I love and hate the same thing about the internet: How easy it is to share information/misinformation. You know those quotes from Abraham Lincoln about loving aliens? Misinformation. But this series about women’s health and sex from Laci Green? Excellent information.
I’m a grown woman, and I’ve learned some things from her*. Since I saw this video today, and since I learned something about the hymen, I thought I’d share it in case anyone else needed the info.
This is something I need to remember to share with my son (or have B share with him), when he’s old enough/showing enough interest that the conversation is appropriate. The more we all know about how our respective parts work, the better life will be for everyone.
*I purposefully made a low grade in my high school “health” class, and actively avoided paying attention because I was afraid the teacher would think I was a trollop if I did well, or seemed too interested. How sad is that? Then, I started taking Human Sexuality in college, right as I became a religious zealot. I decided it was unseemly to do well in that class, so I only learned enough to make a middling grade, and skipped all the classes about The Act.
I’m an old lady now, and I am telling you, “You need to know this stuff because it’s as normal, and as important as knowing about nutrition. Knowing the mechanics of your body/your gender opposite’s body is important. There is nothing dirty, or bad, or shameful about it. Just be responsible when putting any sort of sexual knowledge into practice. Like Proverbs says, get wisdom AND understanding. And use lube.” That last bit isn’t in Proverbs. That’s in Song of Solomon.
While we were on vacation, we had a really wonderful thing happen. We were out at the beach on Okaloosa Island, when a pod of dolphins came fishing. B and I saw them from the shore, while Thor was building sandcastles, and they disappeared before he got a good look. About ten minutes later, when he and I were in the water, the dolphins came back. We were close enough to them that we could see their eyes.
They were swimming in their fishing circles, and I don’t know how long we stayed out there just bobbing and watching. It took me back to Madeleine L’Engle and A Ring of Endless Light. That, and The Jungle were two books that radically changed my thinking in high school. I would never again enjoy sausage, and I would never again enjoy a dolphin show without guilt.
I read about the Blackfish documentary a couple of years back, but never watched the movie until tonight. You know that scene in Dumbo, where Dumbo’s mom is jailed for trying to protect Dumbo, and she sings Baby Mine to him? So, I break down every time I see that. A good half of Blackfish is dedicated to painting a picture of what life in the wild is like for an Orca, how close the family unit is, and how strong the bond is between mother and calf (the calves never leave their pods, and always stay close to their mothers. I can identify with that.)
I had a complete meltdown when they showed where the wild babies, now in captivity, come from. And I cried up my glasses when they showed how the captive mothers cried and keened after their babies (born in captivity) were taken from them.
These aren’t goldfish. These are extremely intelligent, emotional animals–like us. And here’s what we do to them:
- We separate them from their families when they are the equivalent of pre-schoolers (females live up to 100 years in the wild, and males up to 50. we are separating calves from their mothers at age 4. Imagine being separated from your mother at age 4, and being forced to perform in shows for the rest of your life. Basically, you turn into Lindsay Lohan, or Dana Plato, or Anissa Jones–either way, it doesn’t end well for you.)
- We pen them up in what would be the equivalent of a toddler pool to us. So imagine that you can never walk more than 10 feet in a straight line before you have to turn a hairpin curve to head in the other direction. Imagine that is your life. Imagine that your physiology requires that you keep moving, so you have to just walk in these long ovals all day. All day long, you walk in ovals. All your life. Over, and over, and over, and that’s all you can do. You walk in ovals, and people stare at you, scream at you, beat on your walls, take pictures of you, and force you to perform.
- We place them in solitary confinement–these social creatures who are wired to exist in complex societies, who thrive on contact, who need each other, we place in solitary confinement.
- We make them perform. We make them dance. Now imagine that you only got fed if you did tricks. Imagine what that would do to your brain. You only get attention, love, food, or comfort if you do tricks. You are four years old. You are separated from your mom. And you only get love, comfort, and food when you do tricks. If you misbehave, you are locked in a tiny room by yourself, in the dark.
