Teenage Body Image Stress

It’s said that of all the five senses, “smell” has the strongest memory recall.  For instance, heavy colognes and perfumes remind you of teenage dating.  Baking cookies brings you home to Mom’s house.  And fragrant candles are associated with holidays.

Likewise, this theory holds true for the pungent aroma of a boys high school locker room.  Mix mildew, deodorant, Bengay, and body odor, and you get a concoction that will stay in your memory for a lifetime.

However in your case, this stinky blast from the past elicits more than, “Ooh! Smells like a school gym locker in here.”

You recall a time of sadness and depression, even thoughts of suicide.

A locker room was the setting for a living nightmare that lasted three of four years.  Specifically, puberty was absent, and the end of gym class was a bullies paradise.

Jokes about male genitalia during communal showers were the weapons of choice.  But let’s not forget “atomic wedgies.”  Your underwear waistband was so forcibly stretched that the elastic separated from the briefs.  Or how about being imprisoned in a dark disgusting locker for 15 minutes, and upon being freed, getting whipped in the butt by a wet rolled bath towel.

As if there wasn’t enough abuse for a Tuesday morning before Geometry.

regret about deceiving parents

As fate would have it, senior year was a stress relief.  Nature honored your teenage rite of passage into adulthood.  Puberty made you too big to fit in a locker, too strong to be handled by ruthless athletes, and confident enough to be seen naked.

Still all these years later, a locker room stench transports you to a place that brought you to the brink of extinction.

And you deeply regret how you managed your predicament.

You knew your parents saw a behavior change a month into freshman year.  Yet you were deceptive about your unusual behavior and averted their attempts at a successful Callemonit.

For example, you loved playing sports but would fake sick on gym days.  You’d hardly touch your favorite dinner, attributing lack of appetite to eating too many snacks.  And you’d spend countless hours in the safety of your bedroom, claiming to have tons of homework.  When actually, you were crying quietly in your pillow.

And when they’d directly inquire why you seemed so sad and distant, you’d reply, “No, I’m good…I think I’m just tired…High school is so much harder than middle school.”

TEENAGE SON’S BEHAVIOR is sadly familiar

Now your fifteen year old son is exhibiting the same unforgettable behavior.   But you aren’t fooled by his misdirection.   And you don’t want him to regret concealing his pain.

Junior is stuck in an adolescent holding pattern and going into his shell.  The happy-go-lucky kid who’d chase the dog around the yard, resembles more zombie than childhood enthusiast.

You know things are different nowadays in regards to school locker rooms. There aren’t showers after gym class, and the lockers can just about fit a backpack.

So if times have changed, and there’s less threat of verbal and physical bullying, what’s causing his sad demeanor?

Could his depression be attributed to “the inadvertent torment by advancements in technology and the popularity of social media?”

Wow, that’s some hypothesis!

But seriously, maybe it is something to consider.

Cell phones have become an appendage of our youth.  Taking unlimited selfies is not just enticing for teens, it’s expected.  And the craving for “likes” and comments and emojis is insatiable.

So it’s not the misbehavior other teens, but rather your son’s response to a new environment where appearance is constantly on display.

Whatever the explanation may be, your heart is breaking every time you stare into his eyes and see that familiar look of disappointment in a world that had so much promise just one year before.

You want to carefully explain your own teenage experience and convince him that everything will be alright.

But you anticipate his apprehension about sharing deeply personal feelings regarding his body, relationships, and depression.  You fear he might become embarrassed or even angry when prompted to reveal his innermost secrets.

And you certainly don’t want him to retreat further into isolation.

Do you have any suggestions regarding this father’s Callemonit?  How should loving parents address body image issues?

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