Her Bad Mother

Friday, October 26, 2007

V Is For Vulva (That's Good Enough For Me)

I've always cringed at references to women's parts that invoke floral imagery. 'The soft petals of her womanhood,' 'she opened to him like a flower' - ew, ew, ew and ick. They're lazy, these tired botanical tropes, these limp figures of speech that call upon a weak association between the softer, gentler, prettier elements of nature and womanhood. They're lazy, because they derive whatever resonance they carry from our deeply ingrained assumptions about the delicacy of women and the fragile passivity of their sexuality. Feminine sexuality, when compared to flowers, is characterized as a thing of beauty that stands nobly and quietly while the more aggressive forces of nature penetrate and draw upon their sweet liquids, the better to expand nature's bounty. It paints woman as passive participant in the sexual act, where that participation amounts only to accepting the invasive ingression upon her core. It's stupid, in my books.

So it is that it has always been my intention - regardless of the difficulties I might face in forcing myself to use the correct terms, with a straight and unflushed face - to avoid euphemism in discussions of body parts with my child. And in particular, to avoid cheesy or lazy or icky euphemisms. Like "flower."

What, then, am I supposed to do when Baby Einstein starts putting Freudian interpretations of Georgia O'Keeffe in their toddler board books? How does one avoid vulva-flower associations when one stares you in face at storytime?

Whassat Mommy?

It's a flower, sweetie.

Whassat say Mommy?

It says "hot," sweetie.

Why flower hot, Mommy?


Georgia O'Keeffe, of course, rejected Freudian readings of her work, even when it was her own husband promoting such readings. So I'm guessing that a layout of her work that sets Red Canna alongside some kind of abbreviated erotic haiku would have bugged her more than it bugs me. But then again, she wouldn't have been confronting said layout during storytime with her toddler.

Some day, of course, I look forward to thumbing through art books and visiting galleries with Wonderbaby and talking about all the wonderfully different ways one can read art. I just hadn't expected to be confronted with a graduate-level case study before she turned two. Well, sweetie, Steiglitz and others saw in O'Keeffe's work an erotic study of the vulva - that's the outer part of your sexual organs, honeybear - but O'Keeffe insisted that a flower was a flower was a flower, implying that female sexuality was more robust than any flower. Then, what? I bust out my best Muppet imitation and we sing "V is for vulva, that's good enough for me? Oh, vulva, vulva, vulva starts with V!"? It just doesn't feel quite right to be jumping into the finer points of eros vs. thanatos in art and analysis of artistic and literary interpretations of female sexuality before the child has mastered the potty.

Or is this what they call a teaching moment, and I'm just not seeing the pedagogical garden for the vulvic lilies?


Today's the last day to post your kids' artwork for the Wonderbaby Artstravaganza Crayola Giveaway. Freudian or Post-Freudian interpretations of said art optional. Wonderbaby will draw a winner tomorrow (so get your link to me sometime before dawn tomorrow, EST), and we'll announce Sunday.


More evidence than my mind is in the gutter (better than head in the toilet: we're nearly twelve hours clear on that count, touch wood), as if you needed it: pondering Beckham's putative manliness (and inarguably stellar - if awkwardly displayed - butt cheeks); wondering what got into Heidi Klum that she had to discuss her husband's dick size on Oprah; wondering why Sarah Jessica Parker's spectacular boobs couldn't keep her off Maxim's evil unsexy list.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Running Off At The Mouth

I have been known to curse. I have been known to curse a lot. But I curse only under very strictly controlled circumstances, which is to say, only in the company of close friends and/or in situations where the cursing will be received as the colourful flourish of language that it is meant to be and not taken in offense. This, I know, sort of defeats the purpose of cursing, but still. It's cursing.

I like cursing, when it is skilfully deployed. Cursing that issues from poor language skills and a want of vocabulary is not interesting to me. I like creative cursing, cursing that adds colour, cursing that makes a point. I like the cursing of dirty-minded old professors and grannies who like to shock. More than this, I like the cursing of pre-pubescent boys, of children who are just learning that there is a world of language beyond the polite language that is encouraged at home and in schoolrooms, a world of language that is dark and dirty and forbidden and thrilling beyond measure. I like the delicious thrill of using such forbidden words, of lacing a statement with unexpected threads, with vowels and consonants that - when put together just so - shock.

