I wonder if innocence ends faster in this internet world. Every question a young person asks is at their fingertips.
Unlike years ago when you relied on family, friends, and your librarian.
Of course if you were like me, you didn’t know what you needed to ask. I’ve talked before about how my life was spent in the dream story world and how naive I used to be. But sometimes I don’t think people realize just how seriously out of touch with not only the world, but with myself, I actually was. That story world was more real to me than the life around me. I actually don’t know how I functioned, but I must have been one weird kid.
I remember a friend telling me how clueless her little sister was about anatomy. She said ‘she didn’t even know women have three holes! I told her one for pee, one for poo, and one for the man and baby!’ I laughed right along with her, shaking my head at her sister’s cluelessness. But inside I remember thinking, a little shocked, three holes? Really?
I was around seventeen at the time.
I remember during one menstrual cycle becoming so frustrated with feminine napkins. (Hope this doesn’t offend or embarrass anyone.) But my cycles were like a whitewater river in full flood. Hit all at once, storm through the channel taking trees and boulders, houses, and cars, and then just as fast, over. We’re talking overnight pads, doubled up. I used to be mortified buying those big boxes wondering what in the world people used those tiny little panty liners for. Were there women who just daintily dripped?
So that day of frustration I called my younger sister. How do you use tampons? Do they work? What happens if they get sucked inside? Do they float their way upward and come out your nose? I was embarrassed because mom raised us to know only certain types of girls used tampons and they were the kind found under football bleachers smoking cigarettes. My sister explained tampons, without laughing. I believe I was married at the time. In my mid-thirties.
The younger sister and I used to get together and play cards. One time she went off to change diapers on her second, and tossed a new deck of cards in my lap. The backs of the cards were photos of naked men. Wow. So that’s what all the fuss is about. How do they run? Mid-twenties.
You never know how ignorant or oblivious you are until you gain knowledge. So I can’t be blamed for not knowing what to ask. But I can be blamed for not knowing my own body. For being ashamed of the feminine form.
Even back then I was envious of those I perceived as strong women. My sisters; all three of them. One in particular even had the courage to talk back to the parents and have a child without a husband in the 1970s. Where did she find that strength?
When I moved up into the hills, I found four women in particular who have always epitomized courage to me. Sabrina, Kim, Nora, and Cate. No last names to protect their identity in a public forum, but some of you will know them.
These women take on whole mountains. They cuddle alligators (literally; one has a pet alligator, plus a boa). When they go camping it’s not with a truckload of gear and a campground with toilets. It’s backpacks and bushwhacking into high country where there are no trails. It’s hiking the Pacific Crest Trail with an injured knee. It’s rock climbing up a ravine to rescue my dog. One of these women, an avid jogger, hikes into alpine wilderness alone. Think about that a minute. Alone.
These women find their way into my stories. I admire and highly respect them and know I’ll never be them.
But how did they get that way? How did they grow up confident and secure in who they are as women? I imagine they knew about those three holes before they were in their twenties. I bet they didn’t entertain co-workers by showing up late one day around age twenty-three, and saying they were late because ‘all these construction workers were jacking off on the side of the highway with no signs or anything!’
I wish I’d learned much younger what it means to be woman, not necessarily feminine, but female. And proud and strong with that knowledge, within my skin. Although at the same time I’m not sure I’d have traded my story world for knowledge. Writing is my core.
But hey, I’m learning.