Amma what’s virginity? My brow furrowed and for once I was at a loss for words. Ah…Well… “Shivani Verma,” I thought to myself, “You asked for it. Had you not vowed to answer her queries, had you just shut her up with a because-I-say-so, you wouldn’t be standing here facing this.” (Don’t ask me why I tend to use my maiden name when I talk to myself, because I really don’t know.)

So, I hemmed and hawed and this girl o’ mine, sensing my awkwardness, patted my hand ever so gently, “It’s ok Amma, I think it’s one of those things that need to wait till I’m old enough.” (The list includes driving, dating, drinking among other things, to give you an overview.)

“Naah Mishti, you won’t have to wait that long, gimme some time and I shall revert to this,” I said, not wanting to lose out on an opportunity to drum in a few things. And my little girl nodded in approval. “Where did you hear it?” I asked. “Amma, I don’t remember that, just that it’s a new word so I thought I’ll ask you. You always tell me to ask you first and not google it.” “That was a good idea, I’m glad,” truly relieved that she came to me. So there, l tucked it away in a mental corner and to get it out when I’m a little ready.

“Naah Mishti, you won’t have to wait that long, gimme some time and I shall revert to this,” I said, not wanting to lose out on an opportunity to drum in a few things.

Well, I didn’t have to wait very long. My girl hops down the bus, gives a wan smile when she sees me, so all my mommy tentacles are on high alert. But I know I have to wait, prodding just makes her clam up into her shell.

Once home, over refreshments, she spills the beans, “Amma, you remember the boy in the bus who keeps bullying the younger kids. Today, I tried to stop him. He didn’t like it, obviously. He gestured at me with his hands, a finger going in and out of the ring he made with the finger and thumb of the other hand. And he kept pointing and jeering at me. He is disgusting… all boys are anyway… What did he even mean by that?”

“Umm… baby… you remember you’d asked the other day about virginity,” I said delicately as I braced myself for a ‘birds and bees’ session. And I told her a little about how a man and a woman make love and a little about the membrane called hymen and how it breaks. She was all ears as I tried to gauge her reactions to know how much was enough. She nodded and looked content. I asked her if she had any questions and she nodded in the negative. I was a little unsure as to how I fared, but the peck she gave me on the cheek rested my fears.

And I told her a little about how a man and a woman make love and a little about the membrane called hymen and how it breaks.

In the days to come, we had a lot of Q and A sessions

Does it hurt when it breaks?

……………. Not really

What if I fall down, will it break?

……………. Sports like swimming, cycling and horse riding might break it.

How would I know its broken?

……………. There might be some blood drops and sometimes there may be none.

Now for the wisdom that I gathered from this episode…

  • Keep talking to your child…all the time. Let him/ her know you are available.
  • Have mini sessions with your child and wait patiently for their questions to drop in.
  • There’s no specific age when you should initiate it. All kids are different and if your communication channels are open, you’ll know.
  • Prepare the child about the changes he/ she might encounter in the days to come. Their ignorance breeds fear.

  • Google for appropriate videos and books if you are unable to do it on your own.
  • And please drum in as and when you can that sex isn’t a dirty word but again not a frivolous act either.
  • Internet and Google have invaded our children’s lives, to improve your act before they rely on it and get drowned in the sea of misinformation or something even worse.

The other night as I tucked my little big girl and kissed her goodnight, she asked, “Amma, what’s the big deal about hymen?” Sigh…. Now how do I make her understand that when I myself haven’t understood the brouhaha about how a girl’s izzat rests on her hymen. I smiled and said as convincingly as I could that it shouldn’t really matter. For now, that sufficed but I know it isn’t the last of our conversations.

Dr Shivani Salil taught as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology at Seth GSMC & KEM Hospital, Mumbai. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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