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The Life of a Late Bloomer

I read advice columns. I’m not ashamed to admit that I am insatiably curious (aka nosy) about the challenges that other people face in their professional and personal lives. What can I say? The letters spark a lot of ideas for books… or books that I would never write!

Just a few weeks ago, I read a Dear Abby column that will forever be burned into my brain. The letter read: “My daughter recently turned 13. It seems that every time we go to a gathering and the moms get together talking, someone will ask me if my daughter has gotten her period yet. It isn’t even a question from people I’m close with or who really know my daughter.”

Now, just to be clear, I don’t think menstruation is anything to be embarrassed of. But I also don’t think the whole neighborhood needs to know when a young woman meets the Red One, Aunt Flo or any of the various other nicknames we have for our periods.

And the Dear Abby letter reminded me of phrase that’s always made me cringe: late bloomer. To me, saying that someone is a late bloomer is, at best, an excuse for not being like everyone else. At worst, it’s an implied criticism.

I’ve been at family reunions, neighborhood barbeques, and graduation parties and heard the same reassuring/not-reassuring phrases over and over.

To the teenage boy who can barely look anyone in the eye: Oh, you’re 14, and you don’t have to shave yet. Don’t feel bad, you’re just a late bloomer. You’ll have a beard in no time.

To the teenage girl who hunches her shoulders to disguise her flat chest: You just turned 16? Oh, well, I’m sure it will only be a matter of time before the boobs show up. Don’t worry, you’re just a late bloomer.

Yeah, those comments are so encouraging.

In my newest book, Hanging by a Thread, the heroine, Bebe Banerjee, is a late bloomer, although not in terms of her intellectual or physical development. She’s a late bloomer sexually.

At the age of 30, Bebe is still a virgin. And virgin doesn’t accurately describe the extent of her lack of experience. She calls herself an über-virgin because she’s never been kissed, she’s never masturbated, and she’s never seen a penis except for those on the cadavers in medical school.

Bebe isn’t a late bloomer because of her religion or her culture or any past trauma. She just doesn’t view herself as a sexual being until she meets the hero, Cal O’Brien. And he changes everything.

Here’s a little teaser from Hanging by a Thread. Cal and Bebe are celebrating his birthday, and Bebe is his birthday present.

“Was that your first orgasm?” he asked.
She met his eyes. “Yes. It was my first.”
He had a hard time believing she had never given in to the innate curiosity and physical need that drove humans to masturbate.
“You’d never had one? Ever?”
She shook her head, her cheeks dusky with a blush. He eased his fingers into the crevice between her ass cheeks and thighs, and she shifted on her heels, widening her legs to give him better access.
“Not even one you gave yourself?” he persisted. “You never touched yourself?”
Again, she shook her head. He stroked his fingers along the edge of her panties. “Why not?”
“I was unaware of my sexuality. My body wasn’t a source of pleasure. It was just there . . . like a household appliance.” She licked her lips, and he felt it in his cock. “I wasn’t interested in sex until I met you. Now it’s all I think about.”
He slid his fingers beneath her panties, petting the damp hair of her pussy. “You touch yourself.”
“Yes,” she replied, her voice barely audible.

What do you think about the term “late bloomer”? Were you or someone you know a late bloomer? How did it impact you (or them)?

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