I could offer all variety of academic defense for this taste - the greatest comic poet in Western history, Aristophanes, was a master of the profane, of the extraordinarily profane; the second greatest comic poet, Shakespeare, was a skilled practitioner - but at the end of the day, it comes down to this, I think: that part of my soul which responds to comedy is inhabited almost entirely by the spirit of a twelve-year old boy, a youth who leaves his home each morning well-scrubbed and well-schooled in his manners but who spends his time between schoolroom and home scrambling up trees and tearing holes in the knees of his trousers and sharing dirty jokes and dirty stories and using filthy language with his friends before returning home to his parents in dire need of a hot bath and perhaps a soapy scrub-out of the mouth.

This boy is well-disciplined: he knows when to hold his tongue and he knows that the joy of cursing and the thrill of dirty stories are directly proportionate to the discipline with which language and comportment are otherwise held. That's what makes the cursing fun, what makes it exciting: the contrast between it and the larger share of his developing verbal skill. He plays word games with the words that are forbidden, in the recesses and lunch-breaks of his day-to-day discourse. He passes notes when he get away with it; dirty puns scratched out in crumpled paper and passed covertly to comrades-in-arms, ever careful to not let anyone see or hear who shouldn't see or hear. It's a secret language, a fun language, the language of play. He never swears in front of teachers or authority figures or anyone with delicate ears. And never, ever in front of small children.

Never, that is, unless he's caught in a maelstrom of hormones and loses hold of the discipline that otherwise serves him so well. The hormones catch him up and he loses control, gets caught. The hormones do it; hormones of the sort that plague pubescent children, and pregnant women.

I am ordinarily so well-disciplined when it comes to cursing that you could get me stone drunk and, if there were anyone at the table who I felt should not hear me curse, not a single profanity would issue from my lips. Not a single one. Now, the tiniest surge of hormones and the slightest provocation and I'm cursing like a trucker in front of my toddler:

Spoon hurled from toddler seat: SHIT.

Macaroni hurled from toddler seat: OH SHIT.

Banana hurled from toddler seat: GODDAMN IT.

Masticated bananas hurled from toddler mouth, after toddler gags self with spoon: F*CK (while running off to toilet to retch.)

My husband gets cross. You shouldn't swear in front of her, he says. She's listening to you.

I KNOW she's listening, goddamnit! I say. I KNOW I shouldn't swear. I KNOW. SORRY! GAWD! (stomp off to retch in toilet.)

I know she's listening, because she laughs. She knows good cursing when she hears it; she knows that Mommy's not supposed to be saying those things; she knows that this is all somehow forbidden in the very best, most delicious way. Sometimes, now, when I'm just at the end of my rope, she'll look me in the eye and hold her juice cup out in front of her and then - still looking me in the eye - tip it over, dumping the contents on the floor, and say OH SHIT.

Then she says, uh-oh, made MESS, paper towel peeeease. SOWWY! GAWD!

(Then, crouching on the floor with her paper towel, because, no, I am not above letting my daughter scrub the floor if she asks: cleeeeean up! cleeeeean up! in a cheery sing-song voice. It's a lot twisted, I know.)

I think that it's a sort of Pregnancy Tourette's Syndrome. It's not that I'm wandering around blurting random profanity; it's that I've lost all control of my emotions and and have completely lost place of my censor button. I never know when I'm going to burst into tears or giggle inappropriately, and I certainly don't know when I am going to respond to some real or imagined disaster of any real or imagined magnitude (toddler hurling banana, me spilling tea, Blogger losing my post, cat meowing too loudly) with a staccato round of curses: shitdamndamnshit!

I don't want to do this; I really don't. I want Wonderbaby's exposure to cursing to be limited, so that she can come to know it for what it is, a forbidden language, one that you only get to play with once you've grown up and proven yourself able in the practice of bidden language. I don't want her to understand curses as adjectives that serve any purpose, anywhere, anytime; I don't want her ears to become to dulled to their edge.

But at the moment, I don't know how to curb my profanity, how to stop running off at the mouth, how to get my emotions back in check, how to regain control.

Short of duct-taping my mouth shut - which would, I'm guessing, only aggravate the nausea and vomiting - what can I do? And, is it just me?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Monday Sucks

You know what sucks? More than Monday? More than all-day all-night morning sickness and the flu combined? More than all-day all-night morning sickness and flu combined and insomnia and a house cluttered up with boxes and piles of wet laundry on a Monday? Finally feeling up for a good bout of writing and crafting an epic post that actually involves thoughts and ideas instead of incessant whining and then losing three-quarters of that post because Blogger decides against all evidence to the contrary that you are not logged in so that when you hit Publish it just drops everything and opens the log-in page having not saved a thing for the last hour. Just in time for the nausea to come back and drive you to the toilet so that you can retch and retch and retch and imagine that you're retching and flushing the only reasonably thoughtful words that you have produced and likely will produce in weeks.


I'm going back to bed. Wake me up when the world doesn't suck so much.