After years of obsessing, Polly is debunking this vagina hygiene myth and saying goodbye to her anxiety.
My boyfriend refers to his old girlfriend as his “ex-box”, my friend Jess told me. It took a moment. Oh yes, a play on Xbox and his former partner’s delicate “lady area”. Very clever. Apparently that’s what all his mates call their exes too. Delightful.
Funny, and yet for some strange reason it makes me even more concerned about my “present box”. I’m obsessing. Yes, I have been obsessing about my genital area. This time not their function nor form.
I’m quite military with my pelvic floor workouts. I find I’m doing them whenever anyone says “Covid”. Not entirely appropriate, but frequent enough to have me strengthening those babies hourly, if not more often.
I’ve also clocked that anytime anyone says “pelvic floors” – or “Kegels”, as they are referred to in the US – I immediately spring into action. Now I’m wondering how often I get a glazed-over, distracted look when talking to my doctor or close friends. I guarantee I have now hypnotised you into my same weird but healthy habit. You’re welcome.
My issue is with the whole smell, taste (sorry) and lubrication affair. When I lived in America, there were aisles of feminine hygiene products. As a Kiwi girl, I was both astonished and confused by the average American woman’s need to douche and sprinkle herself with all kinds of “vag magic”. It occurred to me that shoving a bottle of fragrant water up the ol’ foofalater was possibly not a good idea. I didn’t feel it necessary to have every part of me smelling like a rose.
Now, in 2021, we seem to be globally bombarded by ads for feminine cleanser, washes, wipes and capsules. I started to worry my personal area was smelling of itself, and there was something wrong with that.
I decided to discuss it with my best friend. “Abby, do you worry about your down there, as much as I worry about my down there?” Without hesitation, she replied, “Oh, hell yes I do. I worry about it constantly. An ex [not a box] told his mates I smelled terrible down there just out of spite, and although I know it was revenge defamation, it stuck with me. Now I use all kinds of washes and sometimes spray perfume down there.”
I should have been aghast, but I wasn’t. “I do too!” I said with a shade too much excitement. We spent the next hour talking about our fixation with our personal hygiene. My obsession caused me to book an appointment with my doctor. I was absolutely sure I had some weird thing going on down there.
It occurred to me that shoving a bottle of fragrant water up the ol’ foofalater was not a good idea
“Helen,” I began in a low, soft, serious voice as I sat in her office, “I think I smell funky. Would you check my urine and other things to see if I have some bladder or ‘thingy’ infection, please.”
She looked at me, smiled and asked, “Are you itchy? Do you have a discharge?”
“No.” I said. “I just think I smell funky.”
“Hop up on the bed,” she instructed and went about checking things out. “You don’t smell at all weird,” she said in a muffled voice, as she peered up my whatsit, “but go do a sample for me and we’ll check your urine.”
Naturally my urge to pee disappeared entirely in the cubicle, as I sat awkwardly holding a container between my legs. One of those white plastic containers one purchases strawberries in at the supermarket. Eventually after singing “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” several times, I managed to squeeze out a sample. I sat nervously in Helen’s room while she went off to do a few tests.
“Entirely normal, Pol,” she declared as she removed her rubber gloves. “I think your body monitoring is off the Richter again. Nothing to worry about, and you don’t smell funky.”
How brainwashed are we by media and advertising that some of us waste away life worrying that our private bits smell entirely like private bits? The whole “circus” down there really does maintain itself quite adequately.
Dousing ourselves with expensive washes, and the occasional spritz of Gucci Bloom is ridiculous, and as one man I knew used to say, “Pol, you taste like soap. It’s sexier if you just taste like you.” Good call.
However, in the meantime, just for good measure: “Pelvic floors!” Oh, I so know what you’re doing right now.