It’s February again and they are everywhere.
No matter where I turn, no matter how hard I try to avoid them, in this month, at least in this gods-forsaken country, the images seem to multiply of their own accord. I walk into a shopping mall and there they are. I turn on the television and, more than likely, they will be in some local car dealer’s commercial. I see them on billboards, on greeting cards, on cute little mugs, on men’s ties. I see them on posters, on facebook, in the Sunday comics. I see them wherever I look because—at least for the first half of this month—they are utterly ubiquitous. People think they are adorable: little baby Cupids flying about wearing nothing but a diaper, wielding the bow, looking to sting someone with the arrow of love. They don’t understand; they think they are just cute images. But every time I see them, all I can think of is my own shame.
If anyone really knew me, I’d probably go into hiding around Valentine’s Day. But such is my state these days, even more than the rest of us, that I can hide in plain sight. Everyone seems to love Cupid, but no one knows Eros. It’s both a blessing and a curse, this lack of memory. But in February, at least, I’ll take it. Far better that no one knows me than a million people seek me out for favors, all expecting me to look like…that.
When people did know me, back when they venerated Mom and Dad and the rest of them, they knew better. They understood the danger, the risk of asking us for favors. Oh they still did so, but they were not anywhere near as reckless as the masses of people hoping for an arrow from that little cherub are today. And back then, when we walked among them openly, the artists knew me as well. Look at any of the images from back then: Roman or Greek, it didn’t matter; I was portrayed as I actually was, a slender youth, beautiful of course—I couldn’t be Mom’s son and not be beautiful—winged, and usually naked. Back then, artists loved the body and painted or sculpted it with care and precision. And since our bodies looked like theirs, at least to them, they found themselves fascinated by our perfection. It was silly, of course: we were perfect because we were gods, but also because our visages reflected what they wanted and expected from us. And from Venus and Eros—I have always liked the Greek version of my name more—they expected perfection, and besides: the perfection of my naked body was a reflection of the perfection of Love.
As time went on, though, we realized that our era in the limelight was at an end. We’d made it through two great civilizations, but both had fallen, and in the new era no one really remembered us. You can see it in the art. After the Great Fall, there was, for all intents and purposes, no art whatsoever; there was no one to commission it. And when, finally, after a thousand years, art returned to the world, well, we’d been gone so long; no one really knew us. I mean it shouldn’t have been unexpected: they couldn’t even get the image of the god they did believe in right. I met him once when he walked the earth; he was a short, swarthy man with dark, curly hair, typical of that time and place, yet their art depicted him as tall, light-skinned and angelic, with long, straight hair hanging freely. If they couldn’t get him right, we had no chance at all.
So I shouldn’t have been surprised when the Renaissance artists started showing me as a child. I was known for being the son of Venus and Mars, after all, and they perhaps felt the need to show that I was younger. But their cherubic imagery still left me at least with some dignity: naked, my chubby, child self was still beautiful, and those artists painted me with great care to make me so. Not like these modern artists, who tend to show me only in cartoons, and then cover up my glorious god’s body in tunics or in a diaper. Where is the respect? I’m no longer perfection; I’m shown as a fat little babe playing with arrows. If I were Bacchus it would drive me to drink. Not that he ever really needed an excuse.
But the thing that really makes me detest those images isn’t just their cheap cartoonishness. It’s the fact that it’s all my own stupid fault. In fairness, how could I have known? I ask myself that a lot, but it doesn’t change the facts, and the facts show that I made myself into the model for these ubiquitous portraits.
You have to understand: we had long, long since retreated to Mt. Olympus, hoping there might come another time when the people would want us. (It still might happen: the culture today seems to have a not-unhealthy obsession with my Norse cousins, after all. It’s a short jump from Thor and Asgard to Apollo and Olympus.) Every once in a while, though, some of us would venture out among them, disguising ourselves as we always had. For me (and for Hermes too, though his problem was his feet), this always presented the need to hide my wings. Fortunately, as I am a god, that never was too much of an issue, and anyway humans tend to ignore completely that which they cannot comprehend. I could have unwrapped my wings in plain sight and it’s possible no one would have even noticed. (Not today, of course: I’d be all over YouTube.)
