Saturday, October 20, 2007

Hummers and other things

I was looking out my kitchen window Saturday afternoon, thinking I ought to take down my last hummingbird feeder since I hadn't seen any hummers for more than a week--and damn if one didn't fly up just then and start battling with a bee for a place at the feeder. I felt very guilty that the nectar hadn't been changed in days. I put out some fresh juice, and he came right back. He spent most of the afternoon eating.

This happens almost every year. Just when I think I'm finished feeding hummers I get a straggler who decides he likes it here. (FYI, according to bird experts, feeding hummingbirds does not discourage them from migrating. In fact, it aids their survival during migration. Some of them are just pokier than others, and they'll move on when they get ready.) I really don't mind cooking for one, although it's always slightly distressing to see the little guys hanging around in the cold. I kinda hope he clears out before we go to Scotland

Image from

After I took care of the bird, I drove to a shopping strip in a little city west of here. There's a tiny department store there with a Lauder counter, and I was looking for some Cinnabar lotion. They didn't have any, but I did find a penis in the parking lot. Actually, I think it would be safe to assume there were a number of penises attached to their owners in the parking lot, but there was one just lying on the pavement unsupervised. Okay, some kid had spray-painted PENIS very neatly at the end of a parking space; but, as Charles Peirce explained and the kid instinctively knew, sign and object are not really separable.

It was one of those baffling graffiti moments: Why is this here, and what does it mean? If I'd seen it on the street in Chicago I'd immediately assume some snarky little art student had been at work, but there aren't any snarky little art students in Dickson, Tn. This was the work of a kid--well, I hope it was a kid--simply expressing himself. (Or herself. I think it was a boy, though, because a girl would write in pretty cursive and put a heart-shaped dot over the "i." And she'd write Vagina in the next parking space with another heart-shaped dot. Girls are very holistic in their thinking.)

It got me thinking about how the penis, as word and thing, is still regarded with such superstition. It's sort of the last taboo. Think about it. The V word is all over the place. We've got The Vagina Monologues, and there's a steady stream of plain-speaking ads on TV for ways to cure whatever ails your vagina: vaginal dryness, vaginal odor, vaginal yeast infections.

Where are The Penis Confessions? And how come the little blue pill is for "erectile" dysfunction? You don't pop the Cialis because your erection is dysfunctional, but because it's non-existent. It's the penis that's dysfunctional. So why not say that? Maybe because it would remind us that the penis not a magic wand or an overseer's weapon, just a part of the human body. We can't have that, can we?

I feel a lot of sympathy for the little vandal who left his penis in the parking lot. He just wants a bit of respect and recognition for the appendage nature gave him. He's trying to reclaim the worth of his body, and reject the false currency of cars, guns and paychecks. You go, honey.


jojoe said...

You are soooooooooooo good!

helg said...

"sign and object are not really separable": now there's a thought for an elaborate discussion.

It must be both weird and wonderful to have something that is so apparently a confirmation of your sex. Hence the confusion?

Anonymous said...

You know BG, when I say the word penis in front of my daughter or husband, or just some people in general, it's almost like I am saying a word that brings shame. It's like they can't believe I said the "P" word. *gasp* But no one flinches if I substitute the word DICK for penis. Interesting.

And here's a little story (true) that still makes me laugh. My sister's hubby is a big, bad marine. He stands 6 ft. 5 in. tall, has both arms covered in tattoos from the shoulders to the wrists and he drives a big, black Harley Davidson. Get the picture? Anyway, they had bought a male english bulldog puppy about 1 and 1/2 years ago. If you know anything about English Bulldogs - males especially, they like masturbate - constantly. But the problem with that is that they get a condition called an inverted penis.

Well, that happened to their dog. His penis was inverted and a little bloody so my sister asked big, bad marine hubby to take the dog to the emergency vets to get him looked because it's supposedly very painful.

He takes his 13 yr. old son with him and the dog to the E vets. And when they got there, the receptionist asked what the problem is and according to my nephew, his dad turned bright, bright red and said to the receptionist "Um, there is something wrong with his WINKEY!" While saying winkey, he is pointing towards the dog's penis.

The receptionist just kind of laughed it off and called a tech to take the dog to the backroom.

The End.

So I am still wondering why in this day and age, there is a such a hang-up with saying the word penis but not dick.

As for the penis graffiti, I guess if you are going to leave your penis somewhere, a parking spot is always a good place. At least it's a high visibility area. ;0

When are you leaving for Scotland?


BitterGrace said...

Thanks, jojoe--feel free to comment more often. ;-)

I dunno, Helg--are they confused, or am I? It's probably the result of being the only girl in a family of boys...

Dawn, that story is hilarious. "Winkey" is a new one on me. I think words like dick and cock are more acceptable than penis because they carry a connotation of power. Winkey would be the flip side of that--infantilizing and disempowering the phallic magic. Basically, it seems like we're willing to jump through all kinds of verbal hoops to avoid humanizing those few inches of flesh.

Scotland will see us in late November. I gotta get a raincoat!