Tag Archives: teenagers

What “Big Mouth” Gets Right (And Wrong) About Puberty

When you’re a platform that has created shows like “House of Cards” and “BoJack Horseman,” the bar for quality is higher than most. That’s the benefit/burden of being successful. Say what you will about how Netflix has evolved over the years, it has produced some amazing content in an age that some call the third golden age of TV.

Then, there are shows like “Big Mouth.” I’m not saying that Netflix is lowering the bar for the sake of balance, but I’m still struggling to make sense of this show. When I heard about it, especially with comedian Nick Kroll attached to it, I hoped I had found another show to pass the time in between seasons of “BoJack Horseman.” I’m won’t say I was disappointed, but I do feel like I took the quality of Netflix content for granted.

I’m not going to say that “Big Mouth” is a bad show, but I won’t make excuses for it. It’s the kind of show that goes out of its way to be crude for all the wrong reasons and not in the traditions of “South Park” either. It doesn’t go for the cheap laugh or even the mid-priced laugh. It’s a show that just goes out of its way to sensationalize teenagers going through puberty.

On paper, it sounds like a great concept. Going through puberty is wrought with all sorts of craziness, some funny and some embarrassing as hell. I’ve shared some on this blog, including a story about the most awkward boner I’ve ever gotten.

Big Mouth” tries to extract humor from similarly awkward situations. It takes a lot of swings and it misses a lot of pitches, but it does manage to hit a few balls here and there. Yes, I also mean that in a literal sense. This show does resort to that kind of humor.

It may not be the kind of high-concept insight you get from an episode of “Rick and Morty,” but it does at least try to send a message about the horrors of puberty. Even if the product is crude and exceedingly exaggerated, that message is relevant, so much so that it’s worth talking about.

I honestly didn’t expect to write about “Big Mouth” in any capacity, especially when writing about sexy memories from my college years is so much more interesting. However, after gritting my teeth and watching the show, I feel the horrors of puberty are worth talking about, especially with ideas about toxic masculinity being so prevalent lately.

Big Mouth” doesn’t attempt to wade too deeply into those kinds of issues. It’s too crude and too crass a show to even attempt that kind of commentary. However, it does do a good job at showing just how powerful and, at times, overwhelming that flood of hormones can be to a young person. For some, it’s downright traumatic.

Throughout the show, the main characters, Nick Birch, Andrew, Glouberman, and Jessi Glaser, are often hounded by literal manifestations of a monster that personifies their hormones. It’s never clear whether the monster is invisible or not, but this creature basically says everything the FCC won’t allow teenagers to say out loud.

For the boys, the monster is named Maurice and his advice usually amounts to things like, “Go ahead and jerk off!” or “Look at her tits!” or “Too bad, buddy! You’re getting a boner!” I’m not going to lie. That monster kind of triggered some awkward moments from my teenage years where I found myself thinking thoughts too crude, even for my novels.

The girls aren’t spared from that awkwardness either. There’s another hormone monster every bit as crude, but reserved for female characters. Her name is Connie and she embodies all the alpha bitch, hyper-feminine extremes that Sam Kinison ever joked about. She’s emotional, dramatic, and demands that every female character be confused or overwhelmed by her body. That’s basically puberty in a nutshell.

In a sense, “Big Mouth” is unique in its balanced approach to showing how boys and girls both struggle to endure puberty. That’s rare in most coming of age stories that either focus on horny guys trying to get laid or bitchy girls trying to get popular. This show doesn’t give a pass to either gender.

This is what “Big Mouth” actually gets right about puberty, to some extent. It’s not just overwhelming and frustrating for one gender. The male experience is unique. They have to deal with constant erections and that annoying voice in their head urging them to think dirty thoughts about anything that even looks like a beautiful women.

Since I’m a man who has more than his share of bad memories from my awkward teen years, that’s a sentiment I can appreciate. However, it’s the female perspective in “Big Mouth” that I found most intriguing. The idea that girls are just as freaked out about the changes in their bodies, minds, and everything in between shouldn’t be such a novel concept, but this show goes out of its way to belabor it.

Now, I don’t know for sure that the girls I went to high school with had an actual hormone monster on their shoulder, telling them to cry irrationally at a moment’s notice or lash out at anyone who dared to look at them the wrong way. It’s just somewhat refreshing to think that teen awkwardness knows no gender.

If gender balance is a strength in “Big Mouth,” though, it’s biggest weakness is portraying how the characters deal with it. The show is so over-the-top with the extremes of puberty that it’s hard to glean a meaningful story from it all.

It’s not just that puberty takes the form of actual hormone monsters that sound like uncensored commentary from a bad porno. It’s not that the show makes puberty sound overly traumatic either. There’s never a sense that the characters, even Jessi and Nick, actually grow through the experience. That’s kind of a big oversight with puberty.

From a purely biological standpoint, puberty is the maturation of a child into adulthood. That maturation part is never even hinted at in the show. After watching the first season of “Big Mouth,” it’s hard to imagine any of the characters involved growing into functioning adults.

In the real world, puberty tends to bring out the best or worst in a person. If someone starts becoming an asshole in puberty, they usually stay that way into adulthood. If someone shows an ability to deal with it and grow, as a person, then they’re usually in good shape. It can even get pretty hilarious when both kinds of people have to deal with one another. Unfortunately, we don’t get that with “Big Mouth.”