By we, I mean Seaworld.
In calling Seaworld us, I mean that they wouldn’t exist if we weren’t making it profitable for them to abuse animals.
And here, I wonder just how much of a hypocrite I am because we’ve been taking Thor to zoos and aquariums since he was old enough to start screaming at the sight of unfamiliar animals*. I’ve elbowed my way through crowds to get Thor a good seat for the dolphin show at the Corpus Christi Aquarium. When we accidentally came up on a tiger show at the Houston aquarium (why are there tigers at an aquarium?) we sat and watched. We checked out the shark tank at the Golden Nugget hotel the same as all the other Vegas goers. So where is the line?
I don’t know. All I am sure of is this: We are not a Seaworld family.
We will not pay to watch kidnapped babies as they are forced to perform.
Thor can see all the whales he wants on the internet, and maybe one day we’ll be fortunate enough to see some in the wild.
You can watch the Blackfish documentary here, for $2.99. I highly recommend it. I especially recommend it if you have children who are asking to go to Seaworld. Mine asks. I’ve been saying no for nearly a decade now. After having seen Blackfish, I will be saying it with more feeling.
*Actually, the only time he ever did that was when I took him into a pet store at 9 months, to let him look at puppies. He was fine, fine, fine, then he saw a bulldog puppy and went insane. Something clicked and he started screaming like I’d rolled his stroller up to a murder scene. Otherwise, his general reaction was usually somber interest, save for that one time in Colorado, when he kept declaring, “I do NOT LIKE-a those BEARS! I do NOT LIKE-a those GIRAFFES/MONKEYS/BIRDS/SNAKES/TIGERS!” He hated that zoo to bits.
Back before I had children, way back before I had a husband at all, one of my friends and I had a good, smug, derisive laugh at her sister, who wouldn’t let her take her elementary aged nephew anywhere because she was afraid of public restrooms. That is, she was afraid of sending her son into a public restroom by himself, and she didn’t want anyone else taking him into the ladies room, so he couldn’t go anywhere without her. I mean, come on. What was going to happen in a restroom? Was she afraid the kid was going to get lost in there?
I have an elementary aged child, and I can answer that question now. The answer is, “Sometimes!”
Not anymore. When he was a Kindergartener, yes. But by the time he four, I felt confident he would be a) savvy enough to figure his way around a mensroom, and b) strong enough to open the door to get out of one. That last one is a big deal. You send your little guy into one bathroom somewhere, and find out ten minutes later (when you go in looking for him) that he just wasn’t strong enough to get the door open, and you think twice about the logistics of personal needs.
When he was seven, I started letting him go to the restroom alone in restaurants. I sat where I could see the restroom door, keep an eye on who was coming and going, and watch to see if anyone was struggling to get out. The first few times, I worried. What if Pedobear was waiting inside for him? What if someone was waiting inside to Pedobear him? What if someone grabbed him and ran off with him? What if Pedobear? Did I mention my fear of Pedobear?
It was no big deal if we were with B. B could go into the mensroom with him. But if it was just the two of us, I couldn’t, so I just had to start sawing on that apron string and let it begin to fray away.
The bigger problem became what to do with him if I needed to use the restroom while we were out in public. I couldn’t just leave the kid standing out in the hall at the outlet mall, or leave him hanging around the water fountains at the theater, could I? So, I always dragged him into the ladies room with me.
To his great credit, though he would always protest quietly, he never made a scene. He would just sigh and try to lean his forehead against the stall door while I howled, “Don’t put your face on that! Noooo!”
At some point, you have to quit doing things that make you comfortable to avoid doing things that humiliate them. He’s gotten to an age that it would be an extreme embarrassment to be seen heading into a ladiesroom with his mother. He is also old enough to alert the world if Pedobear is waiting in the restroom (and has been drilled on exactly what to do.) So, I have sawed on that apron string a little more.
