First, Saviabella hearted her vagina, and then Ms. Smartypants mentioned "...the revolting phenomenon of specific soaps for washing your hoo-ha", and I was thrown back to a very confusing and somewhat upsetting period of my mid-1980s self. I was in that uncomfortable verge-of-puberty state when I knew that my body was going to change remarkably but was seeing none of the external signs yet. I was both curious about how it would feel to have a different body and horrified by the messages about post-pubescent bodies that were displayed in magazines and on television.
The media showed me that adult female bodies were a out of control; they were unreasonable, unpredictable, and tended toward social unacceptability quite without consent by the body's owner. By the time that I was in grades four and five, it was already apparent to me that the body I would have after all the hormones kicked in was going to require deodorants and scented creams and pumice stones and tweezers and dyes and waxes and appetite suppressants and maxi-pads technologically constructed to be the Fort Knox of menstrual blood. In short, I was taught to dread the hairy, smelly, weight-gaining, bleeding body that I would then be in charge of taming and pruning for the rest of my life. Being that I was nine, that looked like a lot of years that I would be expected to beat back the savage symptoms of my body's hormones.
When I was ten, I began regular self-inspections to make sure that nothing at all puberty-like was happening to my body. I was realizing that I did not identify with either the male or female gender in particular, and that made the kind of body I was being handed all the more difficult to accept. I had heard about "buttons", hard spots under the nipples that happen before actual breast growth, and I would stand in front of the mirror poking them to see if they hurt and stretching the skin to see if these "buttons" were at all visible. I would test with my finger to see if anything untoward was being emitted from my vagina. When my friend Michelle sprouted a couple of ridiculous and straggly armpit hairs, a magnifying glass found a home in my bathroom so that I could make absolutely sure that I was still firmly entrenched in pre-puberty. Had I known that none of these things would start happening to me until just before my fourteenth birthday, I could have relaxed a little, but as more and more of my classmates fell prey to puberty, I felt that time, which once telescoped far out and away as though my life were endless, was now terribly and irrevocably foreshortened.
It was then that I started to notice the ads on television and in my mother's magazines for FDS feminine deodorant spray. My stomach turned cold. There on television were women who, by the end of the ad, were confident enough that their vaginal odour had been sufficiently obscured by FDS that they could leap up and cheer for their sports team. It was inferred that, before the FDS, any kind of leaping and excitement might lead to wafts of their atrociously smelly snatch stench floating through the crowd, and little is more shameful than having a twat that does not smell of chemical sweetness.
So, I was given this bizarre idea that along with smellier armpits, more body hair, and the joy of menstruation, my vagina was going to become an unacceptably dirty and smelly place. It was going to become so acrid, in fact, that I would have to quash the smell with special chemical cleaning agents and deodorants. I was eventually going to have to douche it and wipe it with special cloths and spray it down with deodorants and shave it, all just to achieve a modicum of civility. What a lovely message to feed to a little girl. It can give her self-loathing about natural physical attributes that she does not even yet possess. Nice. Because it's important to give children a head start in life whenever possible.
I am now the non-douching, non-deodorizing, non-shaving variety of adult female and quite happy with it. Every once in a while, someone I know goes out to get a brazillian wax, or I'll see a picture of a mostly denuded vagina somewhere, and then I will have a sudden pang of Oh noes! I have the snatch of a veritable yeti. A yeti snatch! Truly, no one will want my tongue magnet, my dear meat wallet, in its natural state! Then, I snap back to my old self and think I hated being a twelve-year-old, so why would I imitate one in the bedroom and go through all the bristles and ingrown hairs and pain to do it?
As a result of keeping my back-to-nature, hippie snatch completely forested and steeping in its own natural juices, I have not a single drugstore item with which to chemically subdue the premises. I am not confessing this as any kind super-feminist badge of honour, no, because I have more than enough products behind the bathroom mirror just to contend with the offensiveness of my face. I tweeze, moisturize, powder, line, depilate, and mascara with the best of them. I confess to my lack of pussy supplies, because I was actually a little shocked that I didn't even have some expired, dented tube of somethingorother stashed at the back of the bathroom cupboard. I'll occasionally pull out a tub or box of liquid or cream that was once meant to improve some part of my body but was lost behind the laundry detergent due to a lack of interest and laziness, often even before the product was ever put to any use.
The special razors (that went dull immediately), the waxing cloths (that never left the box), the spray-on depilatory foam (that burned my labia and had me running for the removable shower head), the nail polish remover (that never had nail polish to remove): I used to look at the graveyard of beauty supplies in the back of the cupboard and feel a sense of feminine failure. The little girl who dreaded the grotesque adult female body she would inevitably grow into was still in my head, and she could tick off a list of my most obvious failures within a few moments: Your vagina is unruly, check. You let your moustache go too long and too often, check. Your teeth should be whiter, check. You are letting your grey grow in, check. You don't use blush and you should, check. Your eyebrows need manicuring, check. That little girl looks at this body and its functions and blames it for its very nature, sees me as disgusting for what is, in truth, my allowing an adult female's body to do what an adult female's body does.
Luckily, the older I get, the less hold that immature kid has on me. She does not love me, and she does not know me. She was confused and scared, and naivety made her prey to ugly messages pressed into her without her consent by unethical ad-people who would help young girls to believe in the need to trade four dollars for a false and impermanent sense of physical self-confidence predicated on self-hatred.
I'll have you know that, even without what would now be years of the sprays and douches and waxings and rejuvenation, my vagina has held up awfully well all by itself. And I haven't needed all of those chemical applications to convince anyone else of that, either. Colour me pussy-confident.