We picked up our young dog from the trainer and he’d given her the nickname, “Quinny.” Back in those days, the Mythic Times, when software monopolies had hot and cold running spigots of money, when we had perfect house in the city and a farm on an island, we had a dog trainer who trained dogs for Seattle’s rock stars and lived on his own archipelago. He had a PhD in psychology and a rapid-fire banter full of references to E.P.A. Superfund sites and Shakespeare. There aren’t many people I’ve met who I had to struggle to keep up with verbally but talking to him was like the one mile of the Boston Marathon I ran in the 80s with my dad: I had to go as fast as I possibly could just to keep up.
I had to look up this word, “quinny.” And it was maybe 2000 or 2001, so I would have started in our Oxford English dictionary, where I thought I’d find it between “quinnet” and “quino,” but it wasn’t there. Imagine my surprise when the Internet told me it was an Elizabethan term for “vagina.” It’s also a baby stroller company; take that for what you will.
Crude terms for vagina also include “cunt,” “twat,” and, the primary insult of my childhood, “pussy.” Being a pussy had nothing to do with the other meaning of pussy, as in cat. Being a pussy was being a sissy, a weakling, a coward. “Wuss” was a variant on “pussy.” When my older brother teased me into an unsoothable rage, I wrote his name and “IS A PUSSY” in huge letters inside my closet. It was still there when my mother sold the house. Being a pussy was the One Thing we tried hardest Not To Be. It was the sine qua non of screamed insults you could hurl from a passing car, with or without mooning.
Since I was a known cry-baby, I was, de facto, a pussy. I am still a cry-baby, and a huge pussy, avoiding difficult, mildly stressful tasks like calling the dry cleaners to yell at them about my lost Rag & Bone scarf, or balancing the checkbook (two months overdue), or going to the dermatologist for the annual mole check. I cry when other people get bad news, when I talk about people who’ve been mean to me, or in riding lessons when it goes especially poorly, or well.
Now that I have been empowered by my beloved Internet to embrace my real qualities, and to own my pussiness, and tell the sissy-haters that, baby, that’s woman-hating bullshit nonsense, I’m just gonna shed public tears about Mike Brown and Eric Garner like a real proud, pussy.