Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Anatomy 101

I have boys. Boys have penises. Boys love their penises. For that matter, men love their penises too.

I recall a time in seventh grade math class (It was dummy math since I am the only Indian in the world who is bad at math and science.) when this kid J.T. was called to the blackboard to solve an equation. The teacher kept calling J.T.'s name, but J.T. just sat and sat and sat with a startled stare in his eyes that made me think he had made it all the way through sixth grade without knowing English. This would explain why J.T. was never in my other classes, which were at a much higher level than the math I was demeaned to take because the understanding-of-the-basic-concept-of-empirical-value gene skipped me in a rare genetic mutation. After a few very uncomfortable moments, J.T. arose. In light of something else that arose, said moment was exponentially more uncomfortable. J.T. scrambled to untuck his kelly green Polo shirt (upturned collar, of course, it was 1981) from his baggy Duck Head khakis. He hobbled up to the board and proceeded to fumble his way through the problem. I can still vividly remember seeing him try to steady the chalk in his quivering hand, face abashedly crimson.

At the time, I had no idea why the room was suddenly filled with a din of snickering. My parents neglected to explain any birds and bees details to me so I had no concept of boys' bodies, or of my own for that matter. After class, my dear friend Cat explained the gory details to me. Her mom worked for an Ob/Gyn so she had the benefit of candor and honesty in place of the shame and the if-you-don't-talk-about-it-it-isn't-real mentality I faced at home. Come to think of it, I learned an awful lot from Cat.

So now when my boys inquire about their penises, I think of J.T. and how clueless I was. I'm trying to equip them with as much information and honesty as their 4 and 2-year old minds can handle. For starters, we call "it" a penis. Not a willy. Not a wee wee. Not a johnson. We call an arm an arm so why should private body parts be any different? When Bird first learned that girls don't have penises, he would randomly go up to girls at the playground and inform them that, "You don't have a penis because you are not a boy." To him it was no different than saying "Today we had waffles for breakfast." Just a fact with no baggage or editorial attached to it.

Now the questions are becoming a bit more challenging. For instance:

"Is a girl's penis thing just behind all the hair?"

"Why is my penis up sometimes? Why won't it go down?"

"Why can't I play with my penis on the couch?"

"What do girls pee out of?"

My answers:

"No, girls don't have penises."

"Because sometimes it feels good and happy. If you let go of it, it will eventually go back down."

"Because that's private. And it's rude to have your hand down your pants. Now go wash your hands."

"A vagina."

Then I change the subject or leave the room. Perhaps I'm not ready to be as thorough as Cat's mom was. But it's an improvement. And for the record, Mac Daddy never gets these questions. He is far better equipped to answer them, no?

This post is dedicated to my niece, Nic, who has a 3-year old boy who loves his penis.
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Anonymous said...

I can sympathize being the only female in the house. I totally agree though, it should be called a penis just like you call an arm and arm.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ilina, I too have told him from the beginning that it is a penis. That much I can handle. Chad doesn't get those questions either and I don't know what he would tell him so I am happy he comes to me. Chad would tell him the list of funny terms, berry and twigs, man junk, oh there are more. Thanks.