Friday, January 19, 2018

On the Taxonomy and Vernacular of Human Genitalia (insert scientific-y 'Harumph Harumph' here)

Until just recently, we’ve always referred to genitalia as ‘junk’ when talking with the kids.  it’s not that we don’t think you should talk about genitalia, in fact, through no design of our own, it’s quite the opposite at our house, conversations about junk come up fairly frequently.  It’s just the word junk had a better ring to it.  We’ve also committed the other sex-ed sin of calling vaginas ‘innies’, and penises ‘outies’.  While I’ve heard this can be an issue, for us at any rate, it wasn’t.

When you live with three kids in a variety of 1200, (on average), square foot houses, everyone sees everyone else naked, a lot.  Between grad school, and then moving to San Francisco, our real estate budget has never really allowed for the privacy that might come from spreading out through several rooms, (or sweet merciful heaven), more than one bathroom.

But, even the singular bathroom has been a blessing.  Each kid as soon as they’ve been able to walk has asked to ‘use the potty’ with me.  I have few if any boundary issues, and so was happy for the company.  I like to think that this led to the gang using the toilet earlier, and perhaps better.  We’re not stringent potty trainers, so it’s hard to tell.  

There were a few actual unexpected advantages though.  First, unbeknownst to me, apparently some kids have issues with peeing outside, as well as peeing in front of others.  I was surprised as spit one day to find out that one or kids’ friend’s mom was delighted that on a hike, 1 had simply ducked around a bush to pee instead of dancing and squirming till she found a bathroom.  Said mom had had a hard time convincing her daughter that it was OK to pee outside, and felt that 1 was an excellent role model in this respect!  Who knew!?  

Yet another advantage, 1, our oldest daughter, can pee standing up!  I was as surprised as anyone when I found out during a camping trip.  Early in the morning, then five year old, 1 hopped out of her sleeping bag, unzipped the tent, and headed out.  Since we camp frequently, and 1 can handle herself outdoors, I thought nothing of it.  I figured she was bored.  Nope!  She had to potty.  A minute or two later, I unzipped the tent to go on my own potty run only to find 1 about five yards from the tent, pants around her knees, standing, and peeing on the ground like she’d been doing it all her life!  She looked up when she saw me, said “Hi Dad!” and finished her business as if nothing had happened.

In any event, I’ve digressed.  What about the innie/outie phraseology you might ask?  How did we wind up there in the first place?  Well, what with all the nakedness, at some point each kid makes observations about the different kinds of junk.  Not wanting the kids to grow up gendered, we were careful only to point out one thing, junk is junk.  Some junk points in and some junk points out, but the pee and poop is all the same.  And so it went, some of us had innies, other outies, but it didn’t really matter which.  It all gets the job done.

The innie/outie phraseology even served us during our first little foray into sex ed.  When 2 was on the way, 1 had questions.  How had 2 got into mom's tummy anyway?  How would he get out?   We explained how he was going to exit mom-person’s tummy, and then explained that I'd put him there.  Just to avoid any debacles, we also explained that it was generally unhealthy to put anything inside your junk until your fully grown.  This seemed to ameliorate the situation completely.  

And that was the extent of our discussions until recently when 1 began to ask more and more detailed questions about how exactly 3 had come out of mom-person’s innie, and how she’d come to be inside mom’s womb in the first place.  Yes, I’d put her there, but how?

Seeing that we were about to discuss the entire gamut of the reproductive process, we finally decided it was time to redefine innies and outies as vaginas and penises.  The redefinition came off without a hitch.  Once we’d translated our terms into the accepted terms of biology, polite society, whatever, we moved forward with our conversations about sperm, eggs, labor, and what have you.

Mom-person and I did have one infinitesimal ideological difference.  Mom-person felt it was important for No. 1 to have a book on sex-ed so she could read up as she liked.  I thought a book was OK, (frankly, I thought we could just answer her questions as they came for the next few years), but having seen sex treated as ‘special’, ‘extraordinary’, ‘a gift from God’, and other monikers, I wanted to take our time to find just the right book on sex:  one that treated it in a no-nonsense manner; one that didn’t make it seem strange, of God, or taboo.  We started to look at books, but it turned out we need not have wasted our time.

As Jeff Goldblum’s character, Dr. Ian Malcolm, admonished in Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.”  Mom-person is a professor a our local university.  Consequently, the gang occasionally gets to hang out with her there.  They tend to browse the 4th floor that includes the kids and young adults section that hasn’t been updated since sometime in the late ‘90s.  On one of these visits, a mere week or so after we’d begun our search for the perfect sex book, I received a text, “No. 1 just wondered back with a ummmmm”

“With what?”

“With a sex book.”

Well, that just solved the whole issue didn’t it?  I knew, but hadn’t even considered that the 4th floor of the library in addition to outdated children’s books contains a collection of books for adolescents from the same time period.

As it turned out, 1’s tastes mirrored ours.  She’d chosen a book from the late ‘80s, "It's Perfectly Normal", that while a bit alarmist about HIV by modern standards, and a bit childish, (a bird and a bee narrate some small portions of the book), actually did quite a great job.  It held pretty well to explaining that sex was an activity that was fun between consenting couples, or by one’s self; as well as being a practice that, sometimes, when practiced with a partner could result in babies.  It then went into quite some detail about how conception and labor work.  

The only regrettable omission was that the authors chose to describe a menstrual period as the unused eggs dissolving.  That’s it.  Honest, that’s all they had to say about it.  The overall picture I was left with, (yes I know better), was that once a month, perhaps, a small bit of water containing old eggs would seep away.  So, we’ll have to cover that topic again one day.

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