After the Renaissance, I had grown a real fascination for my own childhood. Seeing myself depicted that way sparked something within me, and I needed to explore it. My lovely Psyche was more than happy to help, and our relationship was all the better for it. Nothing like a little bit of role-playing to spice up a two thousand year old marriage. And truth be told, we both really found it to be joyful: getting in touch with my child self after two millennia was both enjoyable and rather profound. And I liked it so much that it became a regular aspect of our lovemaking. But something changed near the end of the 19th Century.
Diapers had been part of a baby’s routine since the 17th Century, but it wasn’t until the late 19th that they assumed the form we think of as traditional: the sheets of white cloth secured by large safety pins. Some time in there, some artists began putting diapers on my images, most likely out of a prudish Victorian desire to cover up the nakedness that centuries of people had found beautiful. Whatever the reason, when I started seeing them, I knew I had to add that element to our age play games. At first, Psyche was against it; she’d always been a purist. But I wore her down. She finally agreed, and one day near the turn of the 20th Century, as I wore the body I’d had as a small child, she put me into the first diaper I’d ever worn.
It was a revelation: all of that soft material padding me down there. Psyche found the feeling of it next to her skin arousing, and (given the era) loved the fact that, for a change, I was the one trapped beneath excess layers of clothing. She had always enjoyed the age play, but it was clear to both of us that something between us changed when my loins were swaddled in this new way. Suddenly she seemed to take a more dominant role in our lovemaking as well as in the game, as if I were really the little boy I appeared to be. And it was at this point that my life was altered abruptly by the Fates: where we’d always been private in our “human” existence, they decreed that we’d be discovered.
It was a not atypical London summer day: the morning sun had burned off the fog and all was lovely and warm. While we pretended to be human, we lived in a modest flat near Hyde Park: nothing so fancy as it would be noticeable, but comfortable nonetheless. We were immortal beings, after all, and I was a god: we were not about to live in squalor as so many Londoners did at the time. So we took this flat and lived quietly, venturing out only on occasion. This was one such occasion. Psyche decided that she wanted to take a walk in the park. A bit of mischief was in me, so I decided to accompany her as my child self. She insisted that, if I did that, she should diaper me and act as my mother or nanny. I felt myself become aroused at the suggestion; this kind of game always made her want me, and by this time I could become aroused just by thinking about the joys that would await us in bed upon our return.
So we did as she suggested: she diapered me and was about to get me into some short pants and a child’s jacket when her eyes suddenly lit up.
“What if you were a girl this time?” she asked.
She smiled that sexy smile I couldn’t resist and repeated, “What if you were a girl this time? We’ve been playing this forever, but I’ve never gotten to take care of a little girl, and their clothes are so much more adorable than boys’ clothes in this era.”
She was right, of course: almost all boys wore variations of the same theme: a child’s school uniform. Shorts, high socks, shirt, jacket. Maybe a cap. Girls, on the other hand, though they were always in dresses, were thoroughly individual.
“So you want me to change my body to female?” I asked. It had never in all of these years occurred to me to do so, but I knew I could with no real problem. And gender was never really an issue to the gods.
She looked pensive. “Truth be told, it’s the clothing I’m interested in. Whether you are physically a girl or a boy matters a lot less.”
Still, if I were going to assent to this, and there was no doubt about that—I’d do absolutely anything for her—I thought I might as well go all the way. So I appeared in front of my love as a small girl, and she actually squealed with delight upon seeing me that way.
“Oh, Darling!” she said. “We should have done this eons ago: you are absolutely precious this way.”
I grew warm knowing that she was feeling such pleasure, so I went along with anything she asked. I gave myself a pretty yellow dress and some girls’ shoes and white knee socks. Psyche enjoyed playing with my hair, brushing it out and tying it with a ribbon. When she was sure she had it right, she allowed me to stand in front of the mirror. There before me stood a small Victorian girl, her dress poofy enough to hide the fact that, though a bit too old for them, she was wearing a diaper underneath. I lifted the skirt and looked at the odd garment that babies and young children used as a portable chamber pot. As I was looking at myself, Psyche approached with something new: a pair of short, woolen underwear.
