bringingupbuddhas

suburban adventures in bu-curious mothering

Tag: sex

monica / me

In January 1998 I arrived in Washington DC, a bright, young intern for a national news broadcasting bureau. When not in the newsroom, I spent most days hanging around The White House pressroom, eager for Mike McCurry to sputter some juicy soundbites about stained dresses, or chasing down senators at on Capitol Hill in hopes of snagging a word or two about impeachment. Monica Lewinsky was THE story in DC and I had a front row seat.

Monica and I had at least three things in common: We both spent our 22nd year getting to know the scene at The White House, we both had the same hair cut and long black wool jacket (I cannot tell you how many times I walked past a sidewalk stakeout and heard photogs yell, “Monica! Monica!”), and we both had a crush on Bill Clinton.

I remember the first time I heard her name. I was sitting in a classroom, waiting for our morning presenter, ABC’s Ann Compton, to arrive. She was late. Finally Ann dashed in breathlessly, unbuttoning her royal blue blazer and wiping her brow. She had big breaking news and we lucky students were the first to hear her account. “President Clinton had an affair with his former intern Monica Lewinsky,” she reported. She colored a shocking picture for us. Her raw enthusiasm was intoxicating. I couldn’t wait to get to work and hear all the salacious details. And I wasn’t disappointed.

My own newsroom was absolutely on fire. People were laughing and speculating and gossiping, imaginably excited to switch gears from dry Congressional hearings examining black lungs and dead cowboys (thank you Phillip-Morris) to blow jobs and slippery cigars.

Procuring news about Monica was part of my job. And I wouldn’t consider my attitude about this procurement neutral. Like I said, the scandal was downright thrilling. I heartlessly joined the crowd of news shapers and rode atop the wave of public humiliation crashing over Washington.

I never considered Monica the young woman. I never imagined her crying into her mother’s arms at night, afraid to leave her house, dreaming of ways to end her life, while we in the newsrooms reveled in her humiliation.

I may have imagined myself in her shoes from time to time, but certainly not in a way that was inspired by compassion. Amongst us students, “Would-you-or-wouldn’t-you do it with Bill?” was a hot party topic. I myself fell into the “would” category, along with the majority of my girlfriends (and a few of my guy friends).

Fortunately for me, my only access to the President was from 20 feet away during press conferences in the East Room. And also, fortunately for me, my own boss was not a charming world leader, but a 50 year old lesbian whose claim to fame was getting fired from her last gig for throwing a chair at a cameraman. Clearly the question of “inappropriate sexual relations” with my boss was a non-issue.

Fast forward 17 years. I’ve moved on. Grew up. Got married. Had kids. Found peace. My internship in Washington DC is a fond, fading memory. But until this day, watching Monica bravely deliver a TED Talk on public shaming, I never stopped to think what happened to her. Never considered that 17 years later a part of her is still the girl under the desk in the Oval Office. A part of her doesn’t get to move on. A part of her will be 22 for the rest of her life.

I reflect upon my own contribution to that gotcha-style news coverage that ravaged this young girl’s reputation. Granted I was just a kid, an intern, but I was there. I was a part. My energy fed that beast, too.

I stop. I cry. I reconcile.

I’m humbled and grateful to Monica for this lesson.

Check out Monica’s most excellent TED Talk here: https://www.ted.com/talks/monica_lewinsky_the_price_of_shame?language=en. And #clickwithcompassion.

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Me working The White House beat, age 22.

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My friend and I having a grand old time with Paula Jones at The White House Correspondents Dinner in 1998. I chose this picture because it shows the back of my head. You can imagine this bouncy black hair paired with a long black wool coat might cause some confusion.

wait. where DO babies come from, mommy?

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I had the talk with my little ones today. The conversation caught me off guard as we sat together on the couch playing Spoons, sharing a bowl of Pirate’s Booty. The yellow puffs started running low, and my youngest daughter, glancing sideways at my son, said, “Mommy, we should get more Pirate’s Booty than him because we’re girls. And girls need to eat more than boys so our bellies can grow big and turn into babies.”

