tagIncest/TabooFull of Surprises

Full of Surprises


As any mother will tell you -- probably until you are sick of hearing it -- sons never cease to surprise you. My own, Josh, is no different in that respect, but I think that maybe his latest bundle of surprises are a little out of the ordinary. Let's see what you think....

At the start of the summer, just after Josh had sat his exams and began the anxious wait for the results that would, or would not, see him accepted by the university of his choice, life itself gave me something of a surprise. I received a lovely letter informing that after three years of trying I had finally been successful in winning a major web-content design contract. Better yet, with the letter came an advance payment of sufficient size that I could immediately drop all of the fiddly, dull little contracts I had been eking a living out of, and finally pay off some of the bills that had been mounting up ever since my ex had left for pastures unknown the previous year.

I opened a bottle of something cold and bubbly and was already quite well 'celebrated' by the time Josh arrived home that evening.

Fuelled by the booze, I waxed lyrical on all of the things that the new contract would enable us to do -- buy clothes, go on holiday, eat, that sort of thing -- and although my son's enthusiasm levels didn't quite reach mine, he seemed happy enough to be sharing a few glasses with me.

Now before anyone raises an eyebrow, I don't let Josh drink at home as a rule -- his father was far too fond of the bottle for my liking, and although Josh is eighteen now, if he wants to drink he can go to a bar with his friends as far as I'm concerned.

That night, though, the rules were suspended, and by ten o'clock Josh was almost as giggly as I was. There hadn't been a whole load of things to celebrate in the past year and we were both making the most of the opportunity. After twelve months of tension and stress, a few glasses of beer stripped away all the repression and gloom, and we were soon chatting away as openly and delightedly as we had done before the departure of 'it'.

Looking back now, it's hard to believe how much more open -- and how much more mature -- Josh had become in those intervening twelve months. At the time, though, I was far too pre-occupied with my success (okay, and with the booze) to take any notice.

"So, mom," Josh began somewhere around the eighth beer, "Does this mean you're going to by some decent clothes, or are you just going to replace all your ratty jeans and baggy sweaters with newer versions?"

"My jeans are not ratty!" I protested. I looked down and saw my right knee poking through the over-worn denim, "Well... not very ratty. And anyway, since when are you my fashion guru?"

"Just offering an observation," Josh shrugged.

I laughed, "This from a guy who two years ago was wearing a pair of jeans with the crotch somewhere between his knees!"

"That was just a fashion thing Call it a youthful misjudgement."

"A youthful tragedy, more like. Mind you, it did give Melissa and me a good laugh." Melissa was our neighbour and was, like myself, 'blessed' with a teenage son.

"Gee thanks, mom. Glad to know I've managed to cheer up a couple of frumpy housewives."

"Hey! I am not frumpy and I am definitely not a housewife."

Josh grinned, "I'll let you off the last bit, but those sweaters..."

"I like my baggy sweaters. They're comfortable to work in when I'm sitting up designing stuff on the computer."

"Point take, but you don't just wear them while you're working, do you? You wear them to the shops, in the garden, everywhere. It wouldn't surprise me if you wore one to bed at night."

"Well I don't!" I tried not to let my boy see the lie, and tried to change tack, "And anyway, would you rather I dressed myself up like a middle-aged Barbie doll like Matt's mother?"

Gemima Gordon, mother of Josh's friend Matt, had something of a reputation for her dress-sense (or lack thereof) in the local area. A bleached-blonde air-head with a barely controlled weight problem, she wore the absolute minimum that decency -- and probably the law -- allowed. Her make-up on any given day probably weighed more than her entire wardrobe -- and I'm talking about the mirror-fronted oak one she has in her bedroom, not the clothes that are in it.

Josh looked appalled, "No! No, no, no, no. She looks frightening."

"I thought all you boys ogled her at every opportunity. After all, whenever she sneezes her boobs almost fall out of whatever little top she's wearing -- and she has hay-fever."

"Well... I mean...." Josh looked embarrassed for a few seconds, then laughed, "Okay, okay, so I guess maybe when we were like fourteen we did think that she was ... you know?"

"Cheap? Tarty?"

"Kinda sexy is what I meant. I mean she always shows so much flesh and... well, I wasn't used to it."

I laughed, "Are you suggesting that my innate shyness about my clothing drove you to leering at your friend's mother?"

