“It’s a girl.” The doctor informed my father in the hospital waiting room on a wintery morning in 1963. (In those days, family members weren’t allowed in labor and delivery.) After three boys—Scott, Joseph and Peter—my father was thrilled to finally have his little girl.
Later, when the nurse handed my father his bundle of joy, she said, “Congratulations. It’s a boy.”
“We’ll see about that.” said Father, and then he pulled off my diaper.
Yep. I have a vagina—making me the family “princess,” and, at the same time, a second class citizen in the LDS (Mormon) church.
Two more brothers—Jeffery and Corey—were born after me and my role as “princess” became a necessary tool for survival. As with many Mormon families, my fight for attention began early in life. When no one in the neighborhood came to see Mother’s new addition to the family, she rectified the situation by taking me for a walk on the first sunny day in February. One step out the front door onto a thin layer of ice and down we toppled to the bottom of three concrete steps, granting me my first performance as “cry baby.” The neighbors came running. Mother was overjoyed.
As with Nephi, in the Book of Mormon, I was born of goodly parents. Father was the absent-minded scientist and mother was the playful playwright—think Mary Poppins with a typewriter. Both were loving but nerdy. Neither had much time or inclination to parent us beyond the basic necessities. The Mormon way of raising obedient, drug-free, temple-worthy—virgin and non-critically thinking—children is to feed ‘em and send ‘em out the door to school, church, or sports.
By age nine, an emotional disconnect was fully in place, not just with my parents, but with my siblings as well. After school one day, I was watching Gilligan’s Island when Peter turned to me and said, “Pull my finger.”
“No.” I said. “I don’t want to pull your finger. You’ll fart.”
Peter farted anyway, even though I never pulled his finger, and then roared with laughter. My brothers and all of their buddies laughed too and then lifted their legs to poison one another with more toxic gas. I covered my nose and prayed for a sister‒a confidant who could share my disgust for ill-mannered boys. Maleness surrounded me, evidenced by toilet seats in upright positions and dried tacky urine on tiled bathroom floors. Even the dog, Dudley, was male and prone to dog farts. I complained to my parents but Father explained that flatus was a natural human function; which, he elaborated, “typically takes place eight to twenty times a day and is merely the expulsion of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methane, the byproduct of bacterial fermentation in the gastrointestinal tract. The Nitrogen,” he qualified his statement, “however, is not produced in the body, but is a component of environmental air, which enters the body via swallowing.”
It was important to him that I understand gas is not totally generated in the stomach or bowels as some persons erroneously believe. Father continued to pontificate, “It’s unnecessary to maintain excessive gas in the alimentary canal because it causes undue pain and therefore should be released whenever the need arises.” He punctuated his statement with a loud flatus emission and Mother smiled lovingly at him.
Someday, I said to myself, “I’ll marry a handsome prince who’ll take me far, far, away.”