“What’s that for?” I asked her.
“To put on over the diaper, Silly,” she said, “so it won’t leak.”
Leak. As if I intended to use the thing. She slipped the tight woolen pants up my legs and over the diaper.
“That’s better,” she said, patting me on my padded behind before lowering the skirt again and covering the infantile garment. “Time to go, Cutie.”
A new pet name, too, I thought. At least she had derived it from one of my real names. “So I’m Cutie? And who are you?”
She smiled. “Mommy, of course. But I’ll go by the name Isabella. And your real name will be Penelope.”
Penelope. Wife of Ulysses. Signifies faithfulness. “Sending me a message, Mommy?” I asked playfully.
She laughed. “I know you’ll never be unfaithful to me.” Then she winked. “Especially in that disguise.”
She was certainly right about that. The only way I could be unfaithful today would be to run away from her, and no sooner had I conceived that thought than it sounded like a fun addition to the game.
Of course I didn’t tell her. It would have spoiled things if she had known my plan. So off we went, walking toward the park. She held my hand so I would not “get lost”; I was seriously enjoying this. It was always great when she came up with new flavors for our games. She sang to me softly as we were walking, as if keeping a real child calm and content. When we got to the park, she sat down on a bench and told me to “play” with some of the “other” little girls, who were jumping rope a short distance away. I was surprised at this; we’d never involved others in our games before. But when I mentioned this she just said, “I’m the mother here; you go play like a good girl.”
When I got into the game, I kept looking across at Psyche. Truth be told it almost made me miss a couple of jumps, but I am a god; I was fine. As I jumped, though, I kept thinking about how my dress was flying up revealing my petticoats, and I worried about it also revealing what lay beneath the petticoats. I looked back at the bench; Psyche was talking to another woman. From the animated way they spoke and pointed over to us, it was clear this young woman was a mother herself and her daughter was one of the girls I was with. How far was Psyche going to take the game today? We had long since crossed beyond anything we’d ever experienced, and if I judged correctly it was just as exciting for her as it was for me.
The other girls grew tired of the rope-jumping after awhile, and we drifted apart until I was left with only one blonde-haired girl to talk to. Her name was Cynthia, and her mother was indeed the woman with my Psyche. After a few more minutes, though, the “parents” called us to come back to the bench. Cynthia dutifully obeyed, but I hesitated. If I were going to run, this was the time. So when Psyche called me a second time, I giggled, turned, and started running.
Ordinarily there would not be much chance of Psyche catching me if we were racing, especially if I had a head start, but I had these very small legs and was further hampered by the thick diaper. I heard her calling, but I kept running and laughing. Finally, she caught up to me and stopped me.
I whirled around to face her, my cheeks puffy and surely red from the running. I wanted to share the great joke with her, to hear her laughter echoing my own. But as soon as I turned I knew something was wrong.
“How could you do that?” she demanded.
“Do what?” I asked. “I was just running. It’s not as if I unfolded my wings.”
She frowned. “You couldn’t have embarrassed me more had you done that.”
Embarrassed? I looked back toward the bench, and the other woman was standing there with Cynthia. She pointed at me and shook her head. Glancing around, I realized there were several others in the park who had witnessed my little escapade.
“Do you even understand being out in human society anymore?” she asked sharply under her breath, then added, more loudly, “Don’t you know how to behave yourself?”
Suddenly I understood: I had seemed an unruly child and she was feeling embarrassed by my antics around these mortal women. I tried to wriggle out of her grasp to apologize, but she held me firmly.
“I can’t believe you acted that way,” she said. Suddenly I felt her open hand crashing down on my rear end. Through the dress and petticoats and diapers, I could hardly be expected to feel any pain, but the shock sent waves through me and I responded as any young girl might have: I yelled.
“No!” I yelled. “Don’t spank me! I’m sorry!”
