When I was a little girl at school, a boy once told me that he didn’t like sitting next to girls because they were smelly and they had fleas. Presumably to prove his point he touched the tip of his index finger to my shoulder for a split second before immediately starting to spin around, wide eyed, clutching at his throat, and making dramatic retching noises before falling in a convulsive heap to the floor. Hm. My fleas were clearly supersonic and as a result I was deemed particularly smelly.
Fast-forward to my early teenage years and my first, furtive forays into that special place where nobody’s dad ever went – the most hushed, secret aisle in the whole of Boots. Judy Blume eat your heart out. Suddenly I was confronted with a world I never knew existed.
The world of… “Feminine Hygiene.” So far, so euphemistic.
It was there that I discovered my very first love. Ah tampons. Non-applicator tampons. So convenient! So small and easy to carry around! No wrestling with sticky wayward wings! Bloody brilliant!
What I also found though, was that if one hung about for too long in the Feminine Hygiene section admiring the tampons, one inevitably found themselves confronted with an altogether different animal: the ‘intimate feminine wash,’ and its sorry little sister, the ‘intimate feminine wipe.’ The packaging was invariably pastel pink, with yet more euphemistically thick-petaled flowers on it. It took me a while to work out what was meant by ‘intimate’, and why it might need its own wash and wipe, and then, Aha! Of course!
It was because girls were smelly and they had fleas.
Seriously, up until that point it had never occurred to me that my vagina might be a special kind of dirty. That it might harbour a special kind of filth warranting its own special kind of cleaning product that needed to be stored in the special aisle of Boots where nobody’s dad ever went. I’d just been naively going about my daily business of ordinary showering all this time without so much as a single thought for “foul odours.” And suddenly I was a little concerned. Was there something my mother wasn’t telling me?
Of course now I am older and wiser and I hold no truck with the poonani police. Any marketing message that dares state to me, “Ew, you have a vagina? So sorry for you. Here, have a wipe,” is going to get short shrift. Scented sanitary towels feel my wrath! My vagina is just lovely as it is thank you very much. A thing of beauty. It does not need prettifying, plucking, or perfuming.
I still love non-applicator tampons though. Lil-lets, if you’re reading, thank you so so much. Sniff.
This post is a tweaked version of something I wrote for In The Powder Room last year. I’ve reposted it here because I am lazy. And also because I still like it.