At the back of the East Camberwell railway station there is a track that runs through a concrete grey underpass out onto the edge of a cliff that overlooks the railway tracks. This path begins its journey at Canterbury Road, cuts through the slope of the park, down past the electricity output station and then onto a narrower path that runs all the way to the Camberwell shopping centre and Burke Road.
I have not been on this track since I was a child but I reckon it’s still there and I have it in my mind that I must re-walk this track soon.
I was with my sister and two of my brothers on our way to the shops when the thought occurred to me, the thought more of a question: what must it be like to have a penis?
And no sooner had this question troubled me than I imagined my imaginary penis being cut off. Just like that. Blood everywhere in great spurts and no one to clean it up except me in my imagination. What a relief it was then to be a girl with no excess bits to cut off.
I had not yet encountered Freud or his notions of penis envy but when I did read about this concept I wondered if my childhood fantasy could indeed point to my own penis envy or was it something else?
In those days I cannot remember even knowing the name for penis, or for vagina or for anything else down there. We did not talk of such things in my family. So I write about this memory now looking back with the authority of an adult. Back then notions of body and body parts both terrified and enthralled me.
One of my daughters has recently pointed out this thing called ‘crip’ theory. I had not heard of it before. The notion that we are all disabled in one way or another by virtue of being human and that it is necessary therefore to acknowledge this in some way.
In the past the pressure has always been on us, especially those who write essays at school, at university and the like, to seek the perfect and complete product.
Crip theory argues in favour of uncertainly and incompleteness. It argues for the messy realities of our lives, for the fact that we can only know things in incomplete ways and a realisation that it’s okay to include our uncertainties in our writing without feeling the pressure to be conclusive in our work.
Needless to say I enjoy this notion. It gives me permission to continue on my messy way, throwing up ideas that come to me seemingly from nowhere like my fantasy of my soon to be chopped off penis and I do not need to fit it into any category beyond the memory that it once was.