Back in 1992, at the age of 13, I went on an exchange program to France and fell madly in love with a boy named Guillaume. Guillaume Boner. (“Boner” pronounced in the French style, Bone-errrr, emphasis on the errr.) I confessed my crush to Jamie Goldfarb, one of my fellow American travelers, while on an underwhelming tour of the Evian factory.
“Jamie,” I whispered. “I have such a crush on Guillaume.”
“Who?” she asked.
“Guillaume,” I repeated. “Guillaume Boner. He’s Josh Steinberg’s exchange student.”
I’d hoped for a little female bonding on the subject, a little “OMG, I know! I want him too, like la beurre on brioche!” Instead, though, Jamie Goldfarb squealed, “Eww! Gross! How can you like someone whose last name is ‘Boner!’ You’re, like, totally disgusting!”
Sure, it’d be easy to label Jamie Goldfarb as one in a long line of insensitive teenage girls hell-bent on humiliation. However, I like to give credit where credit is due, and it’s thanks entirely to her that I was introduced to the heretofore unknown word, one of life’s most important aspects: The Boner.
Fast-forward 20 years. I’m 33 now, well aware that nine times out of ten, a boner’s a good thing. I have, in point of fact, done the ol’ humpty hump with a hypochondriacal gentleman who insisted on, not one, but THREE condoms. Which I’m sure I don’t need to tell you means a lady winds up dealing with a unit hard like a bowl of spinach dip is hard. Endure a situation like that, you’ll need little reminding in most all future instances that a hard un’s a good ‘un.
That said, focusing on the positive has never been my style. I’d prefer to kick it old school, Jamie Goldfarb-style, presenting unto you a list of those rare occasions wherein a boner I’ve encountered has been a bad thing.
1. Acting Class. At the age of 18, I had the brilliant idea that I ought to spend my parents’ money on a B.F.A. in acting. So did I hightail it to NYU’s undergraduate acting program where I was promptly given wise instructions on The Craft, such as “Wear sweatpants” and “hop across the floor while making the noise of a donkey.” Fridays were reserved for group massage. We were partnered up and told to trade 45 minute massages over the course of the 90 minute class. There massages were allegedly intended to lengthen our respective spines. More often than not I wound up with a gent named Jason, a young man whose sole acting class clothing ensemble consisted of the thinnest of biker shorts paired with a threadbare, hip-length tee. Every time I laid hands upon the poor boy he’d spring a boner. BOING! Like a jack popping out of it’s box. The biker shorts didn’t work to disguise so much as accentuate the situation. I never knew how to respond – “There, there,” occurred to me, though I eventually decided against it – so I just stared the sucker down, all the while trying to keep in mind what good use I was putting to my parents’ money.
2. The Jewish Community Center. My B.F.A. in acting would eventually lead to my participation in an all female comedy troupe called “Good Jewish Girls Gone Bad,” a troupe that toured various sections of our fair country performing a mix of cabaret, stand-up comedy, and original songs. I had the pleasure of doing a show with the troupe at the Jewish Community Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. Now perhaps you’re thinking, “A Jewish Community Center? In Utah?” Indeed. I’m here to tell you it’s a thing, and it’s events are populated mostly by individuals over the age of 75. I took to the “stage” – a five-foot by four-foot raised platform, propped up in one corner by Haggadahs – and did a standup act centered in no small part around butt sex. Let me just tell you that you haven’t lived until you’ve seen an octogenarian plugged into a breathing machine, sprout himself a chubbie underneath his khaki pants. It is – it was – in no uncertain terms inspiring.
3. My Younger Brother. Let me barrel fast through this one lest you are as I am: Lacking an appetite for anything with so much as a hint of the incest about it. I was 17, my younger brother was 14, and fate and timing work against us. We got up – at the same time and rather incoherently – to pee in the middle of the night. With no real sense of what exactly was going on or that anyone else is in the bathroom, I pushed open the door to find my brother pissing not into the toilet, but across the toilet. This, thanks to his unmanaged, poorly directed, middle-of-the-night boner. Moving on …
4. Two’s Company, Four’s A Crowd. Several years ago my parents came to visit me in New York. I had a boyfriend at the time who they had yet to meet, and I decided a good setting for the whole thing would be a home-cooked meal in the confines of my new apartment. The other relevant piece of back story here is that my boyfriend had been away on business for two weeks.
“Do me a favor,” I’d requested, “On that last week away, try your best not to masturbate. That way it’s more fun when we see each other.”
My boyfriend agreed. Not only that, he gave me the whole kit-‘n-kaboodle, remaining abstinent for the full two weeks. Which was gracious, of course, but what I hadn’t realized is that our reunion would coincide with his introduction to my parents. The poor guy was 25 and hadn’t masturbated in over two weeks and was parading around in front of my parents with what appeared to be corn cob in his pants. So I pulled him aside.
“You’ve got an erection,” I whispered.
“Yeah, well, duh,” he said.
“It’s flattering, of course, but also uncomfortable. Can’t you think about your mom or dead grandma or pediatric cancer for god’s sake?”
“I’ve tried,” he said. “But this baby’s not going anywhere.”
Eventually, he excused himself to the bathroom while my parents and I enjoyed pancetta-wrapped figs in the living room. Two weeks worth of effort wasted, flushed briskly down the toilet. A tragedy, yes, but preferable to glancing my parents on my right, and my boyfriend’s corn cob boner on my left.
Sara Barron is the author of People Are Unappealing and the forthcoming book Eating While Peeing (And Other Adventures) For more info, visit her website.