Lest you think I’m about to launch into a tirade about things best mentioned in private, let me put your mind at ease and tell you that I’m about to launch into a tirade about not mentioning these things on television, the internet, and through social media. I once heard the actress Angela Landsbury state in an interview something to the effect that, even between husbands and wives, some “personal processes”, if you will, should remain, well, personal. I think she may have something there.
A little background for contextual purposes is needed here. In my family of origin, we were quite open. My parents were not prudish, nor did they keep from us any information that would help us understand our how our family of origin came into being, but, as educators, they knew the right time to mention the unmentionables and they kept the conversations factual. I didn’t know about babies being found in cabbage patches until I was an adult, and I thought that the stork was just the right type of animal from which to hang a baby hammock, not to actually deliver one’s child. In our family, though, body parts had funny names, but in the interest of our family’s privacy, I’ll not divulge them here. Suffice it to say that we knew the clinical terms for our particular accessories, but we much preferred the silly ones that my parents had made up.
That is not to say that there weren’t embarrassing times. For instance, the first time I saw a television commercial hawking feminine hygiene products, I was watching television with my dad, and to this day, I don’t think I’ve ever been so mortified. And how can anyone over the age of 45 forget the ad for Playtex Tampons, featuring the mildly successful stage and television actress Brenda Vaccaro? Brenda Vaccaro, with, what my dad used to call, a “whiskey-tenor” voice, would draw, after each delightful and descriptive sentence, yet another ragged, emphysema-ravaged breath as she illustrated the amazing absorbing properties of the product. Worst television ad ever.
Then there was the time that I was watching the movie The Summer of ’42, again, with my dad. I was old enough to have read the book, but when the protagonist went into the drug store to purchase “rubbers”, my once so progressive-thinking dad made me change the channel back to Happy Days. I did so both quickly and willingly.
Today, though, it seems as if anything goes. Childbirth, for some (not for me, but that is another entry altogether) a magical, sacred moment when a couple welcomes their child into the world, is now fodder for all types of photographic and video production and distribution. If a couple wishes to capture the moment, I applaud their efforts; for me, I informed my husband that he could take one picture of our child upon its entrance into the world. And, nauseous as he was, Tim managed to shakily snap a picture as my doctor lifted Christian out of my open and retracted belly and held him up past the sterile field. Proof that he is mine, I guess. Four years earlier when I delivered twins, I was unconscious, Tim was not permitted in the operating room, and I’ll have to take everyone’s word at Methodist Hospital that those two chicas belong to me.
It’s not the actual videotaping or photographing of the event that has me riled. It’s the distribution of the video or photographs—on television, especially. Take, for instance, the preeminent achievement and veritable cornerstone of The Learning Channel, a priceless gem called Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. On last week’s episode, a repeat, Honey Boo Boo’s teenaged sister goes into premature labor. She tells her mother, “She’s hurting my biscuit.” ‘She’ refers to the baby within; ‘biscuit’ refers to the young lady’s nether region. Now, thankfully, the young lady’s labor was arrested and she was sent home, but did we really have to suffer through the angst of an almost premature delivery and the knowledge that Mrs. Honey Boo Boo taught her daughters that their genitalia was named a ‘biscuit’? For that matter, why do we have to suffer through Here Comes Honey Boo Boo at all? Full disclosure: I watched this particular episode in a hotel room while searching for a less pedestrian offering, and I promise that I did not and will not buy any of the products advertised during the show.
Then there’s Oprah and her va-jay-jay. Precious. Once she roped Dr. Oz (a cardiac surgeon with a fascination for poop) into being her go-to medical guy, I knew it wouldn’t be long before she treated her all-female audience to several sessions with the dashing Oz. In his signature tell-it-like-it-is style, he often appeared on Oprah to expound upon not just poop but many other functions associated with things one does in private. I’m not sure I remember if that was the context in which Oprah introduced us to her va-jay-jay—or maybe I’m just trying to block that image out of my mind—but apparently Mrs. Oz is cool with her husband, the cardiac surgeon, discussing vaginas because now he does it all the time. Once he was gifted with his own spin off, he broke down all the barriers. I realize he is a doctor, but does he have to get all casual and cavalier about these portions of a woman’s anatomy? And have you noticed that very few of his shows focus on man parts?
I hesitate to include this next example of television’s casual treatment of body parts, but (and again, it’s when I’m flipping through channels) that train wreck of a family the Kardashians lack any sense of restraint when it comes to their activities, especially when it comes to anything having to do with the parts of their bodies typically covered by even the tiniest bathing suits. Personally, I’m not quite sure that E! could pay me enough money to wax poetic about some of the activities the Kardashians describe with so much passion and naughtiness, and I know for sure that my own sister and I, unreserved though we might appear, are much more private than these vapid and oh-so-tasteless sibs. We have been known though, on occasion, to talk about poop.
Whatever would have inspired me to issue a commentary on the subject of private parts? Apparently, as I write, the Duchess of Cambridge is in labor, about to give birth to a little girl or boy who will one day—God willing—become the queen or king of England. The fact that an heir to the throne is about to be born is newsworthy; details of the duchess’ labor and perceived status minute by minute is not. I listened to Dr. Nancy Snyderman on the Today show this morning talk about the duchess’ labor, conjecturing about cervical width, epidurals, and vaginal v. Caesarian delivery, and I thought to myself, “So glad that’s not me.” Having a baby, no matter who you are or how it comes out, is both a humbling and spiritual experience. For me, the entire process is definitely one that I would never wish to share with the world. Some things should remain sacred.