The Awkward-Scale For Teenage Boys When Shopping With Mom

I went shopping with my teenage son yesterday, whereupon he bestowed upon me one of the greatest honors of my parenting life when he told me that I was (and I quote) ‘a nightmare to be seen in public with.’


‘Oh, and these ten packs of condoms and tube of lube for my son over there, please.’


Job well done, I say; if not for the niggling suspicion that the nightmarish aspects of my company had rather more to do with my senility than my embarrassing-mom qualities.


Although many men people would have us believe that men and women are very different, in my opinion, the only time there is a palpable difference between the genders is when it comes to clothes shopping. Now, before all you male fashionistas jump down my throat, let me explain. I have based this opinion on the two socially-anxious males in my house, for whom malls are almost as terrifying as attending a feminist rally in a Trump tee-shirt – something I blame on my mother-in-law, who used to chain-smoke her way around shopping malls just to get through the torture. Oh, how she would have loved online shopping – although I suspect that she understood even less about technology than the dangers of passive smoking.


Anyway, as such, clothes shopping with my son is, shall we say politely, is something that I avoid at all costs.


Perhaps a little more elaboration is required here. For not only does Kurt have a deep-seated hatred for crowds, bright lights, the smell of German bread (!) and the overwhelming choices that shopping throws up as a result of his ADHD, he is also incredibly fussy about what he puts on his body from a sensory processing perspective and his side order of OCD.  His wardrobe is lean, and any clothing lucky to make the cut into its minimally perfect world has a very limited shelf life. In general terms, that generally means he has a single outfit on the go at any time, and he washes it daily.


However, recently re-employed, (thank you, God), yesterday he was forced to beg the Bank Of Mom to tide him over with some new work clothes, and while I worked out the interest rate on my loan, he got to grips with the idea of a mall trip with mum, her symptoms of early-onset dementia, lack of filter, embarrassing approaches to every female she thinks is potential daughter-in-law material, zero sense of direction (particularly in car parks) and her middle-aged intolerance to just about everything – but particularly poor service. In other words, the afternoon did not bode well.


Rest assured, we lived to tell the tale and for your entertainment, the following are invaluable lessons that I learned, based on an innovative scientific scale – the awkward-scale or AS – that I have invented for this exact purpose:


DO NOT go into a pharmacy with your teenage boy because (apparently) any hot shop assistant will think you’re buying him condoms – AS 8


DO NOT drag your son to the till to pay for his new undies, because there is some awkward (perhaps sexual – Ewww) connotation in that as well – AS 9


DO NOT complain about anything, ask for a different size or ask for assistance in any shape or form – AS 7


DO NOT attempt to accompany him into the changing room, even if he walks around naked at home – AS 9


DO NOT express your disgust loudly at your usual Mexican lunch outlet and then try flirting with the hot, young assistant (your son’s age) when he tells you that they have started charging $2 for the avocado topping – AS 10


Learn how to use the self-service checkout – AS 8


Never discuss any medical/biological/sexual topic over coffee, especially when you know your voice has the phonic capability of reaching the Northern Hemisphere when you get over-excited. NEVER use the word moist – AS 10


NEVER feel the end of your son’s new shoes to check for growing room, especially when the girl serving him is future daughter-in-law material – AS 210


But the crime of the century should probably go to either, a) my appalling parking skill in public, in front of hundreds of shoppers/witnesses, because it is difficult to maneuver a family-sized vehicle around a column with Kendrick blasting in one ear and your son screaming in the other, ‘learn to drive, will you!’ Or, b) losing the parking ticket and having a very loud conversation with the man in the machine at the barrier, while everyone queued behind us.

The Best 28 Reasons To Leave Town When Teenage Boys Are On School Holidays


1.It will rain.

2.Because it will rain, the lingering smell of boy germs will be impossible to eradicate because teenage boys don’t process the word ‘deodorant’. Occasionally, this odour is diluted by what you swear is the smell of illicit smoking from out of their bedroom window.

