“So, what’s so awesome about being a girl?”
My daughter can’t think of a thing.
And frankly, I’m coming up empty, too.
My dear son is just lying on the floor listening to his sis and me talking, he pretends not to hear but I know he hears us. He is very quiet, intent, he’s got those listening ears ON.
First, my daughter says something about how it sucks to have a period.
I have to concur. But because I’m a mom and my daughter is my daughter, I must also try to spin the whole period thing into something grand and beautiful. Moms have to say that shit. It’s in the Mom Rules, so I add that bit about the awe and how amazeballs it is to be able to have babies. “But women can bring new life into the world!”
And my daughter says, “So you’re saying that women are special because they can have babies? What about women who don’t want to have babies? Are they worthless? If you define what’s good about being a woman in terms of reproduction, then women who choose not to have babies and women who are physically unable to have babies have no value. Do you really want to go there, Mom?”
And I have to admit that NO. I do NOT want to go there. I DO NOT WANT TO GO THERE. Because having babies is NOT how we define the value and the potential of being female. NO.
“And did you know that fetuses suck the iron and calcium right out of their mother’s bodies. You know that, right Mom?”
“Yes, my dear. I do know that. You know what else, sweetie? Carrying a baby totally does a number on a woman’s body. I mean, your skin stretches all out of shape and then you’re stuck with stretch marks and floppy belly skin FOR FREAKING EVER. “
My son looks at me and said, “I’m sorry Mom.”
And I say, “Oh no, son. It was totally worth it. Plus, really, my floppy skin is your sister’s fault. I gained a ton of weight with her.”
“Did you hear that Lily? You ruined Mom’s body.”
That comment meets with the ice-glare stare, my daughter’s super power. It causes the speaker to immediately regret having ever spoken ever.
“Having you was totally worth a lifetime of saggy boobs and floppy stomach skin, Lily. I would do it all over again.”
“Okay, so, anyway, being a woman means you can potentially have babies, big deal. It also means that regardless of your desire to have kids, you are going to bleed from your vagina one week out of every four from the time you’re around 13 until you’re 50. Think of all the money women have to spend on pads and tampons not to even mention how physically uncomfortable it is to have a period. Honestly that sucks.”
“Yes, dear. It does suck. And if you don’t want to get pregnant, women are the ones who have to spend money for birth control. That adds up. Plus the US has the highest maternal and infant mortality rates of any 1st world nation, no mandatory paid maternity leave, and childcare costs a bundle. But do you know what else sucks? By the time you go through menopause…”
My son asks, “What’s menopause?”
I say, “Well sweetie, you know…it’s sort of like a second adolescence for grown women, only in reverse….so, a woman’s hormones go completely whack, and she gets all sorts of physical symptoms, like hot flashes, and headaches, and she has mood swings and can get really irritable, and it’s totally a pain in the ass…and it’s because her body is changing from a body that can have babies to a body that no longer can have babies, and menopause can take YEARS…and so a lot of adult women are walking around trying to do life while their hormones jump around all over the place and they feel like crap. When that’s all over a woman doesn’t have her period any more, which can be a good thing, but getting there is a completely crazy ride, uncomfortable, with some negative health issues due to a deficit of certain hormones, and it can potentially be emotionally difficult.”
And then my daughter adds, “Oh, and don’t forget vaginal dryness, your vagina gets all dried out after menopause.”
At which point my son looks like he’s going to pass out. That bit about vaginal dryness has totally freaked him out. He’s not exactly sure what it means but it sounds bad.
I’m slightly annoyed because I had sort of forgotten about menopause bringing drought to the lady nethers . “Oh. Right. Thanks for reminding be about the vaginal dryness. Yay.”
My son says, “I’m so sorry Mom.”
I say, “There’s nothing for you to be sorry about, son.”
My son asks, “Do you guys hate me?”
I say, “Hate you? Of course not!”
And his sister is significantly quiet.
