by Genia Blum
Bad girls sleep with bad boys.
They get pregnant and, when everyone finds out, they have to leave school.
Only married people are allowed to sleep together.
The man puts his thing in your hole.
My friends are stupid. Eggs and sperm make babies.
Read the encyclopedia!
Mummy, why does Daddy have caca between his legs?
It’s dark and dangly, nothing like the pinkie that peeked out at me in kindergarten from Georgie’s shorts. Standing on a stool in front of the bathroom mirror, I roll my tongue into a tube and push it out between my lips and it looks just like a little boy’s pee-pee.
My daddy’s tube is larger, almost like a third leg, but boneless and soft enough to squish into a bulge in the front of his swimming trunks. It’s where his sperm squiggles out.
At night, the sperm slithers across my parents’ bed sheets like silverfish, up my mummy’s thighs, into her pee-pee, sniffing out eggs.
It’s incredible that I could have squeezed out through such a tiny opening.
But I’ve seen movies where someone—an elderly aunt or a nervous servant—yells out, hot water, plenty of hot water, and everyone else rushes around all excited, or they sit and fret in front of a closed door and, right before the newborn cries you hear a woman’s voice …
And she’s screaming bloody freaking bloody murder.
You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.
Sister Superior, what is circumcised?
What is circumcised?
Sister Superior sweeps out of the room.
What is circumcised?
The Internet doesn’t exist yet.
In the school library, a dictionary will disclose the definitions for “circumcision” and “foreskin,” and a dusty top shelf will surrender an anatomy book and, between its frayed covers, on thick, creamy paper, I’ll discover beautifully detailed, black and white engravings of human organs, shown from all angles and in cross-section, among them a penis, hooded like an upside-down monk.
I show my mother the rust-colored smear in my panties, and she gives me an illustrated pamphlet to read: Very Personally Yours. It informs me I’m a woman now. Cartoon-like pictures show the egg—represented by a black dot—leaving a tonsil-like ovary, waved on by a hula-skirted fallopian tube as it embarks on a journey to the uterus, a kind of gynecological hotel where a “thick, plushy bed” awaits it. Captions explain when you’re married, a fertilized egg grows into a baby; otherwise the soft, comfy lining of the uterus breaks down and flushes everything away. This is called the “menstrual flow.” The location of the stream’s exit is neither described nor depicted.
During indoor recess, from the other side of the classroom, I see Roman sliding and grinding his bum all over my chair. Soon, sperm will wriggle through the weave of his gray uniform trousers and taint the fiberglass surface. I stride over and tell him to stop—but all he does is mock me in front of his grinning friends:
I retreat—and wait. Surely, when our teacher returns, she’ll invoke the wrath of the entire order of the Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate, punish Roman for his lewd behavior, and give me a rag and disinfectant to wipe it down.
Sister Junia, Roman sat on my chair and moved all over it.
He’s not there now, so you can take your place.
But he moved around for a really long time!
Please, just sit down.
Nuns: clueless about sex.
I offer to clean the blackboard. Pushing the felt eraser slowly across the dark green slate, I worry about what will happen next. How long do spermatozoa survive outside the body? Are they active in the daytime, or solely nocturnal? Will a stray male gamete turn me into an unwed mother?
Abruptly, Sister Junia pulls me away; with a gentle shove, she directs me toward my desk. I give my chair a rubdown with some Kleenex pocket tissues, layer several over the molded seat, and perch on its very edge.
At home, I study the menstruation brochure again but, apart from oblique mentions of a “birth canal,” it reveals nothing about pregnancy or its prevention, nor the mechanism by which sperm reach their goal; only caricature-like depictions that fade into an unlabeled blank space where the black dot—a tiny, round speck, neither an egg nor a baby—simply drops off the page.
About the Author:
Genia Blum is a Swiss Ukrainian Canadian dancer, writer and translator. She has received a Best of the Net and several Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essay “Slaves of Dance,” based on excerpts from her memoir in progress, Escape Artists, was named a “Notable” in The Best American Essays 2019. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Assay: Journal of Nonfiction Studies, Asymptote Journal, Atticus Review, Bending Genres, Berfrois, (b)OINK zine, Creative Nonfiction Magazine (Tiny Truths), Essay Daily, Monkeybicycle, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Solstice Literary Magazine, Sonora Review, The /tƐmz/ Review, Under the Sun, and Vestal Review; and she writes a regular series for Queen Mob’s Teahouse titled Let Me Clarify: Unsolicited Advice by Genia Blum. When not working on her memoir, she tweaks fonts and photos on her website www.geniablum.com and haunts Twitter and Instagram as @geniablum.