3.First trip to the ER – when son’s nose piercing gets caught on the shower door.

4.The local pool is littered with loitering, feral boys with too much testosterone fucking up their decision-making skills and their physical coordination.They have no intention of swimming and obviously cannot read and their idea of fun is to torment the ‘serious’, local swimmers by purposefully misjudging the lane speed and diving between the lanes very slowly.

5.Movie theatres are full of the monsters spraying popcorn and exercising their newly broken voices to maximum effect.

6.But at least there is an in-house IT specialist at home, for when the ‘computer says no’. Sadly, his sense of entitlement is so great it makes him tut every time you ask for assistance with anything ‘Apple’, and he expects to be rewarded when he does. When you remind him about the unpaid hours of parental sacrifice you have given him, you are met with that cynical eye roll, the one that is code for ‘speak my language or don’t speak to me at all’.

7.The presence of coinage in your purse is as unusual as wet towels being hung back on hooks in the bathroom

8.The living room turns into a free hostel, full of foreign boy germs by night, picked up from clubs in the city; the fridge is always empty by midday.

9.Your second trip to the ER occurs after your son’s friend, (who you suspect has been illegally drinking and probably at your house, so obviously you can’t tell the nurse), falls off the trampoline with suspected broken entitlement issues leg.

10.But…there will be blissfully little traffic on the roads, although public transport now has the fear factor of the transport system in downtown LA. You begin to understand the US leniency in their gun laws.

11.More wine will be consumed per capita of mums, to help wash down the Valium.

12.If you live in an area with a proliferation of private schools and only one barber, you will need at least three hours of new music on your phone to endure the wait.

13.The usually civil atmosphere in McDonalds has all the appeal of eating in a cockroach nest.

14.The third trip to the ER is when your teenager learns the life lesson that attaching a skateboard to the back of a friend’s bike and riding through the city tunnels is not a good idea.

15.McDonalds reassess their decision to introduce self-order machines after a group of bored teenagers hack the machines to pour ice-cream instead of bbq sauce.

16.It is the busiest time for undercover store detectives.

17.The household food bill triples and yet miraculously you are losing weight.

18.The monthly iTunes bill triples in a week.

19.You now have Stan and Presto membership, as well as Netflix, and no idea how.

20.You go directly to your teenager each time you forget the pin to any of your bankcards.

21.The local hospital forces you to increase your private health insurance

22. You cry uncontrollably when you cross out each day on the calendar and realize there’s still another week to go. You book yourself an appointment with your GP about anxiety issues and how to find the closest AA group.

23. Your son refuses to help you download music on your phone for the trip to the barber in spite of the fact you pay his phone bill and the iTunes account.

24.The dog enjoys the increase in left-over junk food fermenting under son’s bed.

25.You enter the Guinness Book of Records for number of boxes of cereal consumed per day

26.The dog begs you not to let your teenager and his friends walk her.

27.Alcohol strangely disappears from the house, and what is left, tastes suspiciously weak.

28.The dog has slept in her own bed rather than on the sofa since the holidays started, and looks depressed.






What I Learnt About Teenage Boys This Week

Teenage Boys 

Those of you who follow me on Twitter may be aware that our ‘hotel’ was fully booked this week, with an influx of British testosterone; in the shape of three eighteen-year-old teenage boys.

We had never met these boys before, which might have been a potentially awkward situation. And it was.

Their friend, our nephew, (who we used to be very close to, before he thrust this scale 10 level of awkwardness upon us, was supposed to accompany them, and was the reason they had been allocated the best room in the hostel), conveniently broke his arm whilst drunk playing rugby the week before they were due to arrive; not surprisingly, there was no room at any of the other ‘free’ inns in Sydney.

We’ve since been informed that aforementioned prodigal nephew has a new girlfriend!

When I told my friends who have eighteen-year-old sons about ‘the boys’ imminent arrival, they sighed and quickly changed the subject.

So I awaited their visit with obvious trepidation.