I won’t go so far as to say the show is terrible. It does have its moments and some of those moments are genuinely funny or insightful. It is, as the end of the day, an overly comedic take on the rigors of puberty. It doesn’t try to be coy or deceptive. It doesn’t try to use colorful metaphors involving flowers or cucumbers. It gets right down the dirty, gritty details.

I can see the show appealing to those who suffered more during puberty than most. I can even see the show appealing to “South Park” and “Family Guy” fans. It’s hardly a guide or a warning with respect to the rigors of puberty, but it reflects a common truth. Being a teenager sucks and puberty is a big reason why.

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Why Nice Guys DON’T Finish Last (Or First)

We’ve all heard it before. It’s the primary plot of nearly every teen movie ever made. It’s the secondary plot of every underdog movie ever made. It’s also the title of a classic Green Day song. Say it out loud in almost any context that isn’t on the set of a porno and most will agree.

Nice Guys Finish Last

When we look at the world through our irrational, caveman brains and glean our information primarily from movies, sitcoms, and Fox News, that certainly seems to be the case. It’s almost obvious that we live in a world nice guys solely exist to act as toilet paper to the Biff Tannens, Bernie Madoffs, and Kanye Wests of the world.

In a sense, it’s comforting. Being a nice guy means you’ll carry the spirit of a lovable loser and who doesn’t love a lovable loser? Sure, Cleveland Browns fans would probably beg to differ, but it’s that very mindset that makes us content with the status of nice guys and gives us an excuse to scrutinize the concept through the harsh lens of reality.

As I’ve made clear before, I don’t care for excuses that don’t involve donuts, comic books, or nudity. That’s not to say I have anything against nice guys. I too consider myself a nice guy. You won’t find me punching a small animal just to impress a couple of cute cheerleaders. There are far more honorable and pragmatic ways for that sort of thing.

Instead, I’m going to add a little bit of context to the whole concept of nice guy finishing last. I’ve already highlighted how being a nice guy is a laughably low standard with which to base your appeal as a person. Most of the people on this planet are nice. The only reason you know about the assholes more is because they’re the ones that end up with TV shows and professional trolls.

So even if there are mostly nice people in this world, does that mean they finish last? Well, to answer that, it helps to build a story around the context. I could try to cite studies that show that just being likable tends to get you more opportunities in life, but that’s not very sexy. Nobody comes to this blog for scientific studies that don’t involve sex robots. They come here for sexy stories.

With that in mind, here’s the story that every nice guy should learn before they hit puberty:

You walk into a casino with all your life savings and you have to gamble it all of it on just one game.

In some of those games, the risk is high and the reward is high in the short term, but that reward naturally decreases no matter how much you win at other games.

In some of those games, the risk is very low, but for each dollar you don’t bet, you end up losing twice as much in the long run.

Then, there’s this one game in the middle of it all where if you bet on it, you probably won’t win big, but you won’t lose either. The odds are stacked in such a way where that over time, your money increases. It’s slow and tedious, but it does go up. It’s just a matter of patience and playing the odds, which are objectively on your side.

With all this in mind, which game do you play?

If you’re a smart gambler in any sense and don’t have any self-destructive tendencies, then the choice you make in this story is fairly clear. You end up playing the third game because that’s the only game that, in the long run, will increase your life savings.

That third game is basically what it means to be a nice guy. It is akin to investing in an index fund in the stock market. Ask nearly any financial guru, including Warren Buffet, and they’ll say the same. An index fund is the safest, most effective investment anyone can make. It won’t beat the market, but you won’t lose to it. Just not losing to the market is enough to make a lot of money in the long run.

Being a nice guy is one of the best investments you can make in yourself because, on the whole, it increases your value as a person and as a functioning member of society. In general, people want to deal with nice people. People want to work with them. Some even want to have sex with them. It is, by far, the easiest and most effective way to get ahead in the long term.

The main problem is the payoff sometimes takes a while. There is also some element of luck involved, but not in the Vegas odds sort of sense. For those willing to take more risks, being a nice guy just isn’t enough. Being a nice guy just takes too damn long.

That’s how you end up with the professional trolls I’ve mentioned before. These are people who are gambling that being an asshole will help them stand out. It’ll help them get attention, which they understand on some levels is a valuable asset.

That attention may be negative. In fact, it often is negative. Being an asshole in a world of nice people helps you stand out. It makes you different, exciting, and charismatic to some degree. However, all that is a quick short-term gain. In the same way these crazy things get people’s attention, those same people will just as easily get bored or frustrated with it. As I’ve said before, there is a lot of power in boredom.

That’s why a lot of those arrogant, Biff Tannen jocks from high school end up pumping gas, digging ditches, or getting shanked in prison. Being an asshole, in the long run, decreases your value because it hinders your ability to form social connections. Without those connections, there’s going to be nobody to help you up when you fall flat on your face.

That’s not to say that being an asshole doesn’t pay off big for some people. Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos, and most successful YouTube stars are proof of that. They do finish ahead of the nice guys. However, they are the exceptions and not the norms.

Most of the assholes are so far behind the nice guys that they have no hopes of ever catching up. Some just quit the race entirely and cede their rank to the nice guys because they know too many people hate them to hope for a break. It can be somewhat tragic, but it does benefit the nice guys.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the overly careful type people who despise both the nice guys and the assholes. I knew people like this in high school. I was almost one of them. These are people who are so bleak in their outlook on life that they don’t bother being nice or mean. They’re just a walking ball of gloomy nihilism.

