Over the course of the last several years, Eve Ensler interviewed over 200 women about their vaginas. The result is a riveting, funny, activist book (and performance piece) called The Vagina Monologues (Villard, 1998), In the following excerpt, an older, unnamed Jewish woman—with a Queens accent—pays a visit “down there.”
Down there? I haven’t been down there since 1953. No, it had nothing to do with Eisenhower. No, no, it’s a cellar down there. It’s very damp, clammy. You don’t want to go down there. Trust me. You’d get sick. Suffocating. Very nauseating. The smell of the clamminess and the mildew and everything. Whew! Smells unbearable. Gets in your clothes.
No, there was no accident down there. It didn’t blow up or catch on fire or anything. It wasn’t so dramatic. I mean…well, never mind. No. Never mind. I can’t talk to you about this. What’s a smart girl like you going around talking to old ladies about their down-theres for? We didn’t do this kind of a thing when I was a girl. What? Jesus, okay.
There was this boy, Andy Leftkov. He was cute—well, I thought so. And tall, like me, and I really liked him. He asked me out for a date in his car….
I can’t tell you this. I can’t do this, talk about down there. You just know it’s there. Like the cellar. There’s rambles down there sometimes. You can hear the pipes, and things get caught there, little animals and things, and it gets wet, and sometimes people have to come and plug up the leaks. Otherwise the door stays closed. You forget about it. I mean, it’s part of the house, but you don’t see it or think about it. It has to be there, though, ’cause every house needs a cellar. Otherwise the bedroom would be in the basement.
Oh, Andy, Andy Leftkov. Right. Andy was very good-looking. He was a catch. That’s what we called it in my day. We were in his car, a new white Chevy BelAir. I remember thinking that my legs were too long for the seat. I have long legs. They were bumping up against the dashboard. I was looking at my big kneecaps when he just kissed me in this surprisingly “Take me by control like they do in the movies” kind of way. And I got excited, so excited, and, well, there was a flood down there. I couldn’t control it. It was like this force of passion, this river of life just flooded out of me, right through my panties, right onto the car seat of his new white Chevy BelAir. It wasn’t pee and it was smelly—well, frankly, I didn’t really smell anything at all, but he said, Andy said, that it smelled like sour milk and it was staining his car seat. I was “a stinky weird girl,” he said. I wanted to explain that his kiss had caught me off guard, that I wasn’t normally like this. I tried to wipe the flood up with my dress. It was a new yellow primrose dress and it look so ugly with the flood on it. Andy drove me home and he never, never said another word and when I got out and closed his car door, I closed the whole store. Locked it. Never opened for business again. I dated some after that, but the idea of flooding made me too nervous. I never even got close again.
I used to have dreams, crazy dreams. Oh, they’re dopey. Why? Burt Reynolds. I don’t know why. He never did much for me in life, but in my dreams…it was always Burt. It was always the same general dream. We’d be out. Burt and I. It was some restaurant like the kind you see in Atlantic City, all big with chandeliers and stuff and thousands of waiters with vests on. Burt would give me this orchid corsage. I’d pin it on my blazer. We’d laugh. Eat shrimp cocktail. Huge shrimp, fabulous shrimp. We’d laugh more. We were very happy together. Then he’d look into my eyes and pull me to him in the middle of the restaurant—and, just as he was about to kiss me, the room would start to shake, pigeons would fly out from under the table—I don’t know what those pigeons were doing there—and the flood would come straight from down there. It would pour out of me. It would pour and pour. There would be fish inside it, and little boats, and the whole restaurant would fill with water, and Burt would be standing knee-deep in my flood, looking horribly disappointed in me that I’d done it again, horrified as he watched his friends, Dean Martin and the like, swim past us in their tuxedos and evening gowns.
I don’t have those dreams anymore. Not since they took away just about everything connected with down there. Moved out the uterus, the tubes, the whole works. The doctor thought he was being funny. He told me if you don’t use it, you lose it. But really I found out it was cancer. Everything around it had to go. Who needs it, anyway? Right? Highly overrated. I’ve done other things. I love the dog show. I sell antiques.
What would it wear? What kind of question is that? What would it wear? It would wear a big sign:
“Closed Due to Flooding.”
What would it say? I told you. It’s not like that. It’s not like a person who speaks. It stopped being a thing that talked a long time ago. It’s a place. A place you don’t go. It’s closed up, under the house. It’s down there. You happy? You made me talk—you got it out of me. You got an old lady to talk about her down-there. You feel better now? [Turns away; turns back.]
You know, actually, you’re the first person I ever talked to about this, and I feel a little better.