There’s a new huge billboard on Westwood Blvd that went up recently. It’s that discreet color of pink with a curly script font that always signals female: the pink of the baby girl bow, the pink of the breast cancer awareness bow, the pink of a tutu, the pink of a rose and so forth. The only other demonstrably pink item of clothing I can think of that is not strictly female is the pink of the Wasp-y golf shirt, or Brooks Brothers oxford cloth. What could be Wasp-ier than a blond man in a pink shirt with wire rims and suspenders? A blond man in a pink alligator shirt wielding a golf club?
The billboard, which interestingly enough replaced the one that had a running tally of how many people were currently dying of cigarette related illnesses is in a very central and I’m guessing expensive spot, on the southeast corner of Santa Monica and Westwood Boulevards. I pass it several times a week when I’m driving home at 6 from yoga.
The pink sign is an advertisement for a procedure that is meant to renew the vagina. Ugh, there I’ve said it, the dread word. And there’s a website too. www.divedown.com
I just did a search and came up with a vibrator, some kegel exercises but nothing about the procedure or any information about the doctor that is paying for that huge billboard. Probably the billboard will go down soon.
The billboard will go down, but I’ll still be thinking from time to time why the V word is so hard for me to say. I don’t think I’m alone.
I didn’t see the play about the V. Monologues. I’m sure it had some merit if so many people loved it and it traveled all over the world. I didn’t go see it because I didn’t want to hear the V word said out loud so many many times. I’m sure (being an inveterate potty mouth) I’ve said the F word literally tens of thousands of times. I doubt if I have said the V word out loud even two dozen times in my life. And if I never had to say it again, I wouldn’t miss it. I’d be relieved.
I’m not at all prudish. And if it weren’t the V word, I don’t think I’d have a whole lot of trouble saying out loud a word about an area of the body specializing in sexual pleasure and culminating in its purpose: birth and procreation of the species. The V word is hard to say because the word itself is ugly. A little uglier (in my view) than penis. Which isn’t as pretty as bird. Bird is a nice word. Bird as in ‘shoot someone the bird’ is nothing like its harsh, female corollary, the V word. And of course you never shoot someone the V. Is this because men were the ones who wrote down the language?
My friend L calls her V, her Virginia. Ha. Much cuter than the alternative. Friend S calls it her Woo. Even better. Myself, I have no pet names because being a writer I’m a snob about words, and think euphemisms are for everybody else except me. I wouldn’t, for instance, be caught dead saying anything like “lady parts.”
I just decided not to do a search. And went upstairs and looked in my two volume shorter OED. What a relief not to do a search. What a relief to leaf through some pages and look down a long column that isn’t lit from behind and requires my reading glasses. The dictionary is like the ancient pleasure of looking through a card catalogue in the good old Dewey Decimal days.
Here’s what I found: Vagina Dentata! A gem! It means the motif or theme of a V with teeth which occurs in myth or folklore and fantasy and is said to symbolize fear of castration. Anyone with half an ear could notice when you add the dentata to the V word, it mitigates some of its sins. I would have no trouble saying Vagina Dentata. I might even enjoy myself.
I also found another wonderful one. Vagitus: a cry or wail specifically by a newborn child.
Vagitus. Now that’s one gorgeous word. The kind of word you only find if you are meandering around the OED.
Just to be certain, I just did a search of Vagitus. Nothing on line. No cry, no wail, no newborn entering this crazy planet. There were a whole lot of different spellings of a V word, most of them sexual slurs.
Like millions of other females this past week, I too have been remembering the times when I was afraid for my life, for my body, for my ego and psyche.
For me, I was bred to it, starting with my father, and ending with the last time I felt in peril for my life: in India, at a fancy resort, when I thought I was completely safe and then momentarily fell prey to a stalker. (Gentle reader, I can run and I escaped!)
I counted twenty times, not counting the incestuous encounters for which I have no actual memory, just a dark ooze spreading over my spirit and body.
And yet, the encounter that resonates for me, is the one that sounds most like Donald Trump and happened at my Sunday School and was delivered by the Rabbi. I was walking down the long hallway of B’nai Zion Temple in Shreveport, Louisiana, with my buddy Cathy, a blond girl with cherubic features. I was tall for my age, dark haired and as always skinny: I probably looked a bit like Anne Frank.
Our rabbi appeared from behind the coat closet on the side of the chapel.
“Hello, Rabbi,” we said in unison, Cathy and I.
“Hello beautiful,” the holy man said to Cathy. And she repeated “Hello, Rabbi.”
And then he looked at me and said, “Hello, less beautiful.”
I knew it was true. I’m sure Cathy knew it was true. But still, what a thing to say to an eleven-year-old girl, one who had recently lost her father. Not that the man of the cloth knew that losing her father wasn’t exactly the worst thing that could have happened to that girl.
Cathy didn’t say anything. And I didn’t either. To this day, I wonder why the Rabbi thought that was a cool thing to say, because he did, he chuckled and repeated it again, “Hello, less beautiful.”
