G-d has a sense of humor

The Pediatric Insider

© 2010 Roy Benaroch, MD

He was terrified.

A 13 y/o boy sat on an exam table, shirtless. He twitched a little, as people do when they’re acting cool. I learned to see through that a long time ago.

His forehead glistened.

“I know it’s nothing,” he said.

What he meant was, “I have cancer. I know it. Or even worse, I’m going to have breasts. Either way, life is over.”

“You don’t need to worry about it. Many boys have a little swelling under their nipples during puberty. It’s called ‘gynecomastia,’ and it’s completely normal. What happens is that your body has such high concentrations of male sex hormone that it’s starting to stimulate the receptor of the female hormones. So you get just a little swelling.”

I didn’t say that.

Instead, I said, “You know, G-d has a sense of humor. Really, he does.”

I let that sink in dramatically before continuing. “He knows that at your age, hormones are surging through you, turning you from a boy into a man. You’ve noticed that, too– you’re growing taller, and your voice is deeper sometimes, and you’re getting hairy all over the place. G-d knows all you boys are dealing with the huge changes, and he thinks it’s funny to just give you a little taste of what the girls are living through.”

He started to smile.

“Look, it turns out that at super-high concentrations, all of that manly testosterone hormone starts to make your breast tissue grow. Just a little, and just for a short time. That swelling will go down, and I promise you won’t grow boobs. It isn’t going to happen. But guess what– G-d likes to play his joke on the girls, too.”

He looked up, eyes wide.

“You know the girls have tons of their girly hormones, just sloshing around. It makes them grow womanly, with boobs and hips, and those other mysterious girl things. But did you ever notice that a few of the girls are growing just a teeny bit of a dark mustache?”

He laughed. Tension streamed away.

“That’s it! That’s G-d’s joke on the girls! Just when they’re really turning into women, their high estrogen levels tweak their androgen receptors, just a little, and just enough to give some of them a little mustache. But I have to tell you something….”

Here I paused, and spoke quietly.

“Don’t you ever go up to a girl and say, ‘Ooo you have a teeny mustache, because G-d has a sense of humor.’ If you do, she’ll slap you silly, and you’ll deserve it!”

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