ARDMORE, Pennsylvania. Kyle Orthnutt is to all appearances a typical twelve-year-old boy, but instead of oiling up his mitt for a game against the Keystone Tire & Battery Cardinals later today, he’s staring off into the distance, his mind on something other than baseball.
“He’s been like this for the last couple of days,” his mother Joanne tells Fred Sheed of “It Gets Worse,” a charity formed to warn impressionable middle school-aged boys of the perils of heterosexuality.
“Have you noticed any drop-off in his purchases of baseball cards?” Sheed asks ominously.
“Now that you mention it, he isn’t riding his bike to the sports memorabilia store as much as he used to,” Joanne says, beginning to connect the dots.
“Probably time for an intervention,” Sheed says, and he moves to the screened-in porch to take a seat on a bamboo couch next to Kyle.
“Hey there, buddy,” Sheed says, and after introductions and a few minutes of small talk, he launches into a recitation of the many ways that heterosexual attraction–so innocent at first–can degenerate into something much more sinister as girls get older.
“You can have my gum when I’m through with it.”
“You got a girlfriend?” Sheed asks and, with his mother out of the room, Kyle admits that he’s beginning to have feelings for Cindy Hampton, a blond down the street who’s already achieved Junior Life Saving status at the town pool.
“I’ll bet she looks great in her swimsuit, huh?” Sheed gently prods the boy.
“Yeah,” he says, smiling shyly as he turns his head in embarrassment. “She gives me a boner.”
“Okay, well let’s work on that. Does your mom look that good when she comes down for breakfast in the morning?”
The boy is puzzled at first as he struggles to resolve an internal conflict between a son’s natural affection for his mother and the incontrovertible testimony of his senses. “No,” he admits finally. “She has curls scotch-taped to the sides of her head.”
“So you realize that no matter how pretty Cindy is when she gets all dolled-up, living with her you’d see her when she doesn’t look so great,” Sheed sums up.
“I guess,” Kyle begins hesitantly, “I never thought of it that way.” He picks up his baseball glove and bounds towards the back door just as his mother re-appears. “Kyle–aren’t you forgetting something?” she says with a note of disapproval in her voice.
“Oh, right,” the boy says, then turns to the man who has–perhaps–diverted him from a life of slavish devotion to the woman he will marry. “Thanks–a LOT!”
It’s just one encounter by which the wisdom of the ages is passed down to the youth of today, but for Sheed it is a moment of intense gratification. “Twenty years from now when his wife is barking at him to mow the lawn, it’ll give him a solid foundation he can fall back on to say ‘Blow it out your pantyhose’ as he takes off for a round of golf or rolls over on the couch for another hour of napping,” Sheed says as he gets back into his “It Gets Worse” van.
Classic “Dagwood Bumstead” nap position.
Modeled after the “It Gets Better” movement designed to reassure gay and lesbian youth that their lives will improve as they grow older, “It Gets Worse” aims to implant realistic notions of the baleful consequences of heterosexuality in young boys’ minds before it’s too late. “There are so many Mickey Mouse, ticky-tacky rules you have to obey as a married adult male,” says Mike Tekrizewski, national chairman of the group. “Why do you have to get your wife something for Mother’s Day?” he asks rhetorically. “If she were your mother, it’d be incest, which is illegal in many states.”
“You know it makes no difference whether the toilet seat is up or down–don’t you?”
The non-profit now has chapters in all fifty states and Puerto Rico and is planning a telethon this fall to raise awareness of the traps and snares that can turn a healthy pre-adolescent boy into a neurotic mess who spends too much time on his hair. “I fear for the future of this country sometimes,” says Tekrizewski. “I read an article in the paper today that said attendance at NFL games was down last year, and attendance at Justin Bieber concerts was up.”