An Unusual Valentine from My Daughter
VDAY, Portsmouth, NH
Of all the shocking and disturbing scenes The Vagina Monologues may bring up, it was one quote that really got to me over this past weekend. In the scheme of things it was rather benign compared to the play’s discourse on women, body parts, vagina workshops, rape, and gender violence.
One of the actors stood up in the audience—a spot light in a sea of darkness—and reported a statistic:
More than half of high school girls cannot name three adults they would confide in.
That hit me. A loud rumble started to drown out the play—the sound of fear roared though my mind.
I took a deep breath. I started to feel clammy—a bit sick to my stomach, actually. I have two daughters. Horrible images ran across my mind.
I began to scan my crazy mama brain. Who would they reach out to?
Me? That would be sweet, but daughters don’t confide their most troublesome experiences or worries to their mothers. Trust me. Those of you who proclaim, “My daughter tells me everything. We’re really close.” … well, that’s just BS. I know. I have teen clients and I hear things they would never, ever tell their moms.
So I immediately took myself out of the running.
Really, to whom would Josie and Sophie reach out? Another mom? One of their four aunts? Umm, well, maybe….
Ehhh. But no, probably not. Too far away.
It was a conversation I had in my head for the next three days.
If you don’t know about The Vagina Monologues, or have heard about it and immediately judge it as something you’d never see, consider it. Stretch yourself.
The Vagina Monologues gets performed around the country around Valentine’s Day—at local community theaters or college campuses. The movement is called VDAY. The proceeds go to a local organization that supports women’s health, domestic violence shelters, rape prevention services, and so on. In this case, the proceeds went to SASS, Sexual Assault Support Services, NH.
The play is hilarious, gut wrenching, and heart throbbing all at once. It is a full body experience. It’s based on real stories. It will awaken your mind before you shut it down again—after you digest the sheer, disturbing reality of the constancy of violence against girls and women. It is too hard to bear.
The play is based on the Eve Ensler’s interviews with over 200 women. She began some causal research on the subject with friends and then it became a mission of sorts.
I WAS WORRIED ABOUT VAGINAS.
I WAS WORRIED WHAT WE THINK ABOUT VAGINAS
AND I WAS EVEN MORE WORRIED
THAT WE DON’T THINK ABOUT THEM.
I WAS WORRIED ABOUT MY OWN VAGINA.
IT NEEDED A CONTEXT, A COMMUNITY,
A CULTURE OF OTHER VAGINAS.
THERE IS SO MUCH DARKNESS AND SECRECY SURROUNDING THEM,
LIKE THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE.
You get the idea. A friend, the amazing Kiva Leatherman, performed one of monologues this past weekend at the Seacoast Repertory Theater in Portsmouth, NH. It was the 9th year of VDAY in that small city. It was fantastic. She was amazing. All the actors were. After it was over a bunch of us met her to celebrate. I was floored again when she pointed out that a mother and daughter had monologues in the play. The mom’s part was demonstrating the various sounds of a female orgasm (ala When Harry Met Sally). Yes, indeed. She was rather convincing. Her 15-year-old daughter had a part on the power of a miniskirt. Impressive.
Yes, I know we New Englanders are quite liberal and a play like The Vagina Monologues is par for the course. I confess that I did ask myself during the performance: At what ages would I bring my girls to see this? They are 13 and 16. I suppose they would not be too surprised if I took them to see a show like this. They’ve both been through comprehensive Sex Ed, a program called Our Whole Lives. But The Vagina Monologues is raw in a different way.
I was thinking… oh, it might be too much.
I couldn’t take the rumbling in my brain, though. After 3 days mulling over the nagging statistic, I shared my experience at the play. I asked both of my daughters to think about who they could reach to out in a crisis. Any crisis – drinking, sex, stress, bad grades, deep sadness, whatever. What supportive, trusting grownups would they talk to?
My younger one, bless her soul, dutifully exclaimed: “You and Dad!” I said, “That’s nice. Who else? Let’s expand your circle.” We thought aloud for a while and the conversation eventually led to other things.
The next day my older daughter, in a rare moment of chattiness, informed me that earlier in the school day she talked to a favorite teacher about classes, college … “oh just life.” Sophie decided, apparently, as the conversation rolled along that Ms. B was one person she could reach out to. So she asked (asked!) Ms.B if she’d be OK with that. Ms. B agreed.
After Sophie swooped out of the room, I just sat there. For a while.
It was a moment of curiosity. Of gratitude.
She listened. She got it.
I think that’s the best V-Day gift, ever.
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Learn about Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues and V-Day.
Eve Ensler’s 2011 Ted Talk
SASS-NH Education Programs: Safe Kids-Strong Teens