What Happened to Your Penis?


Last week’s post was a funny story about my son Adam, from when he was 7. This week, in the interest of “equal time,” I’d like to put my daughter Naomi in the hot seat and tell about something that happened when she was about 4. (In the photo above, taken when we were on vacation in California, he was nearly 2½ and she nearly 4½.)

We were living in Leningrad at the time (I was working at the U.S. consulate there), and there were very few American kids in the city who were about their ages. Since none of them lived in our neighborhood, we relied on playdates to give our two a chance to socialize with English-speaking friends. (Naomi was also enrolled in a neighborhood preschool – detsky sad [детский сад] – about which I’ll post a thing or two some other time.)

One of Naomi’s American friends was Perry, a boy of just about her age, the son of a mathematics professor who was spending a semester or two in Leningrad as part of an exchange between the (U.S.) National Academy of Sciences and the Soviet Academy of Sciences. They lived in an apartment in another part of town. One day, Naomi was spending the afternoon at Perry’s house. When we picked Naomi up at the end of the playdate, Perry’s mom related the following incident.

Naomi told Perry she needed to use the bathroom and went right in. Privacy not yet being part of either kid’s life, Perry went in with her. Perry’s mom, just a few feet away in the kitchen, overheard the following exchange:

Perry, in shock and alarm: “Naomi, what happened to your penis?”

Naomi, chirping cheerfully: “Nothing. I’m a gril. I don’t have a penis. I have a bagina!”

A straightforward anatomy lesson that has been part of family lore ever since.

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