I approach the subject of gender studies early, beginning around the age of four to tease apart the difference between sex and gender. The daughters celebrate being uncumbered by a penis; the son mourns his lack of a womb. I do my best to mitigate the natural inequality.
Long road trips across the states of America’s plains drive the desolation into the driver. Even the most vivid imaginations can only find so many things to make of a Texas windmill. We skip the truck-stop restrooms and the local culture of viruses and epidemics in favor of green meadows and low-lying scrub lands.
Field studies involve multiple rest-stops on a Colorado road trip, each one a chance to star our map of places we have peed in a field. I’d rather the kids find their bottoms tickled by grass than to watch them rub their little hands on the petri-dish that is a public toilet. It’s a personal roadtripping preference of mine, and it has served us well over the years.
Having to squat and stare at a small spot of soil draws one closer to the tiny forms of life we overlook.
“Field study stop!” I announce without needing to detail my intentions. The kids have been peeing in the grass for as long as they can remember.
The son unzips his shorts and licks a finger, raising it above his head to test the wind. The girls and I take note of his chosen direction and pull down our pants and panties in one rapid swoosh, squatting with a paperback of space between our feet, scouring the space around our shoes for fire ants and the grass beneath our naked, goosebumped bottoms for poison ivy, poison, oak, poison sumac, and sharp pieces of glass. We also make sure to be positioned in a way that allowed any terrestrial incline to carry our golden streams away from us. Heaven forbid the possibility of a golden pool.
To the son, I say only: Aim well.
To the daughters, I deliver an oration: Never pee in a ditch; your shoes will get wet. Tree roots make excellent rear support; the hummus nearby absorbs liquid readily. Sand, if loosely packed, reveals itself as godsend. Tightly-packed clay soil expects strong toes and continuous shifting acrobatics. Any skirt should be tucked into the elastic of your undies prior to squatting.
Keep an eye on the golden stream. Maintain a wide leg berth, broaden the banks. Oak or sassafrass leaves make the best wipes. Learn to live with a little pee on your toes in the season of sandals and flip-flops.
The son wonders why I spend more time helping the females, considering the presumed equality of the sexes.
Because their sex is less amenable to easy, field-side urination, I defend.
What I mean: gender studies begins at age four and continues until senility whooshes away further investigation. In the interim, we enjoy the pit stops along the way.