If it seems as though this column is in whisper mode, it has nothing to do with my being uncomfortable to use the word vagina in a public forum.
I know some of you would rather eat rabbit heads than say the word yourself, never mind carry on a discussion about them, and believe me, up until I gave birth to my sixth child, I would break out into a cold sweat and turn six shades of red if so much as a feminine hygiene commercial came on in my presence—with only me in the room!
I’m sure this stems from a very delicate mishap that occurred to me when I was a bright-eyed 18-year old student working part-time in a dental office. Oh, how I loved that job. The office was always brimming with high energy, and I was learning the ropes of what made a dental practice tick from canine to molar.
Oh, yes, back to that mishap. Well, don’t worry, it wasn’t like I caused one of our patients any physical pain—quite the contrary. The story goes like this.
It was the end of a very busy day and though we had extra emergency patients and other unexpected setbacks in our schedule, come 5 p.m., we were still running on time—something to be proud of.
Still, we had several people waiting in our reception area, so we weren’t out of the woods yet. With a skip in my step and a smile on my face, I strutted right out to that waiting room and loudly called out for Vagina Ford to please come with me—the doctor was ready to see her.
OOPS! Before I could retract what I said and humbly ask for Virginia, not Vagina, to come with me, she graciously stood up and politely said, “You can call me Ginny.”
Had that incident not taken place, I probably wouldn’t have had such a fetish with the word in the first place, and though I can think of many other words that would have made better choices (for a discussion at a later time), thankfully, 25 years later, I’m totally comfortable with that and just about everything else that hinges on the female anatomy.
So where is this all going? Backing up just a bit, when my first child entered the glorious world of “real school” (meaning the yellow bus, instead of me, transported her to and fro), there were two items on the top of my “school mommy wish list”.
1. Please dear God, let the Kindergarten teacher pick me to be the room mother.
2. Please dear God, let me make the final cut to chaperone a field trip, especially if I get to ride the yellow bus, to and fro with the class.
It wasn’t meant to be for either of those coveted roles during my daughter’s first few years of school, but by the time my second child entered elementary school—it was all mine for the taking. I organized more elementary school cupcake fests (yes, I know schools don’t serve those any longer, but back in the day…) and accompanied more class trips to the zoo and beyond than I can possibly count.
It’s the field trips that stand out with me more than anything else related to school. It’s here when kids are out of their school-day element that they relax and are quite capable of saying or doing things they’d never dream of otherwise. If you’ve chaperoned a field trip, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
For instance, once when I chaperoned a trip to a farm, one little girl told me that her family’s home smelled exactly like the horse barn—the only difference was that it was only after her father had been in the bathroom for an hour with his coffee and briefcase!
Next was a memorable trip to the IMAX Theatre to watch a 3-D movie about the animal kingdom. It was here that I learned about a sixth grade boy’s family giving up meat and turning strictly vegetarian because his mother had chronic bad breath and blamed it on hamburger.
This brings me to one of my most memorable field trips of all times—last year’s jaunt to the Boston Museum of Science with a group of boisterous and eager eighth graders.
As part of this excursion, the kids were required to watch a short movie about human reproduction that ended with a live birth. There were giggles and lots of squirming and nudging each other in the rib cage when my group of 10 settled in and began watching.
Everything was going great and then the baby made his grand entrance. As soon as the umbilical cord was being cut out came the first question from one of the sweetest boys in the group. “Mrs. Butler, how does the baby fit through the mother’s PAGINA?”
My daughter looked at me with amusing panic, wondering how I would answer this to her classmates. I won’t bore you with the details, but it was here that my version of The Pagina Monologues was born. (Literally!)
Quite honestly, I prefer the term Pagina over the “V” word that the rest of the medical world calls it. Somehow, it’s just easier to say, and the fact that an innocent 14-year-old boy had the courage to ask a serious question in front of many of his friends about that subject and labeled “it” incorrectly is just priceless.
So whether it be a chat in the car with one of our teen boys about why deodorant really is necessary, or listening to the neighbor kid tell you how old his mother really is, I bet we all have our own version of a Pagina Monologue that can make us smile and chuckle when we need it most, on those days that we could use a fun little reminder that kids really are the essence of innocence and we should try not to take them or these experiences for granted.