‘Normal’ eighteen-year-old boys are an unknown entity to me. (And for those of you who err on the side of political correctness, don’t worry, the ADHDer will revel at that inference – he was proud to pimp his ‘difference’ at every opportunity during their stay). And if anyone did happen to notice the boy in the pink rabbit onesie, smoking and swilling from a bottle of Vodker in Darling Harbour this week, allow me to introduce my son.

Nerd Child was indifferent. In her world, unless a boy knows the elements of the Periodic Table, they are not worthy.  She was nonetheless disgruntled at having to surrender her bathroom to boy germs.

However, we were given a helpful character assassination of the three by my brother-in-law in advance – apparently, one was a puker, one had a habit of getting lost and one of them was reassuringly quiet. (We never did actually meet the quiet one).

So the old man and I made our preparations.

We wrote off sleep for the five nights of their visit and downloaded the entire series of Game of Thrones for the long evenings, while we waited for our wards to return back to the hostel safely from whichever debauchery or crime they had committed in Sydney.

I also surpassed my all-time Christmas record at Woollies, spending in excess of a month’s rent on carbohydrates and protein. I then watched the old man shake his head in disbelief as he entered the cost on his spreadsheet.

Our three tired backpackers duly arrived, (I assumed) ready to paint the town red, and we hurriedly concealed them in the attic before the neighbours spotted them.

Kurt Cobain (front) and Krist Novoselic (left)...
Kurt Cobain (front) and Krist Novoselic (left) live at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kurt Cobain, (the ADHDer’s new alter-ego and we’re not worried!) reacted in atypical fashion to their arrival, contriving to appear even more flagrantly bizarre (if that’s possible) in comparison to the three ‘normal’ healthy male teenagers from the other side of the world, his Porkpie hat permanently askew on his head, cigarette dangling from his mouth, (when he thought I wasn’t looking), reedy, white and undernourished body swamped in colourful Indie cast-offs – the very antithesis to the stereotypical ‘Australian’ youth.

The boys were obviously bemused and a little confused

And unfortunately Kurt was in a particularly belligerent mood, still seething from his two week grounding, (and every other punishment we thought was enforceable), our parental retribution for his recent rule-breaking shenanigans at school last term (and Darling Harbour, of course).

The boys’ arrival signified ‘change’ to Kurt and Kurt does not do change happily.

His main fear, (that they would be ‘jock’ types and bring a ball), was justified as soon as they appeared at our front door with their sparkling white teeth, obvious biceps and football in hand. I watched Kurt look at them with thinly veiled disdain.

The old man, however, came into his own in the presence of the three red-blooded male accomplices. The intricacy of every sport ever created was discussed at length at the dinner table and I listened to him brag (again) about the weekly average of units of alcohol he consumed at university, while our visitors yawned politely, a small price to pay for hot showers, breakfast and a bed.

There was actually a point when I thought that these perfect specimens of teenagers from the UK, were not real teenagers. There was a minimal amount of grunting and snarling, they chose to stay in rather than go out, and there was an appreciation for whatever I offered them by way of sustenance.

However, I soon realised that I had been hasty in this assumption, (having momentarily forgotten the dulling-down effects of a 24 hour flight), when their enthusiasm for life, living and partying resumed on day three – the day they re-discovered Vodka, Red Bull and another old friend, Jack Daniels, in our local bottle shop.

On day 3 I learned the following about teenage boys:

  • Maccas’s soft-tops are the cheapest alternative to real food when budgeting
  • Vodka mixed with RedBull is their most important food source
  • The need to mark your bedroom door with a ‘THIS IS NOT THE BATHROOM!’ sign – this is of particular importance during the night
  • Teenage boys will eat as many fried egg sandwiches as you can throw at them
  • Check your water meter before they stay – they shower all the time
  • Seeing the sights of a beautiful city is secondary to a) going out to get a hangover and b) recovering from it
  • Teenage boys can sleep fourteen hours in one session and they need to feed all day afterwards to make up for fourteen hours of not eating
  • They think about food all the time
  • Allowing drinking games in your house prior to a night out should be strongly discouraged
  • Their alcoholic tolerance is not as good as they think it is
  • Their night out only begins as you go to bed and ends as you get up; just in time for a cooked breakfast

They left today as the bags under my eyes were touching the floor and I had exhausted the organic egg supplies at my local Woolies.