It was as much for the onlookers as for myself, I acknowledge, but I didn’t anticipate what happened next. She grabbed hold of me, lifted me up, and carried me to the nearest bench. With a swiftness I had hardly ever seen in her, she flipped me over, lifted the dress, and started raining blows to my behind. Without the layers of material, her hand actually hurt this time. And what’s worse: the shock of it all caused my little girl’s bladder to release, flooding my shamefully exposed diaper. By this time I was crying for real. She clearly knew what I had done, but kept spanking anyway until she figured I had had enough…or maybe until she remembered that this was supposed to be a game between us, not reality.
She lifted me off of her knee and set me in front of her. Smoothing my dress and using her handkerchief to dab my tears, she spoke gently in words only I could hear: “If we are out in public like this, you have to act like a proper little girl. Goodness knows if Millicent back there will even allow Cynthia to play with you anymore.”
Between my sobs, I spoke up. “I just…thought it would be…funny.”
She shook her head. “Maybe if we were alone it would have been. But you could have ruined everything for us; can’t you see that? If we are to remain here in London, we need to be vigilant not to do things that call undue attention to us.”
I nodded; she was right. And I was the one who had volunteered to be the little girl here; I had to play the game fully. Suddenly something else she said sneaked into my brain. “What do you mean, allow Cynthia to play with me again?”
She straightened my bow, ignoring me. “I dressed you as a sweet, adorable girl and you go and act like a brat.”
I tried to pull away but she swatted my behind again. “Enough of that!” she said. “Or we’ll never be able to come back.”
She smiled slyly. “I just made a date for tomorrow to meet with Millicent back here. You’ll get more time to play with Cynthia.”
Over on the bench, I could see Cynthia and her mother talking. Now I knew what they were talking about. I turned to Psyche. “You want me to play this role again?”
Her eyes answered me before she did. “I don’t know why, my love, but something about you as Penelope makes me the happiest I’ve ever been.”
It wasn’t difficult to figure out why. Two thousand years without a child and suddenly I’m letting her experience motherhood, in a way. And I too was loving it: the freedom of being a little girl was exhilarating. I hadn’t had that much joy in running since a foot race with Hermès a millennium ago. (He won, of course, but somehow I made it close, and it felt heavenly.)
“If I agree to this,” I told her, “you can’t discipline me like that again.”
She shook her head. “If you act in a way that is naughty, I will have to in order to maintain the facade.”
So it was up to me, I thought. I could handle that. And anyway—though I’d never acknowledge it to her—there was something about the whole thing I had enjoyed. I’m a god; no one had ever done anything like that to me before. I found it somewhat…exciting.
We had crossed the distance back to the bench by this point, and Cynthia ran up to me. “Mommy says we can play again tomorrow,” she told me.
I giggled. “That will be fun,” I told her. As Psyche and Millicent made their plans, we talked about the doll she would bring. I told her I’d bring one of mine as well. It wouldn’t be hard to make a doll. Finally, Millicent and Cynthia said goodbye and left us.
“Now, little girl,” Psyche said to me, “we need to do something about that diaper.”
If there had been any doubt that she knew of my disgrace, that removed it. “Let’s get you home,” she said.
I smiled. “You know, I can just will it to be clean.”
“I know that,” she said. “I also know you haven’t. Something in you clearly wants me to change it.”
She was right. I hadn’t thought about why I’d allowed it to remain wet, but of course she was right: there was still more of the game to play. She took my hand once more and we headed back to our flat.
Once we were back across our threshold, she wasted no time in whisking me over to our bed, laying me down, and (with my petticoats lifted high) pulling those woolen pants down to reveal my soaked diaper.
“You know, I didn’t expect you to actually use this thing” she told me as she unpinned it and cleaned me off with a wet washcloth. “But since you have…are you suggesting that you enjoy this game as much as I do?”
I didn’t have to answer her; my smile said it all.
“Let’s just keep playing for awhile,” she said.
“Not right yet,” I said, and I allowed myself to change back into my normal self. Her hands were still moving the washcloth around, but now their target was the nether regions of a beautiful young man who was most definitely aroused by her actions. I pulled her down on top of me, and we enjoyed each other’s bodies for the rest of the afternoon more than we had in a long time.