Other than grunge rock and Marilyn Manson, you don’t see too many instances of this paying off in the long run. Even if you’re not an asshole who kicks small puppies for fun, people will still avoid you if you’re a pain to be around. If every hour of your day involves whining about how terrible and awful everything is, then nobody will want to work with you, help you, or sleep with you.

As a result, the nice guys beat those gloomy goths with ease. They finish ahead because, and it’s worth emphasizing, people prefer to work with those who are likable. They will help, befriend, and have sex with those who are nice to be around. Again, it won’t happen all at once. It will take time, but in the end it will pay off.

So in a sense, Green Day got it wrong. Nice guy’s don’t finish last. However, they don’t finish first either. Given how few of those who try to finish first ever make it, your best bet is to just make sure you don’t finish last. In that sense, being a nice guy is the safest bet you’ll ever make that doesn’t involve jello shots.

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On Nice Guys, Women, And Whining

We’ve all heard it before. We’ve either experienced it, know someone who has, or seen at least fifteen movies built around the concept. There’s a guy sitting myself, his head held low as his lips quiver with sorrow. He’s sad. He’s lonely. Nobody likes him and women would rather endure amputation rather than touch his cock. When anyone asks about it, he tells the same boring story.

“I’m a nice guy! Why don’t women want to be with me? I’m not some jerk or asshole. What’s wrong with them?”

On some levels, we have sympathy for guys like that. Yes, I know there are women who feel this way too, but a generation of teen movies, romantic comedies, and high school drama has conditioned us to hear a male voice every time we hear this overplayed diatribe of angst.

Since I’m not in a position to undo that conditioning, I won’t try. Just bear with me because this is an important message to anyone who has either said those words or heard them from someone else. I don’t want to underscore the depths of that loneliness and angst. I’ve been there too. However, there is a context worth pointing out here.

Call it what you want. We really don’t have a label for it. I call it it “The Nice Guy Whine.” Unlike the wine you can drink, this one doesn’t get better with age. It’s one of those overplayed tropes that play out way too much in both the real world and in fiction. Movies like “10 Things I Hate About You” and “She’s Out Of My League” try to make it interesting and sexy. It doesn’t make the whining any less annoying, though.

They’re frustrated, isolated, and in utter despair. They’re nice guys. They do the right things. They’re generally well-behaved, law-abiding, and friendly. They don’t hurt anyone or go out of their way to make trouble. They’re just genuinely nice guys. So why won’t the beautiful women they want to get with hook up with them?

I don’t deny it’s hard and I’m not just talking about genitals here. As I’ve said before, we humans are a social, passionate species. We seek connection and intimacy. I’m not just talking about the kind we do between the sheets either, although that is part of it.

We want to find love. We want to be with someone. In terms of core needs, that’s right up there with food, water, and sufficient WiFi. When we don’t get that connection and intimacy, we get lonely and upset. That’s to be expected. Our brains and bodies know we need that intimate connection. When we don’t get it, it tries to do everything possible to get you to seek it, even if it means the occasional awkward boner.

So what’s going on here? Why is it that nice guys just can’t get any? Well, as someone who once asked those same questions and did plenty of Nice Guy Whining himself, I’d like to offer a clear and concise answer. For all the fictional characters and real people in this world who’ve whined like I have, listen up. This might be the most important thing you hear that doesn’t involve the IRS.

“Being a nice guy isn’t enough. The vast majority of the planet is full of nice people. By whining about it, you’re indirectly insulting every man or women who doesn’t want to be with you because you make it about them and not you.”

Reading that out loud, I’m sure it sounds harsh. Trust me, it’s not meant to be that harsh. It’s supposed to reveal a simple truth and it’s actually uplifting on some levels when you think about it.

It’s true. Most of the people in this world, including the guys, are nice. We only think it’s full of mean assholes because they’re the ones who make the news, get reality TV shows, and star in movies, albeit for all the wrong reasons.

The fact that these assholes get our attention is actually proof that most people are nice. Things don’t get our attention unless they’re rare, dangerous, or shaped like female breasts. Even science bears it out. People today are generally nicer and more decent to one another than they’ve ever been.

Why does this matter? Well, it matters because by whining about being a nice guy, you might as well be whining about the sky being blue or water being wet or tits being awesome. You act as though the mere fact you’re alive and not dissecting animals in your basement is reason enough for your dream girl to be with you.

Step back for a moment and think about that. You’re a nice guy. I don’t doubt that. Even so, why should that be your primary appeal to a woman? What else do you have to offer? What sort of skills, passions, and personality traits do you bring to the table? I’m not saying you’re devoid of those things. I’m just saying these are questions you haven’t bothered answering.

I ask them with the full understanding that I’ve done plenty of whining like that too. There were plenty of times, especially in my teenage years, when I whined about the girls I liked not wanting to be with me. For a time, it left me very depressed and extremely isolated. It was not a good feeling.

However, I’m not good at lying to myself so I was able to answer that question on my own. In addition to having a debilitating acne problem, I had piss-poor social skills and did not take care of myself. I like to think I was pretty nice in general, but how does that make up for the utter lack of benefits I would bring to a woman?

I know I have much more to offer now because I’ve actually worked on myself. I’ve taken the time to develop new skills and abilities. In addition to being nice, I’m very physically fit. I run at least 15 miles a week. I lift weights. I try to watch my diet. By most measures, I’m a physically attractive man.

In addition to my looks, I’ve got other benefits to offer. I have a car. I have no credit card debt. I have a steady job. I’m very skilled in terms of writing passionate, sexy stories meant to moisten panties. Believe it or not, these are skills that women find attractive. Just being nice is only a base requirement. Everything else on top of that are premium features.