Even Kurt looked sad.

Obviously, I haven’t been brave enough to enter their bedroom or bathroom yet.

The Teenage Transition From Boy To Man

Teenagers and the Transition from Boy to ManI’ve been demoted in my role as Mum by my teenage son now. Steve Biddulph warned me it would happen in his books, Raising Boys and The New Manhood, but I thought I would be the mother to prove him wrong.

Steve obviously knows what he’s talking about.

“Most men today live behind masks. They put them on in the morning and keep them on until they fall asleep at night, adopting the clichés of what they perceive a real man to be. The problem is, it’s all pretend.” (Steve Biddulph)

My son is creating his mask.

The rules have suddenly changed in our relationship. Where I was once a figure my son looked up to, his support, his role model, it feels as though I have become little more than a serf in his life these days, with about as much social standing as the servants in Downton Abbey. Actually less, because they are paid for their work.

My new status was made perfectly clear to me today when we went clothes shopping together in George Street. I had envisaged our trip as a potential bonding moment, but as I watched him plug in his earphones, I realised that I was little more than a cash enabler, and that communication would not be involved.

I traipsed behind him like Tiger Woods’ caddy, at least three metres behind at all times, while he sauntered off ahead and in control. Topman was full of weary mums like me, stalking outside the changing rooms, accepting this new place in their teenage boys’ lives, credit cards at the ready, newly aware that these last links are so tenuous and precious.

The only time he acquiesced to share the same square metre of space with me in public was when we met briefly at the paydesk. He did mumble a ‘thanks Mum’ as I handed over the dosh, but it was only coherent to those with either canine hearing or  desperately holding on to the last morsel of what might still be considered a relationship.

I get it. I remember being embarrassed to have to shop with my parents. I get it; I’m just not really ready for it yet.

I’m worried he won’t ever come back to me again. That once he’s mature enough to reconsider our tie, some evil girl will steal him from under my nose. I remember my brother retreating to his bedroom at the age of twelve and not reappearing until he was eighteen. The only time we saw him during those six years was during flying visits on Christmas Day to inhale twenty-four roast potatoes and bid goodbye for another twelve months.

My boy is creating his man-shed, part of his transition from boy to man. He needs to be mentally strong in this new man-world and he is busy creating the emotional tools to face the challenge, while I scramble around pathetically, trying desperately to retain our old relationship. The more I try to stop the building process, the more determinedly he hammers in the nails.

I used to consider myself a strong, opinionated woman, yet in the presence of my teenage son these days I feel like a piece of putty at the mercy of his manipulation. I am Edward Cullen, helpless in the path of the evil powers of his alter-ego Jane, from Twilight. He holds the emotional power and I am a sad and powerless pawn, and I while I recognise and detest this feeling of subservience, I am powerless to prevent it. It is the power of love.

I am emotionally strung out at being ousted from his life so mercilessly. I try to please him all the time, to appease him, and I can see the disdain on his face as I compromise my own strength. I don’t know whether to accept the painful transition, grieve and move on, or fight it. Whatever happened to that gorgeous blonde vision of innocent chubbiness who used to worship me and tell me he loved me ‘this much’?

My love for him has always been unconditional; I thought that his would be the same for me.

He tolerates me now. I am his cook, bank and a sounding board when things get too hard, but he knows and I know that I can’t be his friend or pretend to understand anything that is going on in his life.

‘You don’t understand, Mum,’ is the common accusation when I try to carry on parenting the way I used to, before the bumfluff and baritone voice signalled the change.

We have to let them go. Our boys have to make the transition from boy to man and I have to continue to support and nourish him during his transition, no matter how painful I find his rejection.

In the hope that he will come back to me when he is ready.