And I shoot her my superpower glare, which is a look that conveys without words, ‘Say something reassuring to your little brother NOW.’
She relents and says, “You haven’t done anything wrong. It’s not your fault you’re a boy. I blame dad for that.”
And I try very hard not to roll my eyes.
“So,” I ask, “is being a boy really any better? I mean, can’t we agree that sometimes just being a human being is hard? There are shitty things about being male in our society, too.”
And my daughter asks, “Like what?”
“Oh, I don’t know, guys are expected to be tough, not to have a range of feelings.”
I can tell this line of reasoning is leaving my daughter unswayed so I go somewhere I probably shouldn’t go.
“And what about having an erection when you don’t want to? That would be embarrassing.”
“An unwanted erection? I’m sure that would be embarrassing, but surely it’s not on the same scale having cramps and all that. And do you think a rogue erection is more embarrassing than bleeding all over yourself at school? The occasional embarrassing untimely erection isn’t even close to having a period.”
Yup. I agree.
“But how about the fact that men are shamed for showing any other emotion except anger?”
“Well, so. Women are stereotyped as being over emotional and men are shamed for being vulnerable because emotional vulnerability is associated with being female. So it really all just boils down to women hating again. “
“True that. And women are expected to cry and get hysterical but if a woman gets angry she’s labeled a bitch. So there’s that part, too.”
And my daughter says, “Yeah, and honestly, that emotional crap…I’m not really an emotional person. I’m not “typically” girlie in that respect, so that doesn’t apply to me anyway. What’s so fucking good about being a girl?”
“Well, I don’t know Sweetie.”
“You’ve got the fact that women make significantly less money for equal work, and the fact that married women who work full time still do the majority of the housework and childcare…”
“But,” I say, “on average, women live longer than men do. There’s that.”
“Oh great. I get to live to be really really old. Wow. That sounds GREAT.” Her words drip with the special sarcasm only a 17 year old girl can produce.
At this point I don’t even mention the fact that most elderly women live in poverty after a lifetime of working and raising children and doing all the housework, and straight women have the near surety we’ll outlive our male life partners and live on a paltry income alone and forgotten.
So I just leave that part out because it’s sad.
And then I have it. I have the answer. “You know what’s so good about being a woman?”
Both kids’ eyes are on me.
“Are you ready? No. Never mind. I can’t…”
“Oh my God, Mom. Just say it.”
“Well, the only thing that I can think of that’s sort of good about being a woman is…No. Seriously. I can’t say it.”
And both kids are just staring at me….and so because I am pretty much known for saying all the most inappropriate things in front of the children I think, why stop now?
And I start again.
“Okay…. the only thing that I can think of that is sort of good, great, sort of good and actually maybe great about…about being a woman is…multiple orgasms.”
My daughter says, “EXCUSE ME?”
And my son says something that sounds like, “WHA?! HUH? HAHAHAHA!!!” and he’s rolling around on the floor turning a truly stunning shade of crimson while laughing the way only a 13-year-old boy can laugh when his mother has just spoken the word “orgasm” in his company.
So I continue, “Well, you know, men, they pretty much get the one orgasm during sex, they ejaculate and then they’re done for a while, but women, women potentially can have orgasm after orgasm.”
And I realize perhaps this time, I really and truly have said too much. And I jump up from my chair and start to get busy tiding the dinner mess we’d left on the table hours ago. Because suddenly I feel a little exposed.
And my daughter says, “Mom, do you really think that bleeding from your vagina one week a month for 40 years, 10 years of menopause, making 30% less than your male co-workers, the pain of childbirth, the toll that pregnancy takes on a woman’s body, institutional sexism, violence against women, living until you’re so old everyone you love is dead…do you really think that being able to have multiple orgasms makes up for all that?”
“Well…uh…does it make up for all that? Gee…uh…”
I think it over for maybe a few seconds too long.
“Well…no. No. I guess you’re right dear.”
But in my head I’m thinking, “but it’s something..."