It may sound cynical, the idea that being nice isn’t enough and you actually have to sell yourself somewhat. It gives the impression that people only want to be with you because you can do something for them. Well, how is that any different than what you want from them? It’s a bit crass, I know, but it’s entirely pragmatic when you think about it.

Part of being a social creature is bringing something unique to the table. Maybe it’s a skill. Maybe it’s a personality. Maybe it’s a certain type of energy that stands out from the others. Whatever it is, it’s part of the overall package that is you and you actually control what’s in that package. You have the ability to make yourself appealing. There’s nothing, other than sheer laziness, to stop you.

By just whining about being a nice guy, it’s like you’re trying to shame others for not having lower standards. You give the impression that someone is evil just because they prefer a smartphone with more features than an old flip phone.

In a sense, that undercuts your whole “nice guy” persona because wanting to do the absolute minimum to achieve the maximum desired results isn’t very nice. If anything, it’s as big a dick move as any Biff Tannen wannabe ever pulled off.

With that, all those whining nice guys out there have their answer. You know why being a nice guy isn’t getting you anywhere with your current crush. I even told you how to fix the situation. It may be harder for some than others, but the opportunity is there. You just have to take advantage of it. I’ll even add that most women, in my experience, will be attracted to men who takes advantage of those opportunities.

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Awkward Boners And Another (Overly) Personal Story

Brace yourselves because I’m about to get personal on this blog again. Yes, it’s going to be the awkward kind of personal. Yes, it’s also the sexy kind of personal. No, it’s not that kind of sexy. I still save the bulk of that for my novels.

I think it’s important to get personal when building an audience. It helps us relate to one another. I can’t just be some faceless guy behind a computer screen trying to sell sexy stories. I need to be someone with which people can feel a personal connection. That connection is the difference between a passing audience and a loyal one. The sexy stories I sell, as a result, are just a nice bonus.

Now, I’ve already gotten pretty personal on this blog before. I’ve talked about my love of sleeping naked, my own circumcision, and the soul-crushing, four-year prison sentence that was high school. I hope those stories have endear my life and this blog to people. I’d like to deepen that endearment and I intend to do that by talking about awkward boners.

I’m sure I’ve got every man’s attention now. I’ll still give a moment for the women to stop rolling their eyes. I get it, ladies. Awkward boners are one of those things that men make too big a deal of. Yes, it’s a unique experience to a particular gender, but it’s not even in the same hemisphere as giving birth or breast feeding. I’m not going to equate awkward boners with that, but I do feel they’re worth talking about, if only because it’s funny.

In fact, I think it’s because we don’t talk about these gender-specific experiences that men and women have such a hard time relating to one another. For some, talking about the joys of birth is a bit too much. I think awkward boners are a good start, if only because they reveals a vulnerability in men that they don’t readily admit.

This brings me to my personal experience. Yes, it’s about an awkward boner situation that I endured. I admit it. I’m a healthy man who has had at least one awkward boner in his life. Any healthy man who doesn’t admit that is a goddamn liar. While I doubt I’ll start a trend, I can at least tell a story that should brighten everyone’s morning.

This particular story happens in middle school, which is sort of like the sub-par prequel to high school. It’s like a mild soreness that you don’t realize will one day become a stabbing pain in the pit of your soul. I won’t say it was awful, but there were definitely signs that being a teenager was going to suck on a lot of levels.

This was also before I developed a serious acne problem that utterly destroyed what little confidence I had. I like to think that during middle school, I was at least somewhat content. I won’t say I was as happy as a fly in a shit factory, but I wasn’t miserable. For the most part, life was okay.

At the same time, however, puberty was starting to kick my ass, as it does with most people when they enter those fragile years between being a kid and being a walking time bomb of hormones. As a result, unexpected and unwelcome erections were becoming more common.

For the most part, I was able to hide those erections as well as any burgeoning young man. Talk to any man who survived that part of his life and they’ll tell you the same. They learned to be tactful, discreet, and downright cunning at hiding their boners. You might say that men at this age become boner ninjas, which is a lot less sexy than it sounds.

Every now and then, though, our boner ninja fails. In this particular instance, it failed at one of the worst possible times, short of me giving a speech to the entire school while wearing a speedo. I’ll give everyone a moment to conjure that mental image. You’re welcome.

On this particular day when my inner boner ninja failed me, I was in the seventh grade. It was late in the spring and really starting to get hot outside. As such, gym class involved a lot more outdoor activities that turned us from hormonal time bombs into sweaty hormonal time bombs. I didn’t mind this because it made the afternoon go by faster.

However, my body just loved making it harder for me and yes, that means exactly what you think it means. I’d just finished my English class. Gym was the last class I had before I went to lunch so I went to the locker room eager to work up an appetite. I go to change into my gym uniform, as I’d done almost every day to that point. Then, it happens.

I don’t know whether it was the poetry assignment I’d had in English class. I don’t know whether it was because of some cute girl I’d seen who just started wearing a bra. Maybe I’d just read one too many Wonder Woman comics that day. I don’t know, but whatever it was, something triggered an unexpected launch in my pants. It wasn’t a half-launch either. This rocket was going into orbit and staying there for a while.

Now, keep in mind, I’m in a boy’s locker room in a middle school full of immature teenagers. You can’t find a time or place less appropriate without involving clowns, dead puppies, and buckets of expired milk. On top of that, I’m up against the clock. I needed to be out in the gym with the rest of the class within five minutes. For a situation like this, that’s the longest five minutes you’ll have outside a dentist’s office.

