I probably know more about the human vagina than many of my readers, but I still don’t know all there is to know. And yes, I do mean vagina, as in the vaginal canal – not the vulva or the entirety of the genitals. Human bodies are amazing, and the structure and functions of this bit of our anatomy is no exception.* For instance, did you know the vagina is larger toward the back – the cervix and the uterus – than the opening, and that it “tents” or expands with sexual arousal? Did you know that most of the nerve endings in a woman’s vagina are in the first third – therefore rendering the idea of penis length being tantamount to penetrative sexual satisfaction rather overrated? The vaginal organ is a muscle – not a big (or small), empty tube that remains open; it folds in on itself when relaxed or “resting”; it grips what is inside it when something is inside it. When it isn’t in an accommodating state the insertion of something as small as a finger, speculum, or tampon can feel uncomfortable; yet this amazing organ has the power to expand and deliver 11 pound babies intact and then restore itself to its former condition.
The reason the human vagina was on my mind this morning was not because I was thinking about vaginas per se but because I was thinking about, well, my mind. Specifically the capacity to be inert, and to expand, and to go back to a relaxed – or, if you will, collapsed state. I was standing in my kitchen and trying to figure out the ratio of long grain rice to water, because I was going to make fried rice for the family’s lunch. And I knew the proper amount of water for cooking two cups of dry rice: three cups. But I also knew I only wanted to cook one and a half cups of dried rice, because that was the right amount for the dish I was making. And I couldn’t think of how much water to use. After a beat I knew I would have to either move over and jot the little fraction conversion down on a piece of paper, or clear my mind of the sound of my children (and husband) playing and my mental preoccupations with my online reading that morning and concentrate on doing some math in my head.
The thing is, though, I used to be pretty damned readily good at math. I did earn a bachelor’s degree that involved the stuff pretty heavily; I used fairly advanced math in paid employment for years. I still remember vividly the feelings and experience of thinking in and easily speaking relatively high-level math. Yet I cannot easily do much simple computation these days because I am out of practice, or perhaps distracted by other things. My fraction-manipulating skills need the use of paper and pencil if I don’t just give up and give it a guess. That voice echoes in my head; the one that says we need to learn all these subjects in school so we won’t be hampered in doing the things in life we have to do – estimation, arithmetic, perhaps small operations of probability.
And this is a bit confusing too, because I guess I think that voice, ingrained as it is, is bullshit. Obviously I do not lack the skills to go about doing what I have to do during the day. In the grocery store I estimate the purchase price of my produce and sundries – while managing my rowdy kids and their questions and talking and clambering on the cart – and I’m always within a dollar of the total price of the goods. And I will point out that my frequent and adroit cooking efforts, along with my knitting and sewing and getting people to where they need to be at the time they’re supposed to be there, actually allows for a whole lot of practical math. What is, after all, my knowledge that 1 1/2 cups of ingredient rice is the right amount for my foursome except for simple math or, perhaps, intuitive reasoning?
Still, it can feel odd to have lost something that was once mine; in this case, fluency and proficiency in the world of numbers. I find myself reminded of the transition of life; perhaps later in my short time on this earth when I’m not stooped over picking up towels off the floor and mentally casting my mind over the holes in the elbows of sweatshirts and the leftovers in the fridge and the cat’s vet appointment – perhaps then I’ll have more room for working with and re-familiarizing myself with fractions, friends I used to know so well.
* Scarleteen, a sex website I highly recommend, has one of my favorite reads on vaginas.