home on art on artists reviews info/contact

FATHER AND MOTHER

About udder, penis and duck's chest


It all began some weeks ago: Mary (18 months) witnessed me peeing in the garden. She was very interested, posted herselfbeside me and was about to open her nappy as you would open a fly. She was very disappointed when she did not manage. All the more interested, she looked at the beam protruding from my penis. To be sure, she has more than often seen my penis in the bath. But, only now did she seem to realise that a beam was coming out of it. And she wanted to produce such a wonderful thing herself. For, just like she promptly feels on her.crown by the sight of taft of a cockatoo to assess where her crest might be, just so was she quite certain that she would be able to have such a marvellous thing pop up from behind her nappy. She had the same reaction when, some days ago, she was sitting in the bath with her brother John, she began playing with his thing, and promptly set out looking where her jewel might be*.

And it went on with a little arm that suddenly grasped my nipple under my shirt. I pulled my shirt up, whereupon Mary immediately got ready to suck. Until she suddenly recoiled, horrified by the sight of my hairs. I explained that I also had nipples, just like her mama, even when they were not so big, but that I did not have breasts, and even less milk. She could not stomach that. The next day, she made another attempt. Apparently, she had got over the problem of the hair, and tried to suck again. Only to even more promptly recoil when she assessed that there was nothing to clasp. She turned to her brother, who sat looking at the television beside us. Shirt lifted up. There, on that beautiful young body, things looked far more appetising: no hair to be seen, although that minute nipple amounted to anything. She nevertheless made a try to suck, but, visibly disappointed, withdrew when it appeared that also this was not the real thing.

It began to dawn on her that not everybody has breasts! And that was a great blow to her, especially since the availability her most cherished breasts was at stake since her mother had resumed her evening classes a couple of weeks ago. She had to content herself with going to sleep with her father and a feeding bottle, instead of with her mother with those two abundant breasts. Not that she would not fall asleep: I explained her that mama would come back when she slept, and that she would be breastfed then. But when that had happened, she could not stop making sure that the breasts were still there. To the effect that she reconquered her place in the marital bed, from which we knew to triumphantly remove her some months ago. Worse still: she would not stop sucking for the rest of the night. Only to find out that her mother was not always prepared to feed her. And when she was: that the breasts did not always yield milk! The rock on which she had built her church turned out to be a mere house of cards.

No wonder that she began to cling to her mother, also during the daytime. Even less, that she went out to look for more reliable breasts: when those of her mama were not always there, and if there, not always full, she would surely find more reliable breasts elsewhere!

But that was reckoned without one's host. Not all living beings turned out to be endowed those precious treasures. How convinced she had been of the contrary, was apparent from the extent to which she was appalled at the assessment that ducks did not have breasts, when her mother was reading from a book that evening! Lambs, foals, kittens, piglets: they all could reckon on a mother with the necessary equipment. And those poor chicks would have to do without? Impossible! She promptly set out to find nipples on the duck's chest. Hesitatingly, she pointed to the paws. But, when I claimed these to be paws, she was totally bewildered: what about those poor chicks, then? The next days, we had to look at those ducks without nipples, time and again, as if she had to work through a trauma. Mary is not the first mortal to confront this problem: see 'Yeats' Leda and the swan'.

The problems with 'weaning' (or: when this happens earlier: the problems with the presence or absence of breasts) lead to a first division of living beings in beings with and beings without breasts. It matters to make it clear that only mammals have breasts, and that of the mammals, only female mammals have breasts, and only when they have become adult. And what is more: that not all female adult mammals have milk in their breasts, but only mothers. And most important: that you get only milk from your own mother! In the end, the child has to reconcile with the fact that the disappearing breasts will not resurface elsewhere.

No prospect to reconcile with just like that! Because the facts are not so plain as it seems at first sight. Mother nature has played us a dirty trick here. Apparently, she could not decide where to implant the nipples when conceiving mammals. There is something like a nipple line. The very nipples that, with humans, are on the breast, are situated between the legs with cows, horses, sheep and goat. And to push things even further: dogs, cats and pigs have an entire line stretching from the breast to the abdomen. Not to mention the fact that there are not always two nipples, but sometimes four, or even twelve!

Thus, they are moving from above to below over the front or the underside of mammals, those desirable nipples. When moving downward, they find themselves on the place where, with males, and this time inexorably, the penis happens to be implanted. As long as the child knows not to tell the sexes, and as long as it divides living beings in beings with and without breasts, penises are subsumed under the category of nipples. After all, nipples look quite different depending on the species, so that a penis cannot be excluded in principle. On the contrary: it is far more bigger than a modal nipple. And what is more: it produces an abundant and above all visible beam, of which children do not know that it is undrinkable. Especially the visibility of the beam is a plus: many a baby has examined the nipple to find out how that precious milk might proceed out of something in which there are apparently no openings. And, against the background of weaning, also the abundance of the jet is not at all to be sneezed at. Whence the obsession of many a toddler with taps, sprayers, bottles and pots, from whose visible openings equally abundant jets of fluid are flowing.

The promotion of the penis to nipple is just what the baby needs. If your mother threatens to resign, and if it turns out that your father has no breasts, he has something hanging there beneath that might bring solace. The endeavours of the child to learn that there is something like sexes, hurt on the expectation that father might become a better mother. And when the child already accepts the difference between father and mother, that does not mean that it will also apply this distinction to itself. We will come back on that topic later.

In expectance, it matters to teach the difference between nipple and penis. Thereby a second dimension of the difference between the sexes is introduced: just as the father has no breasts, the mother has no penis.

As a consequence of the hesitations of mother nature, teaching the difference is not a sinecure. When exploring animals in the vicinity, I avoided bulls and stallions, in the hope to postpone the assimilation of penis and nipple. At last, I had found a meadow with two mares and two foals. After enthusiastically having pointed to the nipples of the mares, one of the foals came to suck on the udder, much to Mary's pleasure, who crowed with delight. But, when also the second foal stood up, the fun was over: it wore an impressive penis on its belly. And there she really stood baffled: a baby with such a huge nipple, such evidently did not fit into her worldview…

To be continued!

© Stefan Beyst, November 2002 (translated March2004)


Reactions (in English, French, German or Dutch)
: beyst.stefan@gmail.com

Other texts on education: follow the arrows



Stay informed about new texts: mailinglist.