"Yeah, that's be right!"

For a fraction of a second, I wondered how much truth there was in that statement -- but then Josh grinned from ear to ear. I sighed at him, "In that case you have my apologies. It must have been so traumatic for you."

"It was just fine as it was, I guess."

"You only guess?"

This time there was the tiniest flash of evasiveness before he shrugged, "Seriously though, mom, I really wouldn't want you to dress like Gemma the Bimbo."

"Nice nickname. And I'm glad to hear it about my clothes."

"It fits. Well, at a push. Anyway... your clothes. I guess what I mean is... well...."

"So erudite, so sophisticated...."

"Mom! It's just... like, you know, a bit awkward trying to give you advice."

I laughed, "Just try -- I really do need another good laugh."

Josh sighed, "I suppose now you've mentioned Matt's mom, that kinda illustrates my point. I was just trying to say that the baggy sweaters and jeans make you look like the dead opposite of her. She's all over-blown female and you're..."

"Under-blown male?"

"No! But... well.. maybe sorta... like you cover up the fact that you're female."

"It's the law. Public decency, that sort of thing."

"I didn't mean-" Josh broke off and laughed when he realised I'd been teasing him, "Very funny. I just meant that you could wear things that didn't hide the fact that you're.... you know? A good-looking woman."

"I'm...." I was genuinely surprised, and rather touched, "Well, that's very sweet of you to say so."

Josh took a deep breath -- he clearly figured that he has dived in now so he might as well enjoy the water, "I mean you've got a great figure under all those clothes and sometimes I want to tell the other guys when they're bragging about their own moms that, you know, my mom looks like way younger than she is and she's like, you know, really pretty even though she's kinda tiny, and I guess what I mean with the clothes is, guys could kinda see for themselves just how cute you can look."

My jaw was drooping slightly. "I... " Words wouldn't come so I reached across and gave Josh a hug while I gathered my thoughts.

My son was clearly pleased with the way I looked and wanted to prove it somehow with his friends. I guessed that teenage guys often compare each other's moms in all sorts of ways, and if that was one of them, fine -- it wasn't as if us moms didn't sometimes have a little sessions like that comparing our sons!

"I'm truly honoured," I told him, rather stuffily, once I'd disentangled my arms from his shoulders and my tongue from the roof of my mouth, "But even so, I think I'm a little too used to my ratty old clothes to change my ways now."

"You make it sound as if you're ancient. You're only thirty-five, mom and let's face it, you don't even look that old."

"My, my," I laughed, "Will the compliments never cease?"

Josh's words and his stoic attempt to appear assured as he said them sent the tiniest frisson through my veins. Nothing naughty or in any way sexual, just a tiny electrical shiver brought about by the realisation that my little boy was maturing into a fully-fledged man, with a man's opinions and perspectives. As a mother we see lots of these as our children grow up -- the first word, the first step, the first journey into school on their own, their first beer, even -- but this one was as surprising as the others were eagerly awaited.

Josh tried to look serious and confident, "I mean it, mom. Dad's long gone and I'll be off to university at the end of the summer and you'll find yourself feeling all alone if you don't make a bit of an effort."

I laughed, "I think I understand what you mean -- you don't want me ending up on the shelf just yet, huh?"

"I guess it's something like that, but I was kinda meaning in general, like."

"That almost made sense."

"What I really mean..." Josh paused, presumably trying to work out what he actually meant for his own benefit as much as mine, ""I mean... that you... don't do yourself justice. I already said that you're, you know, cute and that, but even I forget it sometimes because you always look so... bundled up."

I might well have shrugged off my son's comments with a nonchalant shrug but for two things. Firstly, despite his clumsy way of putting things, he was complimenting me and striving so hard to appear mature and reasoned, so it wouldn't really be fair of me to dismiss his words lightly. And secondly, something very similar had been on my mind of late in any case.

I seemed to recall that 'back in the day', I rather enjoyed the dating game and all that it entailed. If memory served me correctly, I was rather adventurous in many ways, not the least of which was sexually. My recently failed marriage had pushed such thoughts so far to the back of my brain that I now needed a telescope about the size of Hubble to even see the outlines of them.

These two reasons came together in the manner of nitro and glycerine. I ruffled Josh's floppy hair, "You know something? You might just be right."