I was momentarily stunned. Realizing this theory was something she had spent time hypothesizing, I stifled a giggle, “Oh, honey, women don’t have babies from eating too much food.”

My oldest girl piped in quickly and confidently, “No, we get babies by taking pills from the doctor.”

“Who told you that?” I spun around to look at her.

“Well, no one. When you were pregnant you had a big bottle of orange pills in your bathroom and you took one every day.”

“No, those were prenatal vitamins. I took them when I was pregnant to give my body extra energy while I was growing the baby.”

“Oh,” she said, looking perplexed. ”Wait. Where DO babies come from, Mommy?”

“Yah,” echoed my youngest. “Where?”

It took me a minute to gather my thoughts (and my courage). My children are 5, 7, and 9. I’m a true believer in answering their questions honestly. Life is wrought with unknowns — there’s no need to be evasive when they ask me what a tampon is or wonder when they’ll grow pubic hair. They’re asking about their own bodies after all, so I always tell them the truth. They have every right to be absolutely comfortable in their skin suits. Plus, dispelling mystery is part of my job as a parent.

That said, I briefly considered shooing away my 5 year old boy. But if I excluded him, I’d be implying that conception is secretive. And he might think that this type of questioning is dangerous. 

I want my kids to be comfortable coming to me FIRST. With ANYTHING. If they are not comfortable coming to me, they will inevitably turn to the internet or to friends. And I know for sure that I can parent my children better than Bing! or some tween on the playground. So I stepped up and addressed all three of them together with honesty and *restraint* — because telling the truth doesn’t mean telling ALL.

We started by talking about Nat Geo and Animal Planet, two of our favorite family channels. The kids adore animal shows and are relatively familiar with mating rituals. I explained that the animals mate to create offspring. I told them that all mammals conceive the same way, and humans are also mammals. All of our body parts have a certain function. And ultimately, our primary human function, like all mammals, is to reproduce. In order to make a baby, a man and a woman need to work together.

The girls followed attentively, locking on my eyes and nodding their heads. The little guy began spinning the spoons lying on the game table, distracted. 

I quizzed, “When you think of body parts on a man and a woman, which ones are different?”

“Boys have penises. Girls have van-ginas,” said my oldest proudly. The others agreed.

“Right. And inside the bodies, men have sperm and women have eggs. Once a month, about a week after a woman has her period, an egg drops down and the man’s sperm has a chance to fertilize it.”

“But how does the sperm get to the egg?”

“It swims. It has a tiny tail and races with a million other sperm to see who can reach the egg first. The one who gets there first gets to become the baby.” Admittedly, I hoped that the kids would be satisfied with this and we could return to playing Spoons.

“Yah, but how does the sperm GET to the egg?” No such luck.

“Well, you said yourself that men have penises and girls have vaginas, right?”

Silence. Introspection. Reaction:

“WHAT?! Daddy put his penis inside your vagina?????”

I tried but failed to contain my giggles. We three girls started laughing. The little guy really had no idea why we were snickering. He probably wasn’t ready to hear it anyway, so it was all for the best. But he could still benefit from the openness of our dialogue even though he didn’t understand the content of the message. He took what he wanted and focused the rest of his attention on twirling spoons.

The girls pummeled me with questions — Did it hurt? Did hair get up there? Do I have to do that? Because I am NOT doing that. What about twins? Does that take two penises? 

I explained to them that the woman has to have her period before her body is ready to make babies, and it’s best that she’s married and settled first. Because every baby needs two loving parents and a stable, happy home.

My second daughter stated emphatically, “I’m only doing that twice. And I’ll have two babies. And THAT’S IT!”

“You can do whatever works best for you, babe,” I reassured.

“Does it hurt to get your period?”

“No, sometimes you’ll get crampy in your belly, but if you eat right and take care of your body you should feel just fine.”

“How about when the baby comes out? Does that hurt?”

“Yep,” I confirmed. ”It really hurts.”

“What does it feel like?” she probed.

“Stretching. And fire. Kind of like you’re pooping a hot cannonball.”