I don’t even get a chance to undress before the situation escalates. By the time I get to my locker, we’re already at ignition. By the time I unlock it, we’re at liftoff and we’ve cleared the tower. There are several obnoxious boys next to me, talking about crap that should arouse absolutely no one. All I can do is keep my head down and silently curse my dick for doing this to me.

I know my body well enough at this point to understand that this situation is going to get worse before it gets better. If I start undressing, there’s no way I’m going to hide this. For a moment, I just stand there and stare at my uniform in my locker. At that point, though, my rocket is well into its orbit and re-entry is not possible.

I needed to act and act fast. I had only four minutes left and that was just not going to cut it. Finally, I made a decision. It was going to require some theatrics on my part, but there was no other way.

Tactfully, I grab my uniform from my locker. Then, I clench my stomach as though I’m in pain and head right for the bathroom stalls. From where I’m standing, those bathroom stalls might as well be in the heart of Mordor. Instead of Orcs, though, I have to weave through a bunch of spitting, swearing teenage boys. It was an arduous journey, to say the least.

At one point, a kid next to me that I knew looked concerned. He asked me if I was already. I instinctively said I was fine, but my stomach wasn’t. I might have said something about the tacos I ate for dinner last night, hoping he would fill in the blanks.

That seemed to do the trick, though. He didn’t ask again. I managed to work my way around the crowd of other boys and make it into the bathroom stall. In my first stroke of luck, there was nobody in there. I was able to close the door, lock it, and breathe the biggest sigh of relief I’d felt to that point in my life.

After I was alone in the stall, I was able to settle down and let my penis complete its orbit, so to speak. It still took a lot longer than I wanted. I remember thinking about anything and everything that would get it to settle.

If you’re a healthy man, you know what I’m talking about here. You’ll go through any number of unsexy thoughts and images. You’ll picture your grandmother in a nightgown. You’ll picture your dog throwing up on your bed. You’ll even resort to doing algebra in your head. When algebra is an option, you know your body is working against you.

For me, I don’t quite remember what I thought about to subdue my erection. It still didn’t work as quickly as I’d hoped. I still had somewhat of a quasi-boner by the time I got undressed and put my uniform on. I was still up against the clock too. By the time the warning bell rang, I had to grit my teeth and hope for the best.

I managed to put the rest of my stuff in my locker and make it out into the gym. I still had somewhat of a tent in my pants. Keep in mind, these gym shorts aren’t exactly known for being well-fitted. I had to be very careful with how I carried myself, especially as the girls started making their way out of the locker room. It also helped that the gym uniforms weren’t exactly sexy. Even raging teenage hormones can only do so much.

Once I sat down and waited for the gym teacher, I was able to finally able to complete re-entry, so to speak. In another stroke of luck, the teacher was a bit late so I had a few extra minutes to make sure no more rockets were ignited. It still made for some tense moments, but I got through it.

That, my friends, is the story of my most awkward boner. I’m sure there are other men out there who have had far worse experiences in far less comfortable situations. It is, in a sense, the shared price of masculinity. No one is immune to it. We never know when it’s going to happen. When it does, we learn that we aren’t always in control of our bodies. Sometimes, our bodies control us.

There’s almost something poetic about that. I’m sure plenty of men disagree and just see awkward boners as an annoyance. Well now, you’ve heard my story. If there are any men out there feeling bold, I encourage you to share yours as well. Please let me know in the comments. There’s no shame or judgment. For men and women alike, let’s share this experience and everything it can teach us.

Perhaps I can make this part of my sexy discussions. Boners can be awkward, but they can be beautiful too. Let’s not let that awkwardness undermine that beauty.

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The Death of Chester Bennington, Linkin Park, And A Piece Of My Youth

I was going to write about this sooner. I intended to put a pin in everything I’d been working on so I could talk about this still-developing story. I had to step back and give myself a few days because it was just too hard. As much as I value writing about feelings within a particular moment, some just can’t do justice to the feelings behind them.

By now, many have already heard the terrible news that TMZ broke last week. Chester Bennington, the lead singer of Linkin Park, is dead. His death has been ruled a suicide. For fans of Linkin Park and the music world, as a whole, it’s a terrible loss.

Bennington, whose suffering from the scars of child abuse and various forms of substance abuse is well-documented, used his powerful voice to put into words a pain that is unique, but profound to all those who hear it. For those who came of age in the early to mid 2000s, having listened to the raw, unbridled passion of their music, the loss cuts much deeper.

I know because I was among those who grew up listening to Linkin Park. Their music came along at just the right time. I’ve talked before about how messed up I was as a teenager. I was socially awkward, depressed, and constantly struggling with my insecurities.

Linkin Park, and the powerful voice of Chester Bennington, made those feelings tangible and real. It made it feel as though I could grasp these painful feelings. They became less overwhelming and less distant. It put into words the thoughts I could not process. It also rocked in ways that defined a time, a place, and a feeling.

Their first two albums, Hybrid Theory and Meteora, have a special place in my heart. Even though my life has gotten a lot better since those dark days of my adolescence, the music still resonates with me. It reminds me of what I felt, what I went through, and how it made me stronger.

That’s why the death of Chester Bennington really hit me hard. Compared to the issues he endured, mine seemed so minor. For a man to have that kind of voice and that kind of passion requires a special kind of talent. That talent, mixed with his own personal pain, helped define a generation. For that, I will be forever grateful to Bennington and Linkin Park for giving that generation a voice.