Lying there afterwards, spent of my energy and just holding Psyche in my arms, I contemplated all that had occurred during the day and I knew that we would keep playing this game. There was no way I was going to give this raw emotion up. So the next day we found ourselves back in the park, once more as Isabella and her little girl. Cynthia and I played with the dolls we had brought—some elaborate invention about a shopping trip to Harrods; I let her lead since I had no clue how to act this age or this gender, but it was actually fun. Meanwhile the “grownups” chatted, taking a cue from us and discussing their last excursions to the great store. Millicent was surprised to discover that we had never been there for cream tea, and she insisted that we accompany her the next day. So Penelope had another date to be with Cynthia.
As we played, I felt the internal cramp that suggested my bladder was again full. Knowing that I had no other option, I just let it go in the diaper. I considered cleaning myself, but it had seemed yesterday that Psyche really liked that part of the game, so I just left it wet. I was surprised though when she called me over to the bench, lifted my petticoats and stuck a finger beneath the woolen pants.
“You’re wet,” she announced, and I found myself utterly embarrassed: I didn’t know she’d do something like that in public.
“She’s still not trained?” Millicent asked.
Psyche shook her head. “No, her body is slow. I’d better change this.”
Not knowing where she was going with this, I was surprised to find her unpinning the diaper right there. She reached into the oversized handbag she’d carried with her and removed a damp rag, which she used to wipe me down. Then she pulled out another diaper and put it on me, tugged up my woolen pants, smoothed my dress, and swatted me on the rear to send me back to play.
Cynthia, who had seen it all, said, “You still wear a diaper?” Her voice sounded different, as if she had decided that she was more mature than I was because she didn’t.
It took no acting on my part to look sheepish. “Yes,” I admitted.
“Then we need to play house instead,” she said. “You can be the baby.”
For the next hour or so, our dolls were aunts come to visit and Cynthia was my “mother.” She was actually a little bigger than I was, so it didn’t take a lot for her to sit me on her knees and bounce me up and down. It was an enjoyable sensation, but all of the bouncing loosened my tiny bladder once more.
She turned to Psyche. “I think she’s wet again,” she said.
Psyche gave me a look that suggested she thought I was doing this on purpose. “Well,” she said, “I don’t have another diaper for her, so she’ll just have to wait until we get home.”
Cynthia decided that it was the “baby’s” bedtime, so I found myself lying on the grass at her feet while she sang a lullaby. Somehow, the hushed tones and soft grass lulled me, and I actually fell asleep.
I awakened back in our flat.
“How did we get here?” I asked, groggily.
Psyche laughed. “You really were out cold. I carried you back, changed you, and you’ve been sleeping since.”
I felt my diaper; it was soaked. “You said you changed me?”
She nodded. “You’re not wet again?”
It was confusing. Somehow “Penelope” had no control whatsoever over her bladder. It wasn’t a condition I had consciously given her. I morphed back into myself and removed the wet garment.
“Maybe we’d better put a hold on this game until I can figure out why this is happening,” I suggested, but she was having none of it.
“I’ve finally found another woman to have a friendship with,” she said. “I haven’t had one since the Tudor era.”
“Whose fault is that? You haven’t tried to find one since then.”
She frowned. “Well it was hard watching poor Anne end that way. She didn’t deserve it. All she did was love him and give him a child.”
“I know, I know,” I said. Memories of masquerades in the palace mixed with that last, horrible, bloody moment, making me wince.
“Well then you know why this is important to me,” she said, and I did. Thus “Isabella and Penelope” not only joined Millicent and Cynthia for tea at Harrods, but became regular visitors to the park. Sometimes we met them there; other times Psyche would have me join with the “other girls” in whatever games they were playing. I got very, very good at hopscotch. But a strange thing was occurring: it seemed that all of this playtime as the nearly incontinent Penelope was actually affecting my own bladder as well, and I was finding it harder to control my needs even as a grown Eros. Psyche said that maybe I needed to wear diapers all the time; it was a jest at first, but soon it grew into a reality. I started wearing them even as an adult, and even then she insisted on changing them. Quickly, the beribboned Penelope was not the only one of our unusual household whom Psyche was mothering.