“I’ve had big poops like that before.”

“Well, maybe not this big. Do you want to hear the stories about when you were born?”

“YES!!!!!!!” all three shouted.

As the subject graduated from conception to birth, all three kids sat up and leaned forward, giggling and scrunching up their little faces as I colorfully wove the stories of their beginnings. It was a really lovely experience and I’m so glad it unfolded in just this way, with all of us together.

A minute later my husband strolled into the room and I said, “We just learned about the birds and the bees!” Without a word he spun on his heel and strolled back out. I guess he wasn’t ready to learn yet.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

p.s.

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toeing the “blurred lines” between naughty and natural

Screen Shot 2013-08-07 at 12.22.06 PMAs the title of this post may imply, I’ve got Robin Thicke’s summer sizzler “Blurred Lines” on my mind today. On a website that typically features parenting tips and meditation techniques, this might leave you questioning my relativity here. But ride out this thought with me for a minute.

Typically, the only blurred line I’m contemplating is the one surrounding the smell in my car. Is that sour yogurt? Or urine? Hmmmm… (Hey, I’m a mother of several and frequent carpooler, what can I say?) But I woke up early this morning humming Thicke’s hit song. So I came downstairs before the wolf cubs awoke and pulled his video up on YouTube. Now this is an altogether different kind of blurred line. I have three letters for you: H-O-T.

Woah.

The first time I watched the video, Robin, T.I. and Pharrell were “hey-hey-heying” to gorgeous models wearing nude illusion undies and clear plastic smocks. A little kooky but the quirk was surprisingly sexy.

After watching, I wanted to hear the song again so I pressed play for a second time and found myself watching the unrated version. WHAAAATTTT???? All the women are naked! At first I thought they were still in their nude lingerie. Nope. They were rocking out wearing only skin tone thongs and tennis sneakers. Oh, and a goat. (Huh?)

I admit I kind of liked it. But it disturbed me at the same time. I’m a modern woman after all, a mother of girls, a spiritual blogger. And I’m not ignorant of the dent a production like this could make in our gender’s progress **if we so allow it, which I’m not inclined to do**. But I’d be lying if I said I hated it.

Mod Carousel, a Seattle-based boylesque troupe, created a feminist parody featuring men in flesh-tone skivvies and honestly, I felt the opposite of turned on. I’ll go so far as to say I felt “the yuck”. They were being funny, of course, but somehow a woman flaunting her sex strikes me as intriguing while a man flaunting his sex strikes me as Cro Magnon. It’s hypocritical, I know, but hypocrisy plays a starring role in life, doesn’t it?

Oh, there are all sorts of serious opinions on this song. But I’m not sure Thicke takes himself so seriously. Based on his hilarious video remake with Jimmy Kimmeland his past seemingly-orchestrated, sort-of-embarrassing, made-me-cringe-while-I-watched-it interview with Chelsea Handler, I’m thinking he’s a bit of a goof, challenging the world to get real about their own feelings about sex.

I get the blurred lines. Not only between naughty and nice but also between naughty and nature. We women don’t want to be objectified. But secretly, we kind of do. We don’t want our daughters to base their collective self image on physical beauty, but good looks undoubtedly has an important place in our human experience. Those who don’t have it yearn for it and those who do have it work it to their advantage.

And then there’s just the sex of it all. Sex is in our nature. It’s part of our existence. But so many people, especially here in America, are ashamed to talk about it. It’s here that we toe that blurred line of sex and image and what is really offensive and what is just real. I don’t know the answer myself, but I imagine it’s part of life’s mystery that will forever be debated.

All things considered, as much as I love the song, the video makes me feel uncomfortable to watch. Is that because I’m a Puritanical New Englander and I’ve been nurtured to cover up my nature? Or is it because these men should be laying on a couch with David Duchovny trying to balance a sex addiction? I’m not sure if it matters, because whatever the reason, I love being a woman and I’m happy with myself the way I am – in a turtleneck and pants.

Oh, there are so many directions we could take this. What are you thoughts? Naughty? Or natural? Chime in below.