Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Why I Slice Pears before Eating Them, and Other Vulgar Nonsense

Readers of my stamping blog already know about my pear issues. Pears are such a common image for rubber stamping, just as they are in still-life art, and I either giggle or roll my eyes every time I see one. Occasionally, my online stamping friends send me links to pear stamps--or even send actual pear stamps via the United States Postal Service--because they know I will laugh. 

I love these people. They get me.

For those of you scratching your heads in puzzlement, allow me to explain. Pears, in the world of literary symbolism, refer to penises, and that's what I think of when I see pears.

I'm an English major. Phallic symbols abound in our world, and we English majors are quite matter-of-fact in searching for them in literature and, well, anywhere else we can find them. They are just so interesting.

I first became aware of the whole pear = phallus thing when reading Geoffrey Chaucer's "Merchant's Tale" in college. In medieval literature, pears symbolize phalluses (their provocative shape resembles the whole, um, apparatus of twig and berries), but pears also represent the forbidden fruit of the garden of Eden. In modern times, we tend to associate apples with the Fall, but the Bible doesn't actually specify the type of fruit, and back in medieval times, apples were innocent. It was pears you had to look out for.

When George joined the Air Force, I found a whole new source of phallic symbols and indeed a whole rich world of sexual innuendo. Bombs and missiles are obviously phallic, the way they penetrate their targets and explode, but so are airplanes. George refused to accept that in flying in the B-52 bomber, he was, symbolically at least, flying in a giant penis. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, he would say.

But all the aviators who fly the planes subconsciously know. Oh, yes. They know. Their unofficial nicknames for planes give it away. The B-52, officially nicknamed the Stratofortress, is most often referred to as the BUFF, which stands for Big Ugly Fat and I'll leave the last F up to your imagination. Oh, yeah, that doesn't conjure up a connection with phalluses. The B-1 Lancer is called the Bone, ostensibly because B-1 spelled out is bone.

See what I mean? Those cigars are something else entirely.

Now, one thing I've noticed over the years is that we women who are also English majors find the whole phallic symbol thing amusing and somewhat silly. Men who are English majors take the whole subject far more seriously. For instance, on the way back from a Modern Language Association conference, half of the twelve or so people in the van were taking the same poetry class, so we decided to take turns reading our next assignment aloud and discuss the poems on the long ride home. I read Walt Whitman's poem "To a Locomotive in Winter" and completely, utterly lost it halfway through, probably around "now swift, now slack," laughing uncontrollably with the rest of the women in the van.

The men, however, were bemused. Yes, the locomotive is a phallic symbol (Walt was fond of those in general) but really? Laughter?

Well, yes. Laughter. The laughter of teenage girls looking at their very first Playgirl magazine.

Sunday, I read a passage on Heather Armstrong's blog that explains the different responses of men and women on this particular topic, and I want to share her words with you. You will find her entire post HERE, and it's worth clicking to if only for the gorgeous picture from Arches National Park that has quite obvious stone phalluses in the distance.  Women will giggle, and men will think, "Why is that funny?"

But here's what Heather says:

"...[A]s we entered Arches Dane [a friend] said that every time he visits the park with his mom she can’t stop giggling at how many of the rock formations look like penises, and he said it like that behavior was somehow lame and immature, or something. And I was like, listen. We don’t have that body part. We are not sensitized to seeing that shape just dangling there every day. Seeing something that looks like that shooting up out of the ground? You better believe we are going to laugh at that."

Thank you, Heather. I no longer feel lame and immature.

I'm just not sensitized.

1 comment:

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