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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Private and Not-So-Private Parts

A few months ago my three-year-old son, E, and his new sister, N, were bathing together and my son asked: Where is N’s penis? My husband, S, who was in charge of bath that night (YAY!) yells: AAALLLLEEEEXXX.

I have been designated handler-of-all-questions-uncomfortable. (S is slowly getting over E not being an infant anymore. He’s SOOO big is a daily comment.) I come in and S and E repeat the question. I respond: You have a penis and N has a vagina. She does not have a penis. I go on to explain that Daddy is like E and Mama is like N. I don’t elaborate further and E repeats my explanation a few times without any new questions. He points out his newfound knowledge to N and that’s it.

I leave the room with an air of smugness last seen when my son greeted my mom’s friend at our door with Hello. It’s nice to meet you.

I had been thinking about this issue since E discovered his penis. Armed with my feminist theory, philosophy and biology classes, I already knew how I was going to handle the gender, sex, and my body talks:

  1. I wasn’t going to shy away or ignore any question. I wanted him to love and respect his body and I would mirror that by respecting his question.

  1. I wanted to use scientific terms. “Hoo-ha” and “weenie” aren’t human body parts nor are they anything I want associated with my body or my children’s. (I just learned that my sister uses “vah-jay-jay” which had I known that before the talk, I may have been willing to incorporate. It sounds like the cool neighbor in an old-school 70’s sitcom. Who’s at the door? It’s VAH-JAY-JAY!)

  1. I also wanted to emphasize what N HAS, not what she doesn’t have. I’ve read way to much Freud to describe women as a “lack” of anything.

  1. Most importantly, I wanted to move at E’s pace. E doesn’t seem to care who are boys and who are girls so I have yet to comment on “appropriate” pronouns and gender definitions. Anyway, as any VERY liberal-arts student will tell you, gender definitions are best left fluid.

And the talk in the bathroom went just like I wanted it.

Until last week. E totally blindsided me.

I’m leaning over a bit while wearing appropriate breast-feeding attire. E points and asks: What’s that? Now I look down and say hopefully: Those are my breasts. He says: NO. What’s that? And points his finger clearly between my breasts. I start panicking. Is there a scientific word for cleavage? Is there a feminist word for cleavage? Why is my three-year-old noticing cleavage?

Well, (I pause trying to buy time. But I can’t ignore his question -- That’s Rule #1!) It’s where my breasts meet... Like they are friends getting together for coffee. Maybe I can call it Starbucks.

What IS it? he insists. I look left. I look right. I use Jedi mind-tricks to force my cats to appear and actually let him pet them. And he just looks from me to my chest. So I tell him. I give him the word that every heterosexual male has come to love. It’s called cleavage E. And my feminist, scientific, and mommy selves DIE.

The next day he asks again.

I can’t wait for him to point it out on his teachers.

PS. My husband was leaning over without a shirt on and E pointed to a SKIN roll (NOT a fat roll) and says: Beavage! Which I guess is breast plus cleavage. Or right around the time Child Protective Services calls.

This post is written by Alex Iwashyna, a happily married (seriously!) mom with a BA in Philosophy and a Medical Degree and the drive to become neither. She is hopefully this writing thing will pan out. Follow her rants on twitter.com/failebg but be prepared for baby poop and liberal bias.



3 comments :

  1. Heheheh..."it's called skin, now go away."

    ReplyDelete
  2. I loved reading this! I know that I have had some moments with my son, and reading your post was a walk down memory lane! :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. it's been several months since i've seen cleavage. good riddance 2009.

    ReplyDelete

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