We’re dressed in suits – even wearing ties – and on our way to a secret location for our first professional family photo shoot ever. The kids are going scream-punch-crazy in anticipation, and while Reservoir Mum does her best to explain to them that they’ll need to listen to the photographer and do as they’re told if they want to go to K-Mart directly afterwards to pick out any toy they want no matter what the cost, I’m thinking about nothing but the vagina because I’ve been mocked for saying that women wee out of them.
‘Hey,’ I say to RM, as she reaches over to pry Tyson’s tie from Maki’s hand. ‘You know that really heartfelt, loving post I wrote for you last week… about how hard you work?’
‘Hang on, Tyson can’t breathe,’ she says, reaching into the back again to loosen his tie. ‘Yeah?’
‘And you know how I said, in that post, that women wee out of their vaginas really loudly?’
‘Well, I got three Facebook comments from people basically laughing at me because they thought I was ignorant of the fact that women actually wee out of their urethras, not their vaginas, because you know… the vagina is actually the… um… the main… hole... between the hymen and the cervix.’
RM laughs. ‘You can say just say vagina. Everyone does. Vagina sums the whole thing up.’
‘That’s what I thought,’ I say, as I turn the Tarago into the car park of Summerhill Shopping Centre Reservoir where Alan Moyle, the photographer – known to the multitudes as Photobat – has told us to meet him. ‘In fact the vagina Wikipedia page implies that as well, despite listing dozens and I mean dozens, of different parts.’
‘Oh my God, you looked it up on Wikipedia?’ RM asks, laughing again.
‘I did,’ I say. ‘It’s insane how complicated it is. And, God, the things that can go wrong with it! I kept clicking through from the main vagina page to all these hyperlinks for about thirty minutes and was just getting more and more confused. I mean if you stay at that end of the vagina,’ I continue, pointing towards my feet, you’ve got to work out the labia majora from the labia minora and get your head around the fact that the tiny yet irrepressible clitoris also has a hood, and who knows... maybe even a cape. But I would advise everyone I know, RM, men and women, to avoid… um… delving… into the other end of the vagina, because if you go to the cervix and beyond… I mean… it’s like outer space up there… you could study it for years…’
‘Yeah, and you’d be a gynaecologist.’
‘Oh yeah’ I say, as I spot the back of Photobat’s head in a car outside Brumby's Bakery and eyeball the park right next to him. ‘Respect for the gynaecologist! Gynaecology has got to be a really tough gig compared to… I don’t know… proctology. Hey, let’s study the anus! Okay! And five minutes later you’re finished and playing Candy Crush,’ I say, as I peer into the rear of the Tarago to see our four very well dressed boys. ‘Hey kids, there’s the photographer!’
I have to admit to being a little nervous because, yes, my boys are as precious as air to me but I just can’t imagine them performing to a camera as a group without Archie glowering and shrugging and refusing to smile or without Maki screaming and running away and playing hide and seek or without Tyson screaming out fucken idiot Lewis because Lewis is laughing into the morning sun while holding him in a headlock.
My jittery apprehension is only inflamed after I jump out to meet Photobat because when I reach go to shake his hand he says, “We don’t do that’ and leans in to hug me and as I hug him back I hear Maki yelling, though the tough exterior of the Tarago, ‘Mummy, why is Daddy cuddling that little man?!’
Because Photobat is the secretive, excitement-building type of human he whispers, ‘Just follow me’ and seconds later we’re back in the Tarago and heading east through the car park and all six of us are wide-eyed waiting to arrive at the location of the shoot but then he stops all of a sudden and reverses the car and starts heading in the other direction, and now we’re driving west through the car park and Lewis becomes the next whisperer, saying, ‘Dad… is Photobat drunk?’ and Archie says, ‘He shouldn’t be driving if he’s drunk’ and RM and I are laughing because Photobat isn’t drunk (just to be clear) and we’re all on edge here man! I mean this is like a mystery flight! We could end up anywhere!
Fifty-five seconds later we’ve pulled up at the back of the shopping complex next to a skip overflowing with rubbish. To the left of us are three workers loading some product off a truck. In front of us looms the high concrete walls of the back-end of Summer Hill Shopping Centre which, like the anus, requires no more description.
