There aren't many times in the world where I'm embarassed. Outside of the obvious "oops! I crapped my pants" variety of humiliations, I tend to avoid situations where I'm going to wind up red-faced with my pants down with a fair degree of success. So imagine my surprise when I was baby-sitting my two and a half year old nephew Joseph a few weeks ago and wound up nervously giggling while he looked blithely on, completely unashamed.
My nephew, and there's really no way to soften this statement so I'm just going to rip off the Band-Aid, is uncut. Au natural. As God, or whatever higher power you believe in, made him. As such, he requires a bit of extra cleaning downstairs. Now look, he's a kid and according to the doctors it's not as big a deal while he's younger, but nevertheless you want to try to instill strong hygiene habits on this kind of stuff from an early age. Joey, unfortunately, does not enjoy it when anyone attempts to roll back the turtleneck and clean underneath; in fact he hates it so much that he flatly refuses to do it. It's worth noting at this point that my other nephew, Jin (also two and change), is all about popping out to say hello, to the point where many a bath can degenerate into "Take pee-pee out!" and really lose focus on the whole cleaning aspect of the proceedings.
So cut to a few weeks ago when I'm watching Joey and bath time rolls around. My sister had already given me permission to give the kid some ice cream that night, so I bribed him into the tub by promising a surprise afterwards (I know, these are terrible choices for a parent, but I'm not a parent I'm an indulgent uncle) and started natural proceedings. At this point, Joey started asking me to get into the bath with him.
Now, I realize that there is nothing unnatural to the child in this request. There is, however, something incredibly weird to it for an adult. So I told him that I didn't need to take a bath. He countered with asking me if I wanted to be clean too. I told him I would get clean later. He wondered why I didn't get clean now. Realizing I was on the losing side of the argument, I took off my socks and rolled up my jeans and sat on the rim of the bathtub with my feet in the water, which actually appeased him for a few moments. I was foolish enough to think I had won.
The battle started up again when I asked him if we could wash under the crank cover. I was firmly rebuffed. I attempted a simple re-ask in hopes of a changed answer. He again pointed out that I should get into the bath. I balked, and told him it wouldn't hurt to look under the hood to make sure everything was working correctly. He balked and said in no uncertain terms that I was a liar and if I made a move towards his crotch cowl he'd kick me in the teeth .* He then played his trump card and said "You do it."
Well, that gave me pause. Again I realize that this request was not at all bizarre to him since he spends most mornings proudly shirt-cocking around the house, but in that moment I must say it was one of those moments for me where I was left speechless. For one thing, I don't want to overreact, jump out of the tub and cover my crotch with my hands while screaming "WHAT!?!? NONONONO!!" since that would very possibly a) make my nephew suspect that I'm a Never-Nude and/or b) set up a complex about nudity in him that would cripple him for the rest of his life, resulting in him becoming a Never-Nude. Nobody wants this. Secondly, was this a teaching moment? Was this something that I could help him understand and get over, since I was 99% sure I was the only male in his life that also sported the good hood? Thirdly, was his complete lack of embarassment enough to counteract the attack of nervous hysteria that was bubbling up inside me? I stood there in the tub opening and closing my mouth like a fish gasping for air while Joey's tepid bathwater lapped around my feet and my nephew looked up at me with a challenge for Naked Chicken in his eyes.
Ultimately, and I must admit right now that this is making me uncomfortable again just typing it, I decided that it might actually help him if I demonstrated that it wouldn't hurt. I tried to weakly bargain with him that if I showed him it wouldn't hurt, he would then clean himself. He stated an unequivocal no, but that he still wanted me to do it. I said maybe if I did it, he could at least try it. He looked at me with a mixture of scorn and pity. Finally I decided that if I was going to do this, I needed to just take the leap akin to jumping out of a plane to go sky-diving. I looked up to avoid any accidental eye contact took a deep breath and leaped. I have never had my underwear down and up so fast in my life. Joseph looked on, entirely unimpressed with my display and entirely unfazed by the uncomfortable sweat that was dripping down my forehead. He calmly returned to playing with his toys in the tub, let a few moments pass then looked up at me and commanded "Again."
Well, let it never be said that I don't know where to draw a line. Joseph was out of that tub and into pajamas in record time, as I was no longer confident in my ability to outflank him in a debate, particularly on the topic of his knob-warmer. I bundled him downstairs and we had ice cream and watched a not-so-vaguely racist episode of Thomas and Friends while I alternated between laughing about what happened and hiding my face in a pillow to mask how red my cheeks were. He calmly went to sleep and my sister has informed me that my attempt to teach has met with no success as he still passionately defends his right to keep his cobra fully hooded. Which means that the only good that can come out of this experience is the laughs it brings people, so I certainly hope that you enjoyed this.
*There is a chance that this conversation has been upgraded from baby talk for the purposes of humor. A slight chance.