There are few things my mom could have done better. Very few. But three* of those things had to do with vaginas. Specifically, my vagina.
Vaginas have been on my mind lately, ever since a dinner with girlfriends. Heart-to-hearts with good friends tend to circle around to lady parts—stuff coming out of them (i.e. babies) and stuff going into them (no parentheses needed here, right?). This time, though, the conversation that landed in our laps was about hoo-ha hygiene and maintenance.
This is a topic where my mother left me high and dry.
As a result, several pivotal moments in my life really showcase my lack of information.
I’m 14-years old.
I have my leg on the sink and I’m thrusting my crotch toward the vanity mirror. Nope.
I’m in downward dog craning my neck to catch a glimpse of my under carriage. Not quite.
My back is curled, my pelvis is forward and my knees are open. No.
I can’t really see it, but from where I am, my down-there looks nothing like the tubes, canals and cavernous business on the creased directions from the box.
I’m knee-deep in flimsy white wrappers. Cardboard tubes and cotton entrails are scattered around the toilet: 10, 11, 12 failed attempts.
I push another cotton torpedo out of its casing like a party popper.
You’re a woman!
I finally emerge with what feels like a cucumber between my legs.
Fast forward three years . . .
My teammates and I are standing outside the pink locker room stall. Behind the door a freshman whimpers and groans as cardboard applicators fall to the floor with a hollow thunk.
We attempt to coach her, but we don’t have the words.
“Open yourself up.”
“There’s lips or something. And a few holes.”
“Three holes, I think, right?”
“I’m not sure.”
“What if it goes in the wrong one?”
“She can’t do that can she?”
“Is she still a virgin?!”
And on and on we went, pantomiming the movements, hoping for the best.
She came out waddling.
A few weeks later . . .
I’m an innocent girl at a high school leadership conference, sitting in an idling school van, totally NOT thinking about my va-jay-jay. Suddenly, scrawled across a concrete wall the graffiti message “Yo Koochie Stanx!” slaps me in the face.
That night I take up my razor in a crusade to make my koochie pristine, fresh and bright—whatever that means—pruning and weed whacking my nether region until it looks less like a garden gnome’s beard and more like a manicured Victorian Garden.
When you see “Yo Koochie Stanx” in black letters on a wall, everywhere you turn stanky koochies come up.
As though every high school boy had a hand in that vicious message, I hear jokes and punch lines hurled at my classmates. Scathing snickers about smell and shape make my friends shrink. No girl wants to be near a boy at lunch on Tuna Surprise day.
Our vaginas—used against us.
How could we retaliate? We were all wildly misinformed.
Fast forward 15+ years . . .
There’s been a shift. Now we’re talking about vaginas and the code of vagina silence our mothers signed sometime long ago.
At the dinner table with my friends, every woman handled her vagina decor differently—landing strips or bare, au naturel or salon sessions. And while none of us is in a hurry to market a vagina-scented room spray, we agreed each of ours smells perfectly fine—not at all like a Victorian Garden—but just right.
And now we’re the moms. We hold the keys to all of the information and misinformation. We can show our girls how tampons work. We can talk about hygiene. We can give them the words without blushing. We can empower them with knowledge.
And we will.
Because no one wants to be the punch line . . . and we certainly don’t want our kids to be.
*The third thing my mom could have done better? On my wedding night, I wish she hadn’t knocked on my hotel room because she couldn’t find the snacks for the party. I guess that has to do with my vagina, too.
(Pssst. We have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to lady bits. Of course we do.)