Hitting puberty is a lot like jury duty: It happens to everybody sooner or later, nobody really wants to go through with it, and bad things happen if you try to ignore it. Ah -- actually, only two of those things are true. If you really hated your adolescence, you might be interested to learn that there's a developmental disorder that prevents people from going through puberty at all. It's called Kallmann Syndrome, and it's no walk in the park. We spoke to Don Wyland, who has dealt with Kallmann Syndrome for years, and he told us ...
In my early teens, I began to notice that I was the only guy around whose voice hadn't dropped yet. I was also shorter and skinnier than all the other boys. My dad told me he had been a late bloomer, so I just patiently waited it out. And let me tell you, the line at the DMV has nothing on waiting for your first pubes. As I turned 18 and prepared to head off to that mystical land of alcohol and STDs (college), my parents finally took me to a specialist to find out if something was medically wrong. Within about 20 minutes, the doctor arrived at Kallmann Syndrome. That family history of "late bloomers" is actually a red flag the size of Texas.
Apparently, "late" really isn't the right word anymore when you get a diploma before armpit hair.
The doctor prescribed hormone therapy, but thanks to a mix of shitty insurance, the already intimidating transition to college, and my fear of needles, we put therapy off for about a decade. And without testosterone supplements, your puberty pretty much permanently stays on hold.
Can you imagine dealing with all the downsides of puberty in your mid-20s? Your voice cracking during the big presentation? Your mood swings flying into full rage during the morning commute? Having to hide your constant, unprovoked boner from Gary in accounting?
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With Kallmann Syndrome, your sperm are inactive, so you don't really have any driving need to release a stampede of the little bastards on some poor unsuspecting Kleenex. You have no libido, and, even if you did, your penis is small enough that you wouldn't want to show it off at the Great Annual Penis Parade.
It affects your social life as well. I remember watching Basic Instinct with some friends in college. They would get all excited over Sharon Stone's legs, and I just didn't get what the big deal was. I was like a 9 year old seeing a mildly sexual situation in a PG-13 movie. Armed with sex-ed training, I could understand why situations were "adult" in nature, but I didn't understand why everyone got all hot and bothered over stuff. When you just don't "get" sex, it alienates you a bit. I was effectively asexual.
Turns out if you don't care about seeing Sharon Stone's privates, this is actually a kind of a dumb movie.
After hormone injections, I was the sexual equivalent of a deaf person getting a cochlear implant. Suddenly, my world was alive with the sound of comical, boner-suggesting slide whistles. My friends were pretty weirded out, watching me go through mental puberty as a grown-ass man, but I didn't care. I was like a poor version of Billy Madison. Fortunately, I leveled off before I could hit Grown Ups-era Adam Sandler.
Because I looked like I was 12 for the better part of a decade, my social development could not have gone much worse. My voice didn't drop, I didn't get any taller, and I didn't grow any facial hair. In high school, this was a nightmare. Doogie Howser's awesome, but nobody in his grade thought he was a sex symbol. I was offered the kiddie menu at restaurants until I was about 17.
Though, on the upside, 20 years of smiley face pancakes.
You remember getting carded back in the good old days before age ravaged your fragile meat-suit. But, that was probably for alcohol or rental cars. Me? I had a criminology class in college, and a professor asked to see my I.D. so that she could verify that I was old enough for the subject matter. I also enjoyed acting in college, but the only parts I could land were of kids in their early teens. However, I did end up with a lead in The Outsiders, because I was the only person who looked the same age as Ponyboy. So ... worth it?
Kallmann Syndrome doesn't just wreck your sex life; it attacks your senses as well. It forced me to deal with hyposmia, which means I couldn't smell a fart even if it was the day after Taco Bell and Pabst night. I can't smell myself, so I have no idea how bad I reek. Unless my clothes have visible stains, I don't know when to wash them. I'm not a caveman; I still do laundry weekly and wear deodorant, but, without any scents to aid me, it all feels a bit pointless.
It also turned out to be the reason guests never wanted to meet my cat.
It's not just smell, either. Kallmann Syndrome can also erase your hearing. It's been a slow process, but now, in my late 20s, I'm losing the ability to pick up on distant sounds. I've got the hearing loss trajectory of a professional death metal guitarist, and it's only going to get worse. Oh, and you can also go colorblind. So, you're a smelly, deaf 12-year-old-looking adult who has trouble recognizing red lights. The world couldn't be any clearer about hating you.
As soon as I got a job and decent health insurance, I decided to go in for hormone treatments. The quickest method of hormone replacement is straight injections of testosterone, but doctors warn that this can shrink your testicles. Mine were already small enough thanks to Kallmann Syndrome, so no worries there.
"No one comments on how cute your little suit is at a job interview because of small testicles. Gimme the shot."
That first testosterone injection hit me like a freshman year bully. Take every mood swing you had in high school, and cram them into about 24 hours. All at once, I was spouting facial hair and acne like some kind of prepubescent Hulk. In my 20s, I was finally becoming a teenager. This injection-induced puberty is rapid-fire; most cases are finished with it in anywhere from a few months to a year. I'm still a little short, but I have enough weight on me that I at least look like an adult. I have a beard, and I can do a pretty solid Barry White impression (ladies). Some of my friends didn't even recognize me afterward. My own grandmother hung up the phone a couple times, thinking I was a stranger. Or, maybe she was just mad that she no longer had an eternal grandkid ...
So, I ordered off the kiddie menu through high school and didn't have a meaningful relationship until my late 20s, but guess what? I'm going to age like a Highlander who moisturizes, thanks to the delayed puberty. I'm also not going to go bald! Testosterone didn't ravage it early on, so I've staved off male pattern baldness at least until I'm too old for vanity to matter.
Plus, I'll have the pubes of someone in their 40s (older ladies).
Some people with Kallman Syndrome have decided not to seek treatment for those reasons. Jimmy Scott, a jazz musician, never went through with the therapy so he could sing like an angel well into adulthood. So, while my early years were bogged down in social awkwardness, at least I'll age like Keanu Reeves. That's something, anyway.
Evan V. Symon is the interview finder guy at Cracked. Have an awesome experience/job you want to see as a Cracked article? Hit us up at email@example.com, and we can make it hap'n Cap'n!
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