‘Down There’

I just wish that when I was little I had known what boys looked like ‘down there’. My only exposure was statues in the park with fig leaves over the pubic area, which I can tell you seemed far  more disturbing than any actual truth could be. Boys have – what? – parsley growing out of their bodies?

I was ignorant, in short, and stayed ignorant even after that time I was three and our mom’s friend’s three-year-old peed on my leg in the bathroom. It was the arc of gold I noted though and not the delivery system.

In the meantime I was growing up in a houseful of women, where none of the real words were ever used. My sister and I, for example, called breasts ‘lumps’ because we had no other word for them. We certainly had no words for the other parts of our bodies. Our grownups were so highly ‘evolved’ no such words ever passed their lips, which was too bad.

I was in college before I could really ‘see’ the stunning beauty of the body. I think it was Art 100 when we studied Michelangelo’s David.

I listened as the professor walked us through its details, from the earnestly furrowed young brow to the hand holding the slingshot, oddly bigger than the hand of such a youth should be; and the veins in that hand, more prominent than the veins in the hand up by his chin because of course they would be: with gravity; with being held in that downward position, until the moment when he would lift the arm and swing it and at last unleash the stone that would kill a giant.

I read that sentence and see for the first time how in the moment just ‘before’ the stone flies, the sculpted hand with its veins engorged suggests potency in all its manifestations, that ineffable mighty force that keeps us reproducing.

I’m not like the two women who raised me, too shy to use the words even for the parts of our bodies; but I am their child in this way: I can’t bear leering descriptions and/or nicknames for our body parts.

It’s ordained minister Fred Rogers I have always identified with, sweet Mister Rogers with his kindliness and his respect for all the Created world. Here are the lyrics to ‘Everybody’s Fancy’, about the difference between boys’ bodies and girls’ bodies, and here below is the man himself testifying before the U.S. Senate in 1969 about what his show can do for America’s children. The Senator’s reaction is as moving as this good man’s testimony. Take five minutes and see if you don’t feel like weeping for how far we have fallen.

What a good man he was and how we miss him!