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The Unmentionables - Inspired by What is a Teenage Girl?

Did you read the NY Times article that came out last week, entitled "What Is a Teenage Girl?" by Samantha Hunt?

When I finally got around to fully reading it Monday morning, in the predawn minutes before our kids woke up, I was so moved that I was paralyzed.

It was this part that bit me, which comes after Ms. Hunt details the story of a teenager whose private videos sent to a boyfriend wound up on Pornhub.  That teenager later attempted suicide. Ms. Hunt then speaks about her 9 year old daughter and the 2016 election. 

Someone at school had told her about Donald Trump’s “grab ’em by the pussy” transcript. My daughter asked, “Mom, do you know he grabs women’s private parts?”

“Don’t worry,” I consoled her; such a horrible human would never be elected president.

Four years later, there he was, threatening Mike Pence. “You can either go down in history as a patriot or you can go down in history as a pussy.” A comment that makes it abundantly clear Mr. Trump doesn’t know the first thing about vaginas — that they are the pure strength that pushed us all into existence.

I cried without meaning to, right into my first cup of coffee. Something broke free, as I thought not only of a man who'd taken liberties and grabbed me in a context that should have been replete with trust and safety, but also of the more tender, sacred times in my life when my womanhood had to be hidden away.  

What if that womanhood were instead acknowledged openly as the center of my creative power, of our creative power as women?  Imagine a world where our bodies and their seasons and capabilities were celebrated.  Imagine being embraced by that world as a teenager who's first encountering hormonal shifts and curious feelings. 

It reminded me of a cherished quote.  A quote from none other than Mr. Rogers. 

Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.

When I first heard this quote, it was in the context of death, but I immediately thought of postpartum.⁠

Why does it feel so unmanageable?  ⁠

So much bleeding, difficulty standing, showering, that first bowel movement, hemorrhoids, cracked nipples, difficulty getting baby to latch, painful contractions after birth, when the uterus is shrinking back, involuntary shaking as the placenta leaves our bodies, unforeseen emotions when our babies are placed on our chests, swollen bodies days after delivery, surprising feelings toward our partner, puzzling changes in our relationship toward our career, ravenous hunger, hair loss, skin changes, fear that creeps in at dusk when we think we just can't take another night of broken sleep. ⁠

Could it be that it feels unmentionable?  That we take our cue from those who've come before us and didn't share what they really experienced?  From movies and TV shows and glossy photos of new moms shellacked with bliss and pinched by nipped waistlines? ⁠From men who've snatched at us and been grossed out by our blood?

Do we cave to a pressure to be tidy, convenient, pleasant? ⁠

It didn't begin with postpartum.  Your first period, a white bathing suit, sitting on a picnic table, having the blood pointed out by a childhood crush, tying a sweatshirt to bury the evidence in a panic.  Unmentionable.  ⁠

I sometimes wonder if the unmentionable became that way because of its power.  Actually, I don't wonder; it's an inner knowing.  ⁠

The pure strength that pushed us all into existence.⁠

If you're going through something and telling yourself it's unmentionable because no one else is talking about it, please speak up.  Not only are you worthy of high mention, you, dear one are heroic.  Believe nothing else. 



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