A few nights ago, I arrived home from rehearsal like a walking zombie (due to a previous late night youtube marathon of My Big Fat Gypsy's Wedding). Ms V was wide awake still, having decided to wait up for me. I sat on her bed and she blurted a question she had clearly been deeply ruminating in my absence:
"What is this???" (points to her bellybutton)
Her angelic sincerity snapped me out of my lethargy. I impishly tired to convince her that the bellybuttons sole reason for existence was to make that trumpet sound when someone blows on it (I demonstrated). She protested my claim amidst much giggling, but her perceptiveness couldn't hold out to my insistence, especially as I had shown that neither the elbow, cheek, or shoulder were adequate places to make said trumpet sound. And when she tried it on me, she could find no tangible fault with my irrational argument.
I could not bring myself to leave her so deluded and eventually admitted my treachery then gave a brief lesson on the true purpose behind the bellybutton, using her doll and a lamp plugged into the wall as props. Unexpectedly the conversation turned; Never play with a child's imagination, unless you're in the mood for a trip:
"I wish I could see a woman with a woman or a man with a man; oh, I wish I could see how that looks like!"
(Uhmmmmmm, Pardon the Fuck?) "What? Why??"
"Mukaka says they are there! Like in America or what.....I just want to see how they get a baby....or what....."
We had, a couple of months ago, been forced (thank you much progressive parenting 101) to honestly respond to Ms V's classic "where do babies come from?" question with a brief synopsis of the biology behind procreation; we smartly used the broader example of the entire animal kingdom to keep things safely scientific (frankly, one would expect trying to imagine ostriches, giraffes, and lizards making babies would be overwhelming enough that there wouldn't be the time or imagination left to ponder same sex coupling-bah!). Apparently Ms V's imagination had used these scientific basics as a diving board into the deep dark depths of Adult Content!
I still felt myself in somewhat familiar territory. When I was her age there was a couple who lived across the street from us; a gay couple. I used to sit in my living room and keep watch at the window hoping for a glimpse of the fabled pair. Once during my vigil I "caught" them in an intimate moment: they were both outside trying to change the bulb on a floodlight at the side of the house. One man climbed a short ladder to reach it, and the other reached up and put his hands around his partners waist to brace him (to protect him). I felt I'd caught a glimpse of exactly what I'd been looking for: evidence that, despite the negative connotation when the gay couple was ever mentioned in the neighborhood, there was nothing at all negative or mysterious about them. They were good; they were right; they were Love. This notion was amplified by the contradicting fact that the rest of the neighborhood, including my home, held dysfunctional, lonesome, and sometimes violent families in which Love was a barely contrived facade.
In any case, wherever my curiosity led, from the lofty ideals of universal romance to the more carnal realms of Danielle Steel imagery (I was a young and avid reader) I had the prudishness, fear, and wherewithal to keep my musings to myself; the Little One has no such filters:
"I also want to know how they put their cho-chos (vagina) together, or..... what. And they have like holes-?"
"Vannesa!! Where did you get these ideas from?!"
"Eh! But you said I should tell you all what's on my mind!"
"Ah, yesss," (damn you psychobabble degree) "but who told you all these things? Why are you even thinking of them?"
"Uhmm, I think television or something." (we don't have a t.v-hmph!) "So do you have a hole in your cho-cho?"
"Oh for Gods sake!" (For FUCKS SAKE!!)
I then launched into a Progressive Parent 101 spiel which supported her right and desire to be curious, affirmed my commitment to be honest and open with her, and redirected all such detailed-oriented questioning for when she will be old enough to understand the answers. (Whew!)
|ARTEMIS (DIANA) OF EPHESUS|
Ms. V also has a running joke (that only she finds amusing) that slightly varies each time but basically involves my acquiring (sometimes at through her direct effort) an extra set of "buttocks", one or two extra sets of "bleasts", and (of course) a spare "cho-cho". Sometimes though, she is the one (usually by taking mine) who gets a secondary set of female fertility organs (Yes, in Africa this most definitely includes the buttocks!). She will choose the most innocuous conversations to intercept with this imagery, and will giggle adoringly at her fantasy. At which point I thank God for my highly pretentious academic background which is steeped in the social sciences. In these instances, images of ancient (and not so ancient, depending on the source) fertility God and Goddess statues come to mind; the classic Greek tragic hero, Oedipus also occurs to me (but that's probably my psychobabble training reminding me of Freud's say in such matters). In the end, though, my daughters "joke" seems more a ritual in which she uses these images to substitute our bodies having never been joined in organic creation; in mother-daughter coupling (a thing, I'm afraid, dear Freud would never have been able to understand).
Lucky for me, I do. My daughter is my muse, and I use her stories, her words, her ways of seeing the world to guide me on my path as a storyteller; it is an odd thing to do; though she does not fully understand this ritual of mine, she accepts that it is my way of learning her, knowing her, and thus knowing myself. It warms me to think that this ritual she has developed, of amplifying my femininity and then (rightly) claiming it for herself, is her way of learning me, knowing me, and thus knowing herself......
Or maybe she thinks she's gay. Either way, works for me.