn’t grill me about the evening till I emerged. My bladder relief so overwhelmed me that I could mumble something about a good time without feeling much at all.

I never learned anything in that dance class: not how to talk to a girl in spite of my fear; not to let my body feel and move with the rhythm of music (although I did enjoy the recorded big band  music); and certainly not to use the toilet before I left for home. These all must be learned before a boy can begin to enter adulthood. Aha! My mother must have hoped I would learn them.

Now, after many years, this geezer has learned a few things. I don’t have to let fear paralyze me. (I still struggle with this one.) I do enjoy moving with the music and dancing now, and I married  a great dancer (even I’m not).

I’ve found that fear produces the urgency to pee (hence the saying “he was so scared he was pissin’ green”).

Also, I have figured out that the urgency to pee, the rate of flow, and the volume released do not always relate in the way you would expect. In my childhood, I mercifully found immediate release when I let go. In adulthood I had more control, but sometimes I could only release a little bit (like after a particularly emotional movie). Now, well into my geezerhood, things are all mixed up. Feeling great urgency I can race to the toilet (or to a tree in the woods) and find almost nothing coming out. I can also go for hours, feel a tinge of urgency, take five minutes to finish up, then have to pee again in only half an hour. In a marvelous scene in the stage play of  Tuesdays with Morrie, Morrie goes off stage to pee. when his friend calls him to hurry up, Morrie calls out, “I’m 84 years old. It doesn’t come so fast.”

Well, I am a slow learner. And I write too many words in my stories. But I can be concise in three mottos of this Geezerhood Guide:

1) Never let fear paralyze you.

2) Always learn from what humiliates you.

3) Never miss an opportunity to pee.

© John Van Ness 12/2012


  1. John, your prose is always thought provoking for me. I can identify with similar somatic responses to fear as a child, although, as a woman, benign prostatic hypertrophy will never affect me! Giving birth to 2 kids has and does! I picked up a 60 pound plus package as a UPS driver helper yesterday and, voila!…oops, weak bladder muscles could not stand up to the test of the strain!

    • Well that’s easier to cope with than a strained back. Geezers and “tweezers” need to be careful not to mistake our bodies for those of young adults. jhvn

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