Body and Soul
On a Quest of Self-Discovery
By Wanda Black
September 19, 1999

I am writing this column while lying on my back on the couch, a bottle of perfumed water at my side and my handheld PC perched atop my sufficient bosom. No, I'm not lazy, taking a break from the summer heat or missing my legs like that little crippled boy I see in the park sometimes and throw bread crumbs at. I'm here, completely incapacitated, a fine dew beginning to form on my brow and my nethers, as wave after wave of crushing pain surges up from the small of my back and out through each of my chapped nipples. This particular injury has happened to me many, many times before; so many, in fact, that I lost count three times ago. As I write this, I am making a commitment to you, fair and loyal readers, that this is the absolute last time I will ever throw my back out on a personal quest of self discovery.

Let me back up. I've been into self discovery for many years, beginning shortly after I graduated from college in the mid-1970s. I've found it to be a helpful, edifying experience for mind, body and soul that I encourage everyone I know to try. In fact, my husband, my children, and my weekend housekeeper Consuela all spent the better part of the 1980s squatting over hand mirrors and taking polaroids of each other's backsides in an attempt to get to know our own bodies better.

Anyone who lived through the '80s remembers the self-discovery craze. We've all had tube cameras shoved down our throats and up our anuses. We've all had exhaustive X-rays taken of our genitals. Most of us have even let a friend or teacher or boss pop a few fingers into our various holes just to sate their curiosity and ours. All this intensive internal exploration eventually left my family, by the end of the decade, quite swollen, chaffed, bruised and sore, and ready to give our full reports including all pictures and text to Father Lee Sampson down at First Divination of God Church.

The 1990s still find self discovery alive and well, but today the movement is more focused on having sound mental health, routine exercise, eating a balanced diet, and studying others people's bodies and behaviors through the creative use of hidden cameras and night-vision technology. All this is expensive and time-consuming, and while my kids sing its praises, I've been hesitant to take it up. Call me an old schooler, but I haven't been quick to believe that any fad diet or men-are-day/women-are-night book can take the place of your housekeeper holding a flashlight and a video camera to your vagina for half an hour while you talk on the phone. It's hard to imagine that any new health magazine can tell you more about yourself than taking a piece of rough sandpaper to your nipples in the shower at the Y. These are the experiences that have guided me and my family through many difficult times in our lives, and as I've gotten older, I've found myself more than a little hesitant to give them up.

The young boys and girls at the daycare center I run often ask me, haven't I learned as much as I possibly can from poking my clitoris with toothpicks and dilating my anus in an airport bathroom? Indeed, they may be right. After 25 years, there's not much that surprises me any more; it seems like all that can possibly be discovered has already been. Rarely do I experience the thrill I used to feel upon finding a new fold or nubbin. It's difficult now to find anything around the house or in the toy store that I haven't already tried to fit up my vagina. And as I lie here, having thrown my back out in an attempt to see my own anus first-hand instead of on some worn, grainy videotape from the adult section of Home Video, I think I have finally decided to give up all poking, prodding, preening, provoking and probing of my body's secret regions. I'm getting too old for it. There's nothing left that's a secret, and I just don't have the time anymore. I was late to my daughter's wedding because I was busy taping myself going to the bathroom underwater. I had to leave my son's funeral early because the electric sparker I had put in my vagina began to go off an hour before it was supposed to. I lost my husband in a tragic accident with a plunger. Well, no more. From now on it's strictly new-age women's magazines, John Gray books and acid trips for me. I'm ready to discover something about myself that isn't considered a sex crime in my state.

I'll write again next week and let you all know how it's going.

Wanda Black runs a daycare center in Maryland and does some acting on the side.

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