Powerful men, (to myself, I’m always saying powerful white men) don’t just use their power over the weaker sex. If they are so inclined, and so many of them are, they use their power to hurt and destroy little boys who fall into their clutches in locker rooms, in seminary, in schools, in cub scout troops.
And of course in their own homes. So in this week when so many of us are stepping up to the plate with our microphones let us not forget the little boys too.
Statistically, they do worse than we women, who are after all the stronger sex, maybe not physically, but certainly mentally. We can tell each other even if we can’t tell our mothers, or our mothers don’t want to hear. It is the history and the sad truth that little boys often are too ashamed to tell and turn to drugs and self-destructive behavior instead.
Women of my generation, the boomers, are used to such treatment. Yet, girls today are also used to it with the rape culture that is perpetrated in frat houses here, in religious circles all over the world, and of course, everywhere where girls are sold as chattel—which is all over the world. Yes, here even in this country.
Maybe Mr. Trump has given us something at long last: a moment to reflect on this culture of dominance.
May I say I am not just horrified by the Republican candidate for president, Mr. Trump, I am grateful.
I’ve never cared that he’s one of the vainest human beings I’ve ever met. Nor do I judge him for the fact that the inside of his garage has two highly polished sports cars (one vintage), and is so perfectly organized and clean, you’d be happy eating dinner off its floor.
I even like his preposterous outfits, one nuttier and more expensive than the next.
And I don’t care that he is around my age, perhaps even older, and his little trophy wife is my son’s age, maybe less. I like his trophy wife. I even like him. But when it comes to Henry, he’s always made me feel terrible. I don’t want my dog bad-mouthed around the ‘hood. The aforementioned man lives next door. And in the past, whenever Henry would bark in the morning, or anytime at all, he’d complain. When I was out of town, he even confronted our dog walker.
“What’s wrong with that dog!”
Lupe said, “He doesn’t like you.”
And it’s true: Henry hates him. Henry barks like he’s on speed whenever he sees him. Apparently Henry is the only dog this man has failed to charm.
“All dogs love me,” said he on numerous occasions.
He’s also said so many times, “You should train your dog! He wakes me up in the morning! My God, I’d know his bark anywhere. He’s like some horrible beast! I need my sleep!” And so on….
Then one day, his wife came home with a dog. And the dog is darling. The dog is adorable. Almost as cute as my Henry. He’s a little Pomeranian, with a custard yellow coat like mink and the sweetest little face you’ve ever seen. And while we are on the subject of Pomeranians, the dog did make me think of one of my favorite short stories, the masterpiece, Chekov’s, The Lady and The Lapdog. The aging roué meets a young woman at a fashionable watering spot, seduces her, and the dog in her lap is a Pomeranian—the eponymous lap dog. I always wondered when they had their trysts in his room both at the watering hole and back in Petersburg; she had her dog with her. What was the dog doing whilst they were doing it? If I took Henry to a tryst he would never shut up. And Chekov, who thought of everything—why didn’t he think of this?
You could see all at once, my neighbor had his first serious rival.
“I don’t know if we’ll keep him! We travel too much. It’s far too much of a responsibility. We’re taking him back!”
But then on the late night walk, there he’d be walking the little Pomeranian, with a hat and a scarf around his neck, if the temperature was below 60 degrees, the little dog would be wearing outerwear too like his master (or should I say, his slave).
“I’ve never met a dog like him. He’s an extraordinary dog.”
And he was for a while. Until he starting feeling more at home. I remember when I first brought Henry back, he was meek and quiet as a little mouse, grateful he was with these complete suckers in his forever home.
Henry’s upstairs barking as I write this. He’s probably trying to get my attention since my door is shut.
Maybe it’s something in the water on my street. Maybe it’s the vibe. This little Pomeranian is worse than Henry! Whenever anyone walks by the balcony, he barks his little head off. The cry is piercing, it goes right through you. I smile and say nothing, and walk on by.
Just a few minutes ago, on route to the Ralph’s a few blocks away to shop for dinner, the little yellow ball of fire jumps out from the foliage in front of my neighbor’s house and leash-less, heads toward me, yapping his brains out.
I don’t like to see leash-less dogs here, we are one very short block away from a hugely busy street, and we almost lost Henry one day this way. I squatted down, held out my arms and called out the dog’s name.
The owner several paces behind is madly chasing him. Until he sees me. Then he stops.
I call the dog’s name again. The little yellow thing approaches me, I reach down, and between ferocious barking he bites me.
Not a bad bite. Not much of a bite really, but a genuine nip.
I look up at my neighbor, who by this time is by our side, and is scooping his little scoundrel up in his long pumped up arms. I could tell he saw the nip.
“Just like Henry,” I smile. Then, suck on my palm a bit. Hamming it up.
He smiles. I smile more. The Pomeranian continues on with his nut job yapping, one might think he was actually a Jack Russell like Henry! I turn toward Ralph’s whistling a happy tune.