While Lily was lying on the changing table recently, she lightly patted herself “down there” and said, “That’s my poopie.”
And, well, you know. I’m an educated woman who’s seen “The Vagina Monologues” and everything. So I said, after a short, unthinking pause, “No, that’s your vagina.”
“Jine-ah?” Lily asked, and I repeated the word for her, swallowing back my own residual discomfort with the lexicon of female genitalia. Years and years of feeling ashamed, or just plain unaware, of the ins and outs (so to speak) of your own body don’t simply vanish by way of experiencing feminist plays and essays, after all.
As if to hit this point home even more, I realized after-the-fact that what Lily had been patting, of course, was in fact her labia, not her vagina (patting an internal cavity would indeed be difficult). So despite my intentions to be frank and unashamed about female anatomy from the start with Lily, our first-ever exchange on the topic was a humbling lesson in my own reflexive ignorance.
I’ve vowed to do better, both for Lily and for me. I’ve promised myself to have the words, the accurate, shame-free words, to equip her to know the geography of her own body in a healthy way. Yes, she may, as she grows into an adult, use the silly nicknames like “coochie” and “va-jay-jay,” but as long as she knows the real terms, and feels comfortable with her physical self, I’ll have done my job well – or adequately, I guess.
Yes, I’m disappointed that I kind of botched this inaugural test with Lily. But I’m proud that I at least spoke up, thus working against years and years of repression. It was a positive first step – even if I didn’t get the words quite right.
If only Lily could read my blog. I’m always so much better on “paper,” virtual or otherwise.