To Chester Bennington and his family, Rest In Peace.

To anyone out there who is dealing with pain, be it emotional or physical, please seek help. As part of Linkin Park’s ongoing effort to help those dealing with suicidal thoughts, they are spreading awareness of suicide prevention. So if you, or someone you know, is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

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What I WISH I’d Learned In School

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I’ve said it multiple times and in multiple ways on this blog. Expect me to say it again in many other ways there is and even a few some thought impossible. High school sucks. I hated it with a passion. When I look back on my life, I’ll always see high school as one of the bleakest, most miserable experiences I had.

There are so many reasons I hated this point in my life, too much to list in a single blog post. Hell, I’d need a whole series of novels to adequately convey the misery I felt every day I had to endure that rancid swamp of standardized tests, cafeteria food, and adolescent hormones. The most I ever learned from high school was never wanting to be that miserable again.

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I like to think I learned that lesson well. My entire outlook on life changed for the better the day I graduated high school. Everything I did after high school, from going to college to getting my first book published, feels like a step up from where I was. Sure, it helped that I got into shape and fixed my horrible acne problem, but that shift in outlook still shaped a significant part of my adult life.

Even though I feel like I’ve done fairly well with that life, there are times when I look back at high school in ways that don’t give me night terrors. Other than not wanting to be so miserable, a lot of what I learned in high school hasn’t really helped my adult life.

I’m not just talking about quadratic equations or knowing what the hell T.S. Elliot was talking about either. A lot of the meaningful lessons I’ve learned came from experience, family support, and internet access. These are all things I could’ve learned without gym class, exams, and stale pizza. High school never really prepared me for adult life. It only ever prepared me to pass a goddamn test.

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With that in mind, as well as the knowledge that many kids are eagerly awaiting the end of the school year, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on all the lessons I wish I’d learned in high school.

These are lessons that would’ve helped my adult life in so many ways. I worry that the kids preparing for summer won’t know just how important these lessons are until it’s too late. Some have to do with life skills. Some have to do with understanding how the world works. In any case, these are the lessons that I wish high school had taught me.


Lesson #1: How To Start A (Non-Awkward) Conversation With A Stranger

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This is something that should come naturally. Having a conversation is one of the most basic elements of non-sexual communication there is. Other than a handshake, it shouldn’t need to be taught, right?

Well, this is where high school, ironically enough, gives teenagers too much credit. It’s half-true that most people know how to start a conversation. The problem is that for most of our lives, to this point, all the conversations we’ve had are with family members, relatives, or childhood friends that we’ve known so long that we remember the brand of diapers we used.

Starting a conversation with a friend is easy. Starting one with a total stranger that isn’t awkward is much harder. It’s also an important skill when it comes to making new friends, working with others, and even finding a lover. The hardest part of any new connection is starting that conversation.

Some high schools do teach social skills, but still give a higher priority to reading Shakespeare and passing a math test. I’m not saying those things aren’t worth learning. I’m just saying that better social skills will help people make friends, improve teamwork, and get them laid. No math test can ever do that.


Lesson #2: How To Tell Someone That You’re Romantically Interested

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A big part of what makes high school suck is loneliness. Unless you’re an athlete or an exceedingly beautiful girl, you’re going to feel lonely. On top of that, puberty is rewiring your brain to make you want to kiss, hug, and hump others in ways you thought were gross as a kid.

Teenagers may be melodramatic and prone to emotional meltdowns over a lost shoe, but they still have genuine feelings. They still feel love for others. Having that love and not knowing how to express it makes for some pretty awkward situations, some of which can be downright traumatic.

I had more than my share of crushes in high school. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to actually talk to these girls to let them know. For this one girl, I actually wrote a note and put it in her locker. I never heard from her again. That’s a clear indication that there’s room for improvement.

Having someone to love and to share your emotions with is healthy, regardless of whether you’re a teenager or a grumpy old fart. Knowing how to explore and express that love with someone goes a long way towards tempering that loneliness. For those enduring the rigors high school, less loneliness can only help.


Lesson #3: How To Spot A Scam

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As teenagers, our understanding and assumptions of the real world is painfully limited. That’s unavoidable because teenagers haven’t been on this planet long enough to have any real idea of how it works. Most of what they know comes from media, their family, or ugly rumors circulating around the cafeteria. To say that’s an imperfect perspective is like saying Kanye West is slightly eccentric.

In the real world, there are a lot of liars and frauds that will exploit the hell out of anyone’s imperfect understanding. When I was in college, I noticed a lot of school email accounts got bombarded with those Nigerian Prince scams. Some actually fell for those scams and lost real money because of them.

Beyond the scams in spam email, there are other elaborate frauds like work-from-home gimmicks, fake lottery winnings, multi-level marketing, and online dating scams. Those with limited life experience are especially vulnerable to these schemes and falling victim to them could ruin your life. Just ask anyone who invested with Bernie Madoff.

It wouldn’t be too hard or take too much time for high school to teach us the basics of scams and how to spot them. Teenagers are already cynical, by nature. Learning how to spot cheats and hucksters won’t just help them save their money. It’ll help them avoid being conned out of their faith, their trust, and their panties.


Lesson #4: How To NOT Freak Out When You Watch The News

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This is something I’ve brought up before. It’s a lesson I learned in college, but one I really wish I’d learned sooner than that. In the age of the internet and smart phones, it’s easy to get bombarded by all sorts of weird news stories that scare people into thinking the CIA put fluoride in their water to control their minds. For hormonal teenagers with limited life experience, it’s even scarier.

