I wasn’t so sure about doing this, but she was. It was an audition for The Vagina Monologues at the university where I work, and when I read the announcement in the weekly staff newsletter, she jumped for joy. Or maybe, she twitched. I’m not sure what you’d call it.
I guess vaginas can jump for joy, right?
Anyway, I walked into the student union about 10 minutes before auditions were to begin, and rounding the corner of the hallway, was met with a wave of loud, giggly, chattering women. YOUNG women. Barely even women. College-aged women in their late teens and some maybe just having reached their twenties. It looked and sounded like an audition for Glee or American Idol. Or a sorority rush party.
Shit. What had I gotten myself into?
“Don’t you go getting all weird on me. You know you’ve wanted to be in a play for as long as you can remember. It’s time to make a notch on your bucket list.”
I had to admit it. She was right. And I had been looking for a way to share my voice concerning things that women experience. Or tolerate. Or avoid altogether. So, I found my place in the line and took a deep breath.
There were young women who had their theatre audition “game faces” on, sharing their acting resumes with those around them in a vocal level noticeably louder than the rest of the group. There was the young girl who was giddy over the fact that she “had just turned 19, and her mother couldn’t do a damn thing about her using ‘cuss-words’ on stage or anywhere for that matter – she could say ‘pussy’ all she wanted.” And there was the shy, frail-looking girl who was making her way to the end of the line behind me but who also looked like she’d dart and run at any moment.
I was looking over the part I was to read, when my “old lady/teacher/surrogate mom” instinct kicked in and couldn’t help but turn around to the shy girl and ask if this was her first audition. I could barely see her eyes over the top of her glasses as she quickly nodded yes. I told her it was my first as well, hoping it would make her feel better. She smiled nervously and continued reading her part.
My audition piece was about hair. You know, the hair down there? Yeah.
What the hell was I thinking? I had rushed home from work, made dinner for the kids, and fed and walked the dog, only to rush back to work for a chance to read a 45-second paragraph about pubic hair? I’d lost my damned mind.
“Keep reading. It gets better. There’s the part about the ex-husband who was demanding and controlling and who eventually screwed around on you because you didn’t satisfy his ego, regardless of all the sacrifices you made for him. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?”
I swear, I could feel her grinning maniacally. Shifting my weight to the other foot to try and shut her up, I looked around nervously, hoping that no one had witnessed this. Nope. They were too busy holding hands in a circle, jumping and chanting, “Pussy Power, Motherfuckers!”
As I read and re-read the paragraph, it did begin to sound familiar. It began to sound like my story. I had been there, endured that, and eventually made the choice to leave it. This audition thing might not be so bad after all.
Tugging at the hem of my skirt was an attractive young girl, sprawled on the floor in front of me. I had been amused earlier by her iPhone video conversation with someone who was hopefully her boyfriend. She had been fluffing her hair and posing seductively into the phone for the last 30 minutes without saying much of anything. “Would you mind if I read my part to you?” I said that she was welcome to, surprised that she’d ask me instead of finding someone her own age who might better relate to her. This was going to be interesting, I was certain.
Her part was about the word, “cunt.” I detest that word for so many reasons, but apparently, it’s in this play quite a bit. She launched into this provocative, almost erotic, almost pornographic, yet perfectly-enunciated presentation. I was impressed and, at the same time, horrified that an eighteen-year-old seemed to know how to play this role quite effectively.
It was getting to within 20 minutes of the scheduled end of the presentation, and as I looked around at the group that remained, I began to wonder why these young women would even want to audition for something like this. What had they experienced in their young lives that even came close to the content in these monologues? How could they begin to relate to the experience the character behind these words?
As the producer came out to say she was going to bring us in by groups of five to speed up the process, she pointed to me and said, “I’m going to go ahead and move you up to the front of the line.” I’m guessing she saw the haggard look on my wrinkled face and was told by the other staff that I was the “only one out there who wasn’t a student.” Maybe she felt sorry for me.
Removing myself from the line, I walked to the door, and as I was about to go in… I spoke to the group. Or maybe it was she who spoke for me, blurting out above the chatter.
“Girls, me and my vagina are AT LEAST 25 years older than you, and we’ve had a long day. We need to get back home to take care of two kids who have NO idea what type of audition this is, and they WON’T know until they’re of appropriate age for that explanation. So thanks for letting us go ahead of you.”
Oh, lord. I can’t control her. Apparently, she’s in her element now. I’m not sure which one of us read the actual part during that one-minute audition, and it really doesn’t matter. The fact is, it was done. Checked off the bucket list. Pussy power, motherfuckers!
As I walked across the lawn to my car, I felt this chill of excitement. Of inspiration. Of courage that had risen to the surface and finally gasped for a breath. And out of that breath began to come my own monologue. OUR monologue.
Me and my vagina, we haven’t always had the best of relationships. In fact, I can’t say we’ve even HAD a relationship until this evening. I never much wanted to acknowledge that she existed for nearly 49 years. She has been the subject of horrible jokes from neighborhood boys, has been protected by me while being poked and prodded by doctors with no sympathy for the memories of past abuse that came suddenly and often, was the “last organ standing” after a hysterectomy, and now, she’s tired. We are both tired. But tonight, something changed. I realized that she and I are one and the same, and we’ve always been here, waiting for each other. We have experience and a common voice that can lend themselves to healing. Healing ourselves… and others.
When the producer wrote my name on the audition list, she asked me a question. If your vagina could talk, what would it say? Without hesitation, the words came freely:
“SHE would say, ‘It’s about DAMN time you let me speak!”
(We find out whether or not we made it in a week or so.)