Purgatory by Paulina Ferrante: Don’t Tell Dad

by Paulina Ferrante

“Hard Clit,” says a text accompanying a very graphic photo.

In my hand, on my phone, displays an image of acrylic nails splaying a pair of labia, exposing a clitoris. Hard clit, indeed. The vulva is pristinely shaven, except for one tiny strip of well-landscaped pubic hair, barely indicating maturity. There is something impersonal suggested by the picture because the vagina has no owner, yet the picture is deeply personal in that it offers an open-face vagina ready for consumption. The fingernails presenting the vagina’s interior are a tasteful nude, and one finger bears a very familiar-looking wedding ring. My stomach tightens.

“Mom,” I text back.

The bubbles pop-up. They go down. They pop-up. They go down. They pop-up: “Don’t tell your dad.”


“I’m so sorry. I’m so embarrassed.”

You’re embarrassed?”

“Please don’t be mad at me,” her constant refrain.

“I’m not worried about you right now.” I wonder: is this child abuse

“What do I do?” as per usual, my mother defers to me, asking me to parent her in this trying time.

More typing-bubbles. “Your father and I have a sex life. What do you want me to do?”

I give up responding. I put down my phone and walk over to my kitchen cabinet. Then I find what I need: a glass, and a bottle of Fire Ball.


Purgatory explores the very uncomfortable and inescapable events that life throws at the unfortunate author.

Paulina Ferrante is a 23-year-old writer, columnist, and MFA candidate in the Northeastern United States. Originally from some Southern California, she believes that both Elvis Presley and Andy Kaufman are still alive. She once saw an Italian baby spit out pasta because there wasn’t enough olive oil on it.

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