My response had Josh raising an eyebrow, "Really?"

I nodded, "Now you come to mention it, I guess I have rather let myself become accustomed to fading into the background and I suppose the jumpers and jeans have become some sort of security blanket. You're right. I need to have a re-think, I need to jazz up my wardrobe and let a bit of sunlight find my skin."

"You mean you're actually going to take my advice for once?"

"Incredible, isn't it? But yes. Although given your earlier admission about ogling Gemma Gordon, I think I'd better choose the new outfits for myself."

"Mom! The thing with Mrs Gordon was years ago! And even if it was something recent I still wouldn't want you to dress the way she does... did."

"Does, Josh, she still does, as well you know. But you're right one way or the other because I just don't really have the equipment, so to speak."

My son's eyes flicked quickly across my bust, "Um... well..."

"It's okay," I laughed, "You've already been more than brave so I won't ask you to comment on the relative merits of mine and Gemma's boobs, but you have to admit that I couldn't wear some of the sorts of things she does. Good god, I'd never stay in half of those low-cut things she almost wears."

Josh's discomfort with the direction of the conversation was almost palpable, "Yeah, well, that's like down to you. I mean, how much you want to sh... what sort of styles and that..."

"Quite right," I said firmly, quite literally sparing his blushes, "And don't worry because I won't go overboard and turn into a mini-me Gemma. I promise I will even ask your genuine, honest opinion of the sort of stuff I do buy so that I don't embarrass myself by doing the mutton-dressed-as-lamb thing, okay?"

My son's attitude switched from discomfort to relief, with a soupcon of something less definable, "Yeah, sure, mom. And like... it's really cool you're gonna, you know?"

"I know," I sighed, wondering why thirteen years of full-time education had left my son almost unintelligible at times.

Normally I find shopping a desperate chore and for the most part I'll buy everything I can from the comfort of my computer and have it delivered. Clothes, I soon re-discovered, were one of the exceptions to the rule (along with pets, sanitary products, and birthday cards), and I spent the best part of the rest of the week mooching around the local shops looking for items for my new, improved wardrobe. By the weekend my spending spree was still in full swing and Saturday saw me roaming further in my quest.

By Sunday afternoon it was a close run thing between my body and my bank account as to which was the most depleted -- but at least I had braved it out and achieved my goal.

I was sitting on my bed surrounded by bulging bags bearing the logos of a dozen different stores when Josh sauntered into the room.

"I thought you'd left home, mom."

"It has been a busy week, hasn't it? But no complaining about my absence, since this was your idea in the first place."

"Complaining? I've enjoyed the peace and quiet."

I gave him a sly smile, "Did it provide you with enough peace to invite that Joanne round?"

"Jordan, mom, and we split up like ages ago."

"You did? Why didn't you tell me?"

Josh sighed, "I did -- not that I should have to, anyway."

"Oh yes you should. You wouldn't want me calling the next girl I see you with by the name of a past girlfriend, would you?"

"Mom? Given that you can't get the names right anyway, it doesn't make that much difference, does it? Joanne!"

I shrugged, "Maybe you have a point, but I can't keep up with all these modern names. Most of them sound like holiday destinations."

"A lot of them are places," Josh agreed, a note of triumph entering his voice, "It goes back to Victorian times when kids were often named after the place they were conceived."

"Oh, yes -- like Brooklyn Beckham."

"Just what I meant," Josh said, "So... out of curiosity, what would I have been called if you'd named me like that?"

I grinned, "Either Mini or Cooper."

"Oh, very funny I don't think!"

"Well, me and your dad didn't have a place of our own then, and it was raining that night."

"Jeez, mom! Too much information. And anyway a car isn't a place. I mean it's not a geographical place, so where were you... um... parked?"

"We were down in the New Forest. A little place called Piddletrenthide. It's not too late to change your name if you really want to-"

"Okay, okay, I give up!"

"Good. Now, talking about modern trends, I'm beginning to have some doubts about some of this stuff I've bought. I really don't want to look like some desperate middle-aged housewife trying to recapture her youth, so I'm going to throw caution to the wind and ask you to give me your honest opinion, okay? And before you protest, you did promise that you would."

"I wasn't going to protest!" Josh had an impressively insouciant look on his face, "I was the one who convinced you to change your image so I'm more than happy to pay the price."

