Unspeakable

posted in: Life, Newsletter | 0

I am listening to a book on CD in the car, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer, which blessedly has nothing whatever to do with Christmas. With all the sugary music and decorations everywhere, I fear I am developing Diabetes. I am in a foul mood today, probably because I have a slight hangover.

(Last night I helped out at the Gala at the Monte Vista Hotel and lost track of how many glasses of wine I drank. I was serving Bruschetta contributed by My Father’s Pizza but was a fly on the wall as all of Montreat and Upper Black Mt. paraded their finery at the black-tie event.  Some of the men had even dragged out their dusty tuxedoes, and everyone looked splendid.)

Back to Amy Schumer:  I am a big fan. She grew up in Rockville Center, Long Island, very close to where I went to high school in Freeport. Both were rather seedy, down-at-the heels neighborhoods devoid of good Chinese restaurants. While she is very much younger than I am, we have a lot in common: we frequented sleazy bars that catered to the underage crowd, we are scared of a million different things from spiders to heights, and we are good liars.

Amy lists twenty-five things one probably doesn’t know about her, and I must say, I learned much more than I care to about her vagina. It must be a generational thing, but I am uncomfortable discussing my private parts with anyone, including my husband, my doctor, and family. Same for menstruation. Yet  Amy is fixated on these “Female Subjects.”The first essay in the collection, in fact, is “Letter to my Vagina.”

In my case, the most embarrassing moments in my life all revolve around these private parts she celebrates. Two incidents involved my period. In one case I leaked onto the brand new linen cover on a friend’s dining room chair. I was mortified to whisper what had happened to her. If it had been red wine, I would have dealt with it, but “The horror, the horror!”

The other case was when I was quite young and worked at City University of New York as a research assistant. I was standing in the hall having a conversation with my boss. Dr. Metzger was a prissy male chauvinist who hated women. My job was to do the research for a book he was writing whose thesis was that women should be forced to retire at age fifty because menopause rendered them grouchy and unfit to interact with students. Even though I was appalled with his ideas, I had to research in order to collect my paycheck. Instead of finding sources to validate his thesis, I found lots of statistics to support the claim that men over the age of fifty were more likely than women to have serious health problems and far more likely to be absent from school.

Needless to say, I didn’t enjoy these convos with the boss, but as we stood there in the hall with colleagues walking by, I heard something dripping onto the floor. I looked down to see a growing red pool of menstrual blood beneath me. I had gotten my period with a vengeance and looked up to see a look of profound disgust on Dr. M’s pinched face. People gathered around asking what was going on, pointing to the growing stain. I thought I was dying because of the sheer volume of blood, and truly wished I would.

There are more such incidents, but just thinking about them makes me queasy. On the other hand, Amy tells a story to illustrate her audacity. When she was in high school her teacher told her she could not leave the classroom to use the bathroom. She actually just wanted to meet a friend in the hall. To get out of the room she told the class,”Oh sure, don’t let me go to the bathroom. I just got my period and will just bleed all over the seat of my desk if you won’t let me out of here.” She was given a hall pass.

Back in my day, we didn’t even say the word, “period.” Certainly we never used “menstruate.”  We said, “I have my friend,” or some other euphemism. But mainly we died before we would bring up anything “private.”  I even remember continuing to wear a cotton undershirt over my bra for years in case someone could see through my blouse and spot the bra.

Times have changed, but I am not sure we women are better off being so uninhibited in our speech. I still enjoy Amy, though.