Raising Richmond: Baby Bits

A grown woman comes to terms with the terms that we use to describe our …um…you know…STUFF! So, what do YOU call your genitalia? And what (perhaps silly) names do you teach your children to use?

“Mmmm. I want to touch your ding-dong,” I said, in a sultry purr.

“What did you say?” he asked, after an initial burst of laughter.

Was there another way to say it? I tried again.

“I want to stroke your wiener,” I breathed, really upping the Marilyn Monroe factor in my voice.

“God, It’s like being seduced by a five-year-old,” he said, and rolled over.

But I wasn’t five. I was 19. And a married woman.

— ∮∮∮ —

I grew up in a conservative Catholic household. At least for part of my childhood. I mean, it was always the same household, but we dabbled in things. Like deities.

Anyway, in our house, the proper names for genitals were on par with curse words and, for some reason, the phrase “Shut up*”. In short: penises were not penises, vaginas were not vaginas, and god knows breasts were not breasts. My brother and father had wieners or ding-dongs, my mom and I had oossies** and boobs. It’s not like we sat around talking about any of these things. If anything we all pretended we were NOT anatomically correct but, you know, from time to time, you have to ask your mom about the bump on your oossie.

Of course I took sex ed in sixth grade at my public school, and it was horrifying for me. I mean, even horrifyinger than it was for everyone else. It was like my lovely Home Ec. teacher stood in front of the class every day for two weeks and developed a horrible case of sailor mouth, discussing things that, I thought, frankly, a lady should never mention. And she said these things like they were no big deal! I couldn’t look her in the eye when, just an hour later, she tried to help me fix the stitches in my needlepoint pillow project.

Cut back to me, 19-years-old and two days married, attempting to enamour my new husband with ridiculous, childish euphemisms for our adult parts.

It was years before I became comfortable with the correct anatomical terms for genitals. In fact, I went through two pregnancies blushing every time my doctor would try to explain what was happening with my body.

“My WHAT will swell? Well, I never!”

When it came time for my children to start poking their own innies and outties (bath time and diaper changes were especially educational!), I knew I had to equip them with language that would facilitate communication, rather than inhibit it. I wanted my daughter and son to be able to clearly state what part hurt, felt funny, or was touched, whether it be to me or another responsible adult.

There is power in knowing your body and, as we move through the world, that power is essential to having a healthy relationship with our physical selves. Aren’t you more likely to feed, care for, and demand respect for something that hasn’t been reduced to childish pee-pee talk?

Sure, it can cause embarrassment when a child first learns that exclaiming “My penis is cold!” in the middle of the mall gets giggles from adults and “That lady has big breasts!” is super fun to yell in a quiet (and echo-y) library, but that’s a small price to pay for them feeling empowered, rather than embarrassed, by their knowledge and vocabulary.

Besides, honestly, how much more humiliating is “penis” than “ding-dong”?

While it’s still weirdypants to hear one of my teens say “penis”, “vagina”, “breast”, or any of the various parts of, or near, each (ever overheard your widdle baby snookums mention his testicles? It’s unnerving, to say the least), it feels good to know that they’ll never have to suffer the shame of seducing with words straight from Sesame Street.

If you’ve ever met me, or read anything I’ve written, you know that, eventually, I learned plenty of colorful words for private parts, but the classics, the biologically correct terms, straight from the textbooks, are my favorites. After all, penis jokes slay.

— ∮∮∮ —

* To this day, when spending time with our parents, my brother and I have to say “SU”, instead

** Pronounced like “Lucys” and, thirty years later, I’m only realizing this was probably a cutesie version of a very grownup word that is not at all appropriate for children.

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The Checkout Girl

The Checkout Girl is Jennifer Lemons. She’s a storyteller, comedian, and musician. If you don’t see her sitting behind her laptop, check the streets of Richmond for a dark-haired girl with a big smile running very, very slowly.

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