Fanny. Snatch. Muffin. Slit. Slot. Box. Flaps. Cunt. Lady garden. Pussy. Punani. Coochie. Quim. Neden. Beaver. Front bum. Vajayjay. Clit. Gash. Minge. Bush. Twat.
I finally get comfortable calling it a vagina, and it turns out it’s technically a ‘vulva’.
My vagina and I had a pretty good relationship at first. It held the usual fascination for me as a child – I would look at and play with myself in the bath or in bed, trying to figure out which bit did what, and how and why. I was convinced for years that my clitoris was a little penis, and that that was where my wee came from. James probably told me that.
James and I were best friends practically from birth, after our mums met at Plunket Playgroup, and he was my main source of ‘information’ for a number of years. I have no idea where he got his information from, but he was usually at least partly right. His explanation of periods went something along the lines of “When girls get older, and they do PE, sometimes they get blood in their knickers and have to tell the teacher so they can go to the bathroom and wash it out.” Thankfully Mum was forthright and not at all squeamish, so she filled me in on a few essential details James had left out.
I was 11 when I started getting pubic hair. Thick curly black hair I would have loved on my head was more liability than asset on other areas of my body. It was shortly after that that I also began my war against my body hair – a lifetime of waxing, shaving, plucking and chemical assault; a battle I show no signs of winning any time soon.
I was 12 and playing Barbies with my friend Dee the day I realised that something very new was going on with my vagina. Sure enough, the cramp of my belly heralded the scarlet stain in the crotch of my knickers. I chucked my knickers in the wash, got a new pair from my drawer and carefully stuck a mattress-thick pad into the crotch; a free sample we had received during ‘the talk’ at school earlier that year. I don’t recall being too perturbed by it, but I was mortified later that evening when I heard Mum on the phone, telling half the neighbourhood.
I was the second of my group of friends to get her period, and we conspired in complaining about the cramps, the pads, the stained knickers, whilst secretly delighting in our quick thrust ahead of our friends towards womanhood. At least until our puberty-hormone-fuelled brains and bodies caused us to fall out with each other, again.
The period (no pun intended) of adjustment to my new womanly vagina was not a lot of fun. We weren’t great friends for a few years, my vagina and me, as I spent three nights each month sleeping on a towel for fear of leaks and the shame of stained sheets, avoiding white knickers and light-coloured trousers, and bursting into tears any time anyone looked at me the wrong way. I guess I can’t blame the crying entirely on my vagina, but it all seemed interlinked. The discovery that most changed my life in those years was ultra-thin pads with wings. My only virginal experiment with tampons left me crying in pain, in a very awkward situation in the bathroom with my mum. Thank god I got it out myself in the end.
My vagina and I spent my late tween and teenage years in shared experimentation – by myself, with girl friends and eventually with boys. I certainly discovered the fun side of my vagina during those years, although it wasn’t without its hazards either. But perhaps some things are better left imagined and untold…
In my early twenties my vagina and I fell out again when I started having smear tests (even the word ‘smear’ is vile, and I challenge any woman to utter the word ‘speculum’ without repressing a shudder). Typically, mine were not straightforward, and anyone who doesn’t know what a colposcopy or letz-cone biopsy is can count themselves very lucky. Look it up if you’re curious; the invasive pulling ache of having your cervix sliced and then cauterised with liquid silver nitrate is not something I feel up to describing. Why any man wants to be a gynaecologist is beyond me.
But the greatest adventure my vagina and I have embarked upon together thus far would have to be giving birth. We had a lovely plan involving water for pain relief and natural, drug-free delivery, using the breathing techniques I had learned in my pregnancy yoga class. I’m glad I got to use the breathing anyway. I will refrain from resorting to clichéd analogies about squeezing watermelons out of lemon-sized holes, but the image of a 30-hour induced labour resulting in episiotomy (a surgical incision between the vagina and perineum, for the uninitiated) and forceps delivery of an 8 pound 7 ounce baby probably packs enough punch without the need for too much metaphor.
So that, in a nutshell, is a brief history of my vagina. I haven’t mentioned everything we have done together, but I figure my vagina and I are entitled to keep a few secrets to ourselves. These days, my vagina and I seem to have reached a shared understanding – we have good times and bad times together, but there aren’t many new surprises along the way. We share a few scars, some visible and some not, but generally I’d say, she’s been a pretty good cunt.