The world the news presents us is not the same as the world around us. The news can only ever highlight tiny bits and pieces of a much bigger picture. Most people don’t realize that until they’re adults. If they’re unlucky, they learn the hard way and spend too much of their lives hiding in a bunker, hoping that the Illuminati doesn’t send assassins.

Perspective is an important thing and teenagers struggle with that. As I said before, their life experiences are limited. They just emerged from childhood and began making sense of the world. The least any public school can do is help them.

That means telling them that the news rarely tells a complete story. It also means reminding them that the reason why something is news in the first place. These horrible stories we see every night are news because they’re rare. The world and the people the news describes are only brief glimpses at best and click-bait at worst.


Lesson #5: How To Craft A Resume (And How To Pad It)

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A major part of learning, be it in high school or pre-school, involves acquiring skills that will help you find meaningful work later in life. It’s not just enough to know how to read, write, and do basic math. Most people can learn how to do that for free these days, thanks to online services like Khan Academy.

To give you a better chance at finding a job, it’s important to develop other skills. Unfortunately, the only skill high school ever really teaches you is how to pass a test. That may help you get a driver’s license, but it won’t help with much else.

Even if you have skills, putting them together in a resume is a skill most people have to wing. I’ve actually taken classes that help with crafting resumes and none of those classes were offered in high school. I had to find those in college and after I graduated.

It’s a simple fact of modern life. To find a job, you need skills and you need to sell your ability to make those skills useful to others. That’s what will help you get a job. That’s what will help you find a lover. That’s what will help you get laid. Some skills don’t require college. Others may require a master’s degree. Learning how to seek and market those skills is far more valuable than just filling out a test form.


Lesson #6: How To Invest In The Stock Market The Right Way

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This is a topic I don’t blame high schools for avoiding. When most people, including highly educated people, talk about the stock market or the economy, it usually flies over everyone’s head. I would go so far as to say only a small part of the population is even wired to understand investing and finance.

However, there are few skills in life more important than knowing how to manage and invest your money. Anyone can just go into a bank and open an again. Knowing how to actually manage that money so it grows over time and isn’t undercut by inflation is a skill that’s often overlooked.

A teenager’s limited perspective of the world makes the stock market too complicated to understand. However, most teenagers do understand the value of making money. Why else would they make such a big deal about getting an allowance or a part-time job? That understanding, though, will only take them so far.

Contrary to popular belief, investing in the stock market isn’t just fairly easy. It’s actually pretty effective at building future wealth. It doesn’t just beat inflation. It beats nearly every other investment out there.

I didn’t learn anything about stocks in high school or college. Everything I learned came from a small booklet that a relative gave me. That booklet only had one real tip. Unless you’re going into the financial services business, the only real investment you need to make is in index funds.

Despite what the Jim Cramers of the world may tell you, nobody can beat the stock market. Nobody knows what it’s going to do today, tomorrow, or a year from now. You can’t beat, but you can make it so you don’t lose to it either. In some parts of life, not losing is just as good as winning. With money, it’s one of those lessons you don’t want to learn the hard way.


Lesson #7: How To Find The Job That Best Fits You

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This might not be something that can fit into a typical high school class. While most high schools have guidance counselors and career counselors, a lot of what they do is just sell you on the idea of going to college. They’ll help you find an education path. They may even help you find a career path. Finding a job that fits you, however, is not exactly a priority.

It happens all the time. People will make it through high school, go to college, and get all the right degrees for a certain career path. Then, they find out that the job they thought they wanted didn’t fit them. They either end up miserable working a job they don’t like or overwhelmed at the prospect of starting over. It’s not a pleasant feeling.

That’s why I think it’s more important to help teenagers figure out the kind of work that fits them. Some like making things with their hands. Some are more creative. Some are analytical. Some have personality traits that make working in a cubical akin to a prison sentence at Alcatraz.

I’ve worked more than my share of jobs that I hated. A lot of people endure that, even famous celebrities. Finding a job that actually fits someone’s skills and makes them want to do that job is a lesson too valuable to overlook. High schools are in a perfect position to help teenagers do that. The fact they don’t only makes the situation more tragic.


I know it’s too late for me to salvage my high school experience. It was a long time ago and I’ve since learned a lot about life, namely how to not be miserable.

However, I still feel like I started way behind the curve and have only recently caught up. How far ahead would I be now if I’d learned these lessons in high school? It’s impossible to know. All I know now is that high school still sucks and it’ll always suck for me. I’m okay with that. Hopefully, future generations will not know such misery.

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An Ode To Hot Teachers

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Being a teenager sucks. Going to high school sucks. Going through puberty sucks. Unless you’re a star athlete or a cheerleader with the body of a young Carmen Electra, chances are your adolescence in general sucked.

Mine sure sucked. As I’ve said before, I was socially inept shut-in who did little to take care of himself. On top of that, I had a horrible acne problem that eventually required medication. I wasn’t just a pain to be around. I wasn’t much to look at either. That basically guaranteed that my teenage years were going to suck, despite having great parents, great siblings, and an environment that gave me every opportunity to be less miserable.

I get the impression that my experience is not typical. Teenagers are walking cocktails of hormones, emotions, and ignorance. Everyone, from the nerds to the jocks, finds a reason to be miserable at some point. The fact anyone survives it at all is nothing short of a miracle.

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I highlight this misery because I want to establish a certain context here. Life as a teenager, going to high school and enduring the monstrous transformation that is puberty, is fraught with misery. Anything that makes it just a little bit easier is akin to giving a starving child a lifetime supply of chocolate cake.

