CHENNAI: Warning: Don’t read this if you’re prudish, elderly and prudish or related to me and elderly and prudish. You have been warned. Don’t send angry emails.
Something interesting happened to me on Mother’s Day. I shared a photograph of my rather gorgeous mother and wished her. The post got about 98 likes and a couple of dozen comments. I can understand why, my mother is gorgeous, and has a great smile.
The same day, a few hours later, I shared a post by Agents of Ishq, an amazing group working ‘towards a healthier, happier society’ through some amazingly cool and fun sex education.
May 7, in case you missed it, was National Masturbation Day (no Hallmark cards for that one), and I had suggested on Twitter and FB that mothers everywhere ask for some quality time alone as a Mother’s Day gift. It got 3 likes. And complete silence therafter. You could hear the crickets.
Of course, people might have missed it. They might have been so blinded by my mother’s megawatt smile in the previous post that they couldn’t see this one. Or, just the very idea that women, no mothers, might masturbate (gasp!) made them so uncomfortable they were squirming in their chairs (and not in a good way). Maybe, some were wondering ‘Does she do it too? She seems so normal on Facebook. And then this?’
Why are we so closed-up about discussions on sexuality in this country...especially women’s sexuality? And in that, the subset of a mother’s sexuality is in a dungeon deep down below and guarded by a Balrog.
No one goes there. We just assume that post childbirth, women are dead below the waist. (By the way, it’s not dead, just roomier.) We are so busy glorifying, deifying and canonising mothers everywhere, that it’s easy and convenient to forget they are human beings with needs, wants, a sense of humour and yes, shockingly, desires.
A day later, my five-year-old was rummaging in my drawer when he found an old postcard of mine from the Museum of Modern Art. It’s of Henri Rousseau’s ‘The Dream’. You can Google the title to see the photo, but in short it shows a woman reclining naked on a chaise lounge in the middle of a lush forest. If you look carefully you can see a person standing amid the foliage playing what looks like a clarinet.
I know. I just read that. I really mean a musical instrument. Any euphemisms are in the artist’s mind.
My first reaction was to take the picture away. To hide it. But then I decided not to. My son picked the card up and looked at it.
‘Why is she naked?’
‘I don’t know. It’s a dream.’
And that was that.
I hope he maintains that nonchalance throughout his life. That easy acceptance. As parents we tend to hide things, shame and ridicule things we are uncomfortable with. We pass that on to our children.
Now, I’m not suggesting we all start posting pictures of our favourite Rabbits on Facebook, that you should go find that post of mine and like or comment on it. But that little judgemental voice in your heads (and at times in mine too), maybe we start working on replacing it with acceptance.
If a five-year-old can, we can too.
(The writer’s parenting philosophy is: if there’s no blood, don’t call me)