I was not worried about all of this. I was a god; I understood what Freud was writing about in Austria and knew that this was all some subconscious desire on my part to relive that lost childhood. And since Psyche was more than willing to help, we played more and more. Gradually, I was spending so much time as the little girl that it was affecting my other duties.
Although people didn’t believe in us gods anymore, somehow I was one of the only ones that they still prayed to. I guess there is always a desire for love in everyone’s lives, and my gold-tipped arrows always got a great workout. Occasionally, someone would even deserve a lead-tipped one, but by this time I reserved these for the worst stalkers and sexual offenders. I had most recently used one in 1888 in Whitechapel on a doctor who had been killing prostitutes there. His heart was particularly black and he only became aroused by the kind of power he knew he could exhibit in dark alleys. I decided that I would punish him by giving him an enormous fear of women in general; hence the lead arrow.
I was still called often though for my gold arrows, but even there I needed to be careful since the humans were not. Sometimes the love they engendered was quite erotic; sometimes it was even illegal. On at least one occasion, it cost a man his life. That was a playwright who wished for a certain young man he lusted after to love him. When they were caught, the playwright was prosecuted for sodomy and died in prison. Even the good arrow could be harmful. But most of the time it was what it had always been: an antidote to unrequited love. And those who addressed me properly in prayer deserved to be helped from this painful condition.
But now I found myself not even listening to the prayers because as Penelope I was simply having too much fun. And it didn’t hurt that Psyche was so aroused by her maternal instincts: our relations had improved in both frequency and power. I began thinking that I would just keep playing the game forever, but the Fates had another thing in mind: Cynthia was growing older and needed other stimuli in her life. Finally, there came a time when she and her mother failed to come to the park, and that was the beginning of the end.
But when I returned at last to granting prayers, I found myself quite as incontinent as the little child I’d been playing. I tried willing my bladder to work properly, but it still did not; something was affecting my power to make that change. Still, I could not ignore the prayers any longer, so I decided to acquiesce to the artwork that had Cupid painted in a diaper. Thus I did my job as a cherub, and when I got home I became Penelope and Psyche was a Mommy again.
Gradually, my bladder control returned and I no longer required the diapers. By then though, I had discovered that the human world now almost uniformly saw me in that unfortunate juvenile state, and I was stuck with it. When I tried to do my work as myself, I found that people didn’t accept me as Eros: their mental image of the diapered cherub overrode the reality of a grown winged archer right in front of them. Eventually, I just gave in and, thoroughly embarrassed, appeared as they expected. I could have retired like most of my Olympian friends, but unlike them, I was still revered. So instead I swallowed my pride and did what I needed to do. There was at least one reward: my sexual experiences with Psyche grew even stronger; she loved being a mommy so much that, after an afternoon spent as a child, I could pretty much count on some very adult lovemaking.
But I had forever destroyed, or at least altered, the view of who I was. No longer the erotically beautiful youth, I was now a babe in diapers. And that’s how things remained, though I never did get used to being seen that way by others besides me and Psyche. And now those images are everywhere. This ridiculous holiday celebrating love (why don’t they celebrate that every day?) has turned baby Cupid into big business. No one even knows the older version anymore; he is just…gone. And it is all because of my own silly game.
Gradually I lost all need or desire to return to the form I’d used for centuries other than for relations with Psyche. But as the 20th Century wore on, even that changed: she added new features to the game in our new apartment in Chicago: more accoutrements of the tiny child that would fill out a modern nursery. And she became known as the young widow with a child. (That’s what she told everyone, and I was beginning to think it was not incorrect: in my normal form, Eros seemed to have ceased to exist.)
I once was Eros, the beautiful son of Venus and Mars. Now I live my life as Penelope and have even given up my duties as Cupid. By this point, even the adult pleasures of lovemaking have slipped away. Psyche just wants to be a mommy, and I’ve almost forgotten what it was like to be a man. I’ve lived permanently as a child for over half a century now, having lost faith in the adult world after two World Wars. Still, every year around Valentine’s Day, I get nostalgic and feel ashamed that I’ve let the world down. But love still exists without me; it finds a way even though the only bow I have these days is the ribbon in my hair.