That leads me to hot teachers. No, I’m not talking about a porno sub-genre. I’m not talking about the scandals involving teachers sleeping with their students that make the front page of Fox News’ website at least three times a year either. I’m just talking about that one teacher during that one year in your teenage life that actually made going to school less miserable.

Don’t deny it. You had a teacher like that. I’m not saying he or she was a supermodel or an Olympian, but they definitely got your attention and not with their teaching skills. Something about them just sparked that chaotic cocktail of hormones in your body in just the right ways. It made you think thoughts you didn’t quite understand, even after you discovered internet porn.

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Hot teachers are a sliver of gold in the mountain of horse shit that is adolescence. In some ways, they’re a rite of passage. You only really feel like you’re growing up when your genitals start doing strange things around a teacher you find attractive. It can be awkward, as anyone who has ever had to hide a boner in the middle of algebra class can attest. Then again, awkwardness with teenagers is par for the course.

I believe that hot teachers are a gift to the world, if not an act of mercy to all those whose adolescence was more miserable than most. They remind miserable, emotional, melodramatic teenagers that there’s still beauty in the world. It’s not all just acne, homework, and standardized tests. For teenagers of every generation, their value cannot be overstated.

As a tribute to the hot teachers of the world, I’d like to share another personal story. Unlike some of my previous stories, though, this one doesn’t involve actual nudity. It does involve thoughts of nudity though. How can it not? It involves my teenage self.

It’s true though. I too once had a hot teacher, one I still remember fondly to this day. She was a rare beacon of light in the never-ending torment that was high school. She actually made me less miserable in high school. That’s something that therapy, anti-depressants, and Taco Tuesday can’t boast. She’s kind of a personal hero is what I’m saying.

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Out of respect for her privacy, I won’t reveal her name. For the sake of this story, let’s just call her Ms. Diana. I had Ms. Diana for a history class in my sophomore year. At the time, I was 16. My acne problem was just starting to become a crisis. My hormones were just starting to go into overdrive as well. I remember having to hide at least one awkward boner a day. Ms. Diana didn’t help in that effort, but with her, I didn’t mind.

Ms. Diana was one of those young, energetic teachers who loved to talk fast and fill the room with energy. She wasn’t the kind of teacher who would just give presentations, pass out worksheets, and lay out lists of facts. She actually tried to keep people engaged. She tried to get people excited. She might as well have been the high school equivalent of a lion tamer.

She was also hot. I hope that goes without saying. I don’t just mean hot, in terms of personality. I mean Ms. Diana was hot in that she would’ve looked awesome in a bikini and not because she had a beauty regiment on par with Gwenth Paltrow, complete with jade egg for a healthy vagina.

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No, Ms. Diana’s beauty was a natural beauty. She didn’t need makeup. She didn’t need designer clothes. She came into class wearing something she probably bought on sale and she still made it look sexy. That’s a special kind of beauty, even by teenage standards.

That beauty definitely resonated with my teenage self. I can’t remember a class where I paid more attention and felt more engaged. I can’t say that about a lot of the teachers or classes I’ve taken. I also can’t say those classes got me thinking and feeling things that I didn’t feel without an internet connection. It was a strange, but beautiful thing.

Now I never went out of my way to tell Ms. Diana that I found her very attractive. That’s not because I wanted to avoid a scandal that would end with one of us being interviewed by Wolf Blitzer though. I didn’t tell her because it wasn’t necessary. It wasn’t necessary because I wasn’t the only hormonal teenage boy in that class and some of those boys did not have filters between their brains and their mouths.

It was very much an open secret in the school. The boys thought Ms. Diana was hot. Nobody really argued about it. Nobody denied it either. I get the sense she knew that. I don’t think she would’ve agreed to teach teenagers if she didn’t to some extent. Maybe she knew she could keep her students’ attention by being hot. I’m not saying it’s a little coy, but you can’t argue with results.

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This eventually culminated in an incident I still laugh about today. It happened one day after lunch. We were filing into class. I was there a few minutes early and so were a couple of my male classmates. Then, out of nowhere, this exchange happened:

Male Student: Hey, Ms. Diana! Is your dad a terrorist?

Ms. Diana: Um…no. Why do you ask?

Male Student: Because you’re the bomb!

I laughed. We all laughed. Even Ms. Diana laughed. This after September 11th, by the way. The fact that we laughed about it should hint at just how hot Ms. Diana was and how much me and my fellow male students appreciated her.

To this day, Ms. Diana holds a special place in my heart and my memory. At a time when so many memories from that era were bleak and forgettable, she was a shining star that came along at just the right time for an awkward teenage boy. I like to think that the feelings she inspired in me helped inspire my future aspirations as an erotica/romance writer.

I doubt that’s what Ms. Diana intended to teach me. I’m pretty sure she just wanted me to pass my tests and exams. Thankfully, I did. That other inspiration was just a bonus. Maybe one day when I become a famous erotica/romance writer, I’ll thank her. She deserves as such for helping me survive high school.

Until then, I remain forever grateful to Ms. Diana. On behalf of all those who had lurid thoughts about their teachers, I thank those wonderful teachers who look good naked who helped inspire both minds and genitals. You may not think it, but you helped us in ways that went beyond teaching us. You helped make our teenage years slightly less miserable. For that, you should be proud.

With that, I leave you with the ultimate ode to hot teachers, courtesy of Van Halen.

 

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