All of a sudden Photobat is peering in with his face pressed against the passenger seat window of our car, right next to Maki, and then he disappears and reappears right next to Lewis, and he repeats this ceremony of engagement until all the boys have had Photobat’s head at their window.
The boys think Photobat is hilarious and by the time we exit the car and hit the pavement they’re fast friends, joking and pushing and prodding him and – most importantly – listening to everything he says. When he pulls a face at them, puts his hands on his hips and says, ‘Who’s clever enough to bring me those green crates over there?’ the boys are off and back again and lining up crates like atomatom droids and suddenly the camera’s out and we’re in the sights of a skilled photographer looking like this...
...and through a series of engaging expressions and subtle directions; and while he’s dropping kid-focussed one-liners like a stand-up comedian; he has the boys jumping down like this...
...and synchronising us for some rock-star walking like this..
...and clicking his fingers to get us going nutbar crazy like this...
And, seriously, this photo shoot I was so worried about is going so well, it really is, and as Photobat snaps this jazzy pic…
... the boys are all standing behind him, pulling faces at their Mum and Dad, trying to make us smile simply because he said so and it occurs to me that Photobat is like a gynaecologist because just as a gynaecologist can glance at a vagina and know of all the interconnected parts that lie beyond the pudendal cleft, Photobat is aware of the individual complexities of a family at first glance, and is able to capture them one by one like this...
...and to bring the individuals together to capture the entire family as they are at their best, wrapped around each other in love forever, like this…
It’s 11.12pm, the night after the shoot, and RM and I are in bed with our laptops open. RM is correcting academic references on the thesis of her students and I’m reading the Wiki page for the vagina again. I’ve followed hyperlinks all over the place and have ten pages open explaining different parts and there really appears to be no end to the vagina and all its parts and I’m pretty sure that if I keep clicking hyperlinks I’ll end up reading about the Milky Way and get lost in endless galaxies.
‘Do you know what I love most about your vagina?’ I say to RM, after putting the laptop down and rolling towards her.
RM shakes her head, smilingly, puts her laptop down and rolls towards me. ‘What?’
‘This part,’ I say, reaching down to party town, my hand shaped like a cup. ‘Your Mons pubis and pudendal cleft.’
‘Why?’ she says.
‘It’s just nice,’ I say. ‘Sexy but… like waiting for the big red curtains to open up at a musical… ‘
‘Could you not say big?’
‘…and um… mysterious and fun like… that magician who came to Tyson’s party… you know, when that pigeon came out of his hat?
‘Now it’s getting weird.’
‘Yeah well, I guess I just prefer knowing less about the vagina. Knowing that it’s walls consist of a mucosa of non-keratinized stratified squamous epithelium with an underlying lamina propria of connective tissue is kind of… too much. I just want to say, “Hey! Girls wee out of their vaginas” and be done with it.’
RM whispers, ‘You can just say that’ and when she reaches down to my side of party town I say, ‘What’s your favourite part of my penis?’
She thinks for a minute and says, ‘Probably how it makes it easy for me to keep a handle on you.’
‘Well,’ I laugh. ‘If I was you I’d watch out for my meatus.’
‘Oh my God, RM says, a little jokey, a little breathy, ‘What’s that? It sounds impressive…’
‘Hmm,’ I say. ‘You’re just going to have to Wiki it.’
The Family Photo Shoot Give Away!
*Unfortunately this is only available to Melbourne residents but read below if you live outside Melbourne to see how you can win a copy of my book.
Photobat, the amazing photographer, has given me a family potrait session and artwork voucher worth $375 to give away!
To enter use the Rafflecopter box below to like the Photobat Facebook Page and the Reservoir Dad Facebook page. Rafflecopter will pick a winner and I’ll announce the winner on the Reservoir Dad Facebook Page next Friday July 10.
To check out more of Photobat’s work and to book him for work visit his website here.
If you feel a little peeved because you live outside Melbourne I'm giving away two copies of my book to two people. To enter just like the Reservoir Dad Facebook Page and leave a funny message. Reservoir Mum will choose two winners who will be announced next Friday July 10.