Busytown by Jolisa Gracewood

Gender studies 101

One of the freaky things about being pregnant was how unfreaky the whole thing was. I expected to feel weirded out, especially once the little creature - let’s call him Busyfetus - started visibly tumbling around in there like a puppy under a blanket. But nope, never a moment of “Holy fuck, there’s an alien in my belly!”

The closest I came was around the fourth month or so, when -- according to the pregnancy books I consulted with the religious obedience of a first-time tourist in the kingdom of the fertile - the baby’s genitals were in the process of being formed.

“Good lord. Quite possibly I’m growing a penis,” I said to myself and anyone who would listen.

And as it turned out, I was. A nicely formed little one, if I do say so myself.

It’s now -- still -- attached to one of the most loquacious two and a half year olds on the planet. Just last night, while sitting pensively on the lavvy, Busytot asked me some long and involved question about the properties of the penis, its current and future size, and its propensities for hiding itself and then popping out again (he's auditioning for that puppetry show again).

I found it hard to answer, not having regular access to a penis myself. Well, when I say regular access, I mean to one of my own. Well, when I say - look, you know what I mean.

So I prevaricated.

Me: “Hmmm, I don’t know, actually, because I don’t have one. We’ll have to ask Daddy.”

Busytot: “You could get a penis. You go buy one.”

Me (knowing the answer in advance but unable not to ask the question): “Now where would I do that?”

Busytot: “At the penis shop!” (Helpfully, in a confiding whisper) “It’s in New Haven.”

Item duly added to the shopping list. Milk, bread, paper towels, detachable penis.

The boy is gradually getting the hang of the notion that girls have girl-parts and boys have boy-parts, although his grip on the technical aspects tends to be a bit wobbly. As it were.

He knows Daddy is a boy, for example. “So, does Daddy have a penis?” I asked one day -- trick question -- and the world’s youngest gender theorist firmly replied “No. He doesn’t.” Which, I can tell you without betraying too many family secrets, is not in fact the case. (More worryingly, given that we often all shower together and the fast-growing Busytot is at eye level with the subject at hand, his confidence on the matter demonstrates either incipient myopia or a shocking lack of attention to detail.)

So, in the course of reading a cheerful little library book about bodies and how they work, I attempted to right this misconception in a low key, conversational way. “You know girls have a vulva and a vagina, right? So, what do boys have that girls don’t have?"

Busytot: “Um… um… um…”

A long silence while he rolled his eyes to the ceiling and thought very hard, and then he brightened up. “An excavator! Oh, anna dumptruck, anna bulldozer, anna car carrier…”

The thing is, he’s half right. Now, I was a bit of a car geek myself back in the day (1952 Morris Minor, my pride and joy), but to my unscientific eye, it appears that the gene for the more fervent and indiscriminate vehicle fetish is indeed carried on the Y chromosome.

My angelic little androgyne has rapidly, over the last few months, turned into a fully fledged baby bogan with a personal fleet of cars and trucks in varying states of repair, an ability to distinguish a front-loader from a back-hoe at fifty paces, and an uncanny familiarity with the different logos of several brands of car.

There must be an evolutionary advantage in this tendency (even once you subtract the ones who get squashed while too closely observing diggers at their task) but I'm buggered if I know what it is. Still, at the very least it’s helping Busytot with learning the alphabet; every shopping trip is brought to us by the letters V and W.

And every trip to a toy shop brings home yet another small wheeled vehicle to step on in the night, stuff into a pocket before we go out, or stumble across posed in carefully choreographed construction tableaux on the bathroom vanity, under the table, or inside the pot cupboard.

And pretty much all our conversations these days are one long chorus of "Baby, you can drive my car."

Men. Can't live with 'em, can't singlehandedly grow their car-lovin' genitalia for them while they're the size of a tadpole... Oh. All right. I guess I started it.