By Ido Yakuel
After it happened for the third time that day, he felt like he was about to burst into tears. “I hate this,” he thought to himself. “I just hate it, and I hate this world, and I hate myself.” I guess that when you are 13 years and a few months old, there are three main things that are inevitable – you tend to be overdramatic, you want to get every desire fulfilled the moment you wish for it, and you insist on counting the few months when you say what your age is. In that sense (and in many others), he was not extremely different from anyone else his age; a typical teenager indeed.
Other major characteristics of puberty did not really bother him. He had face creams that were probably made out of nuclear fallout, for they wiped his zits out as quickly as the Iranian regime wipes out its opponents. His ratty mustache, which had just begun emerging from under his respectable nose, seemed quite cool and grown-uppy to him. Even his height, that summed up to a total of 150 unimpressive cm., did not make him feel concerned or less of a man. It was his voice.
He had, well, a girl’s voice. He was afraid, worried, terrified, that his voice would remain feminine for the rest of his life; a mark of Cain on his vocal cords. His parents tried to soothe him by repeating the “this is just a phase” mantra, and explaining that even Raphi Ginat was not born shouting “D-E-F-E-N-C-E” in a deep baritone voice. Occasionally that made him calm. A little. When he had spent time with other boys that were his age, he noticed every small nuance in their voices. Most of them sounded girly just like him, and some of them were even worse. Occasionally that comforted him. A little.
But these feelings were momentary. One thing, just one small thing, was all that was needed to make him instantly draw back into his shell of low self-esteem: a phone call. Whenever he answered the phone and someone who did not know him was on the other side of the line, they mistook him for a girl. For that reason he ran away from ringing phones as one runs away from lepers (unless one is specifically fond of ugly rashes). But sometimes, when he was home alone (and because his family had yet to possess the wonder of an answering machine), he had to answer. The dialogue was always the same:
“Hello. Is Mommy home?”
“No, she’s out.”
“Am I speaking to her daughter?”
“No, it’s her son.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry. Can you please tell her that (enter random ego-crusher’s name here) called?”
He knew that it was not the caller’s fault that his voice was feminine, but why should he care? He was humiliated, and that was what mattered. And so, he never told his parents who called. That was his retribution on everyone: the caller for not recognizing him as a manly man; his parents, who genetically screwed him; and God, just in case he hated when people do not deliver messages.
Some months later, when he was 14 years and one month old, his parents had had enough of their kid’s shenanigans and bought an answering machine. One day he was home alone, and the phone rang. The answering machine, which was supposed to take the call after 6 rings, chose to play hard to get. After no less than 18 rings, he knew he had no choice but to conquer his fears and pick up the phone. He took a deep breath, cleared his mind from negativity, and answered.
“Hello. Is Mommy home?”
“No, she’s out.”
“Is it her son?”
“No, it’s her… wait, what?”
In that second, just like Pinocchio after he was touched by the blue fairy’s magic wand, he suddenly became a real boy. Just to be sure, he recorded a message in the answering machine, and was stunned by the results: he had, well, a boy’s voice. For some reason, he decided to rush to the bathroom mirror in order to examine himself. He discovered that he was much taller than he remembered, and he even saw some hairs growing on his chin and not just above his lip. How could he not notice this huge change in his persona? How did he not see that he was becoming a (soon to be) man?
Only today, in retrospect, he realizes why he missed it: back then, he was only 14 years and one month old. At this age you are still overdramatic, still impatient, and still counting the months; you tend to miss a lot of things when you are like that. If only he could, he would call that 13 years and a few months old kid and tell him to calm down, and that everything is going to be just fine.
On second thought, it’s better off that way. That kid needed to learn some things on his own, and he probably would not have answered the phone anyway.