Boobies Are Funny

I was counting Viola’s freckles and had just got to 17 when she began prodding my boob. “Boobies are funny.”, she said with a giggle. “I suppose they are”, I replied, staring down at her 5 year old little finger, prodding away. “Compared to war and treading in dog poo and stuff.” We carried on like that for a bit, me staring at her tiny digit depressing itself into my vest, and her giggling because she knew that most people would stop her poking their boobs before she even got going. Perhaps I am a bad auntie, allowing her to be tactile with a part that is usually treated with more decorum. But facts are facts and boobs are squishy. Why not let her make the observation? She’s five, and curious. Boobs are probably hysterical when you’re five. I mean, I think I was more of a Scooby Doo girl than a Booby Boo girl at that age, but we can’t all be the same.
Then I drew the line when Viola tried to sneak a peak of nipple because, well, really. There is that panic we all respond with around children because we are now so trained to be on the look out for perverts that we are struck by a ridiculous fear that we look inappropriate hugging our own nieces. I feel the same when my nephew, almost 9, kisses me on the mouth. He’s a beautiful loving boy with a heart the size of an ocean and he likes to kiss people hullo, goodbye, and a thousand instances in between, on the mouth. It’s very lovely if a bit wet, and we are all dreading the day he reaches the age in boyhood when he will stop being so unabashedly affectionate. So I let him kiss me on the mouth because he shouldn’t be tainted by our adult nonsense, but at the back of my head is that little bell. “This wouldn’t look great in the middle of Lidls.” It’s a sad state of affairs when you have feelings of reservation in your gut when the son of your sister wants to express that he loves you in the most natural way humans have, in the way we expressed love long before we ever had words for it. But that’s where we find ourselves in this paedophile-aware age. Being careful with loved ones just in case anyone’s watching. Sad.
So I stopped Viola at the nip. I laughed nervously and moved her hand, and she giggled, because she too knew it was a step too far, because she has been taught that there are some parts we must feel modest about when we are grown up. There are some parts that are always naked – hands and faces – there are parts that are sometimes naked – arms and legs and necks and feet – and there are parts that become our private places, seldom seen, and treated shyly, sometimes even a shade guiltily. 
Viola is still at the age where she stomps around naked, where she lies on the floor legs akimbo with no awareness. What a beautiful age that is. Before body image kicks in, before we are sexualised, before we compare ourselves endlessly with other “better” bodies. Before we become so well-trained and ‘appropriate’. Before we become unfree.
I went back to staring at her freckles. At the delicate curve of her nose, at the pale thin skin under her eyes, almost translucent with youth. At her face which sometimes looks like my sister’s and sometimes looks like mine, which will one day be older and different. At her tiny body growing in the tiniest increments every second. For a moment I could almost see her growing. I could almost forward the frames to when she will be bigger, older, wiser, when she too will be the possessor of those hilarious artefacts, boobs. When she will be a woman. And I was sad and excited for her, and wished I could fit her with a pause button. While she is still free.

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