"Good, again! Now you settle yourself there and I'm going to go change in the bathroom. First up will be my replacement casual stuff, okay?"

Before I tell you what happened next, I think I'd better make one things perfectly clear -- I know I was naïve about my son, and about teenager guys in general. To state the 'bleeding obvious', I had obviously no personal experience of what drives a teenagers lusts and desires, and to make matters worse I was an only child so I had never even had brothers to gauge things by. Even my closest friends as a teenager were brother-free.

If it looks to you as if I was wilfully misreading the signs in what follows, then I can assure you that you are wrong. I wasn't reading the signs because, quite simply, I didn't think there was anything there to read. Not for one tiny, fractional, minuscule, jot or iota of a second did it cross my mind that my son was being anything other than helpful, of was thinking anything other than objectively. I had no experience to call upon, and no reason to suspect a thing.

Naïve, yes, but stupid? No.

And I had better also say that I am not deceiving anyone with this trip down memory lane -- not you, and certainly not even me. Every word I spoke and every action I took (before realisation dawned) was said and done in all innocence.

Of course, if I had been more aware, or maybe even simply more alert, things would have turned out differently. Well, probably.

As soon as I started to pull on the first skirt, doubts began to assail me. My legs hadn't really seen daylight in years, save for the occasional spot of gardening in shorts, and the feel of cool air on the skin of my thighs was almost shocking. I shrugged my way into a new silky white blouse and took a deep breath before heading back into the bedroom.

"Josh? Before you say anything at all there's a couple of things I need you to promise, okay?"

My son had made himself comfortable in the little armchair I have in the corner of my room and he sat forward, a serious look on his face, "Fair enough."

"Well, first you have to promise that you will be totally honest with me. No pulling punches or dodging the issue. If I look like mutton, tell me, okay?"

"I promise I'll be totally straight, mom."

"Good. And the second... well, I know it's really a lot to ask, but when you give me your opinions, I don't want them to be a son's opinions."


"What I mean, Josh, is that I want you to try to put yourself into the position of the average guy seeing me. I know it's hard and I know it might even be a little bit embarrassing, but I want you to try to view me through the eyes of a typical man who maybe hasn't ever seen me before. Do you think you could promise to at least try to do that?"

"You mean... look at you like maybe a potential date would? Or a client or just some guy in a bar?"

"I guess all three if you think you're up to it."

"But that means I'd have to... well look really close... I mean, like, at... well your figure and stuff."

"I did say it might be embarrassing, but if you don't think..."

"I guess I can at least try, mom. Let's see how it goes, okay?"

"Aw, that is good of you, Josh. I don't know what I'd do without you sometimes."

Well, I did admit I was naïve, didn't I?

Happy in my ignorance, I twirled around in the new skirt and blouse ensemble, "So, stranger, what do you think? Too much leg?"

Josh shook his head vehemently, "No way. You've got great legs, mom... I mean... should I call you Laura? Would that help?"

"I guess it might. And thanks."

"Well... Laura, like I said, you've got great legs. I mean like, really, you know, nicely muscled and stuff, so I reckon that skirt's just great."

"Thanks again. What about the blouse?"

"I guess it looks kinda nice but it's a bit... I dunno, plain?"

"It's supposed to look plain to show off the skirt more. Maybe it would help if I didn't button it quite so high?"

Josh nodded, "Y-yeah. Could be that."

I undid the top button and turned the collar down lower, "Better?"

"I guess."

"You don't sound too impressed, but I think it will work well in meetings with clients."

"Yeah," Josh nodded, "You don't want to look too... um... sexy for clients, right?"

I laughed, "Damn right. Okay then, that's kind of typical of the client look that I'm going for, so maybe I'll try something more casual next, okay?"

If Josh blushed or reacted then, I didn't notice. He just said 'sure', and I went back through to the bathroom feeling marginally happier with my first choices, at least.

I stared at my 'casual' options for a while, hoping that these would receive a more emphatically positive reaction when I showed them to Josh, and thought back to what he'd said about hiding myself under layers of ratty, baggy clothes. I decided that I needed to make him sure that I had taken his comments on board, but without simply picking out the most figure-hugging items. Trying to pick a look that was sorta sexy but definitely not slutty wasn't too difficult, I decided, even if I was out of practice.

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