The past few times we’ve been anywhere, I have practiced sending him into the appropriate restroom, while I go into my own. Then, I move like lightning to get out quickly. And, I have practiced letting him stay at the restaurant table, or (and my heart was in my throat the whole time) in the movie theater seat, while I go to the restroom myself. (I also let him run off to the playground behind the school with two other boys, today. Not a parent in sight for at least twenty minutes, until I’d finished inside the building.)
You know what has happened? Nothing. I say, “You go use your restroom, and if you come out first, wait right in this spot.” He says, “Okay.” And that’s that.
When I was his age, I did a lot more alone than he’s ever done. I have to give him credit for being at least as wily as I was at 9, which was pretty slick. I realize that I will never be comfortable taking off parental training wheels. My first concern is always going to be for the potential broken limbs, not the delight of popping wheelies on your bike. I know the agony and joy of both firsthand–I just have to remember not to deny my son the experience of the one, for fear of the other.
I feel like we are doing a pretty good job teaching him how to make it through life without falling into the gutters, but if we never take the bumpers off, he’ll never know he can really do it. And by the time I have to send him off to college, I want him to have already learned to trust his own instincts, and be secure in the knowledge that we trust him because I believe that can be the difference between life and death in certain situations. I know it was for me.
So, yeah, Sister of My Friend, I’m sorry I laughed at you. Public Restrooms are a big deal, and since Adam Walsh, public in general has been terrifying for parents.
And Mothers-of-Boys-at-Whom-I-Used-to-Scowl-When-You-Brought-Your-Elementary-Aged-Children-Into-Dressing-Rooms, I apologize to you, too. Because wtf were you supposed to do with them? of COURSE you bring them in with you.
That’s the other thing! Gendered areas make parenting hard! You know why I love Old Navy? Fitting Rooms is Fitting Rooms. You go in the same door everyone else does, you shut yourself up in your little closet area, and you try on your clothes. I take my kid in with me, and no one crunches up like she’s afraid changing clothes within 20 feet of a penis is going to cause her bodily harm.
It’s usually moms taking the kids shopping anyway, and while you may be able to trust that your child is all right in a men’s dressing room by himself, you cannot trust that he is actually trying on the clothes, and not just trying out super cool spy poses in the dressing room mirror. And what about dads? If it’s hard for a mom to take a boy into a gendered area, how horrifying an ordeal is it for a father whose tiny girl needs to use the restroom? Does he go into the ladies with her? Or does he introduce her to the joys of the urinal?
I love Family Restrooms. I love Old Navy. I think we should just open up toilets and changing areas to unisex, and be done with it. Perverts are going to perv whether the restrooms are gendered, or not. But little kids have to pee, and really little ones need help. If not for the sake of the parents, lets make life easier on the kiddos.
I meet a lot of different people on a daily basis, and I have a lot of opportunity to reflect on choices, and consequences, and I think a lot about how our beginnings inform our middles and ends. I was extremely fortunate to have parents who thought my well being was important. I was extremely fortunate to have grandparents who thought the same. I had the good fortune to be surrounded by adults, who all did their best by me, and it’s made it possible for me to do even better for my child.
I’ve come to a point in my life where I don’t even want to qualify any of those statements. I just want to say them. All my grown people did the very best they could for me, with what they had. They all loved me. They all cared for me. They all tried their best to make sure I would have a life that was easier than theirs. And they accomplished that.
I miss Walter Cronkite.
#Ferguson, #ISIS, #Gaza…those would all be better served by a journalist who took his job more seriously than clicks, and who delivered a news that allowed you to form your own opinion, rather than issuing you one.
Although, I might miss Walter Cronkite because I used to think he and Captain Kangaroo were the same person, and I loved Captain Kangaroo. He was friends with Mr. Greenjeans, who was the coolest.
B and I started watching Wilfred, the Elijah Wood tv dramedy, and it’s pretty great. If you like existential humor, and off-kilter psycho-comedies, you’ll enjoy it.
Now I’m going to bed.