You know that moment in Mean Girls when Lindsay Lohan is standing in front of the mirror with her new buddies, listening to them run through a lengthy, detailed list of physical insecurities that she had no idea she was meant to be worried about?
I recently lived that moment. Apparently my vagina is disgusting, and I had no idea.
It may come as a surprise to some (considering the frequent appearances it seems to make in my writing) but my lady-box is not something I regularly think about. At least not the aesthetics of it. And I don’t mean the hair; I mean what’s under it.
(FYI: I’m against waxing – I’ve had one brazilian in my life, which I did for a boy, and I came scarily close to assaulting the beautician. The shock of that experience literally almost sent me into a murderous rage. Any guy who wanted access from that point on needed to accept that I would always pick a pain-free existence over getting freaky with him.)
No, the hair is not the problem. Apparently, I’m gross because I have what’s known as an ‘outie’. This is not something I knew I was supposed to be worried about. In fact, I can honestly say, besides occasionally worrying about how a guy would feel about my strict no-waxing policy (although not enough to actually change that policy), I’ve not once thought that there was anything wrong with the look of my nether regions. I truly have never given it a second thought. That is, until I had a very revealing conversation with a friend of mine that opened up a whole new world of possible insecurity.
Watch Mamamia staff reveal what their ‘lady gardens’ look like (post continues after video).
After a couple of drinks, she admitted to me that she was saving up to get a labiaplasty.
Hysterical laughter, followed by “A what now?” was my ultra-sensitive response. But to her, it was no laughing matter. She was actually on the verge of tears as she told me about the day in her late teens she overheard a boy she had slept with refer to her vagina as ‘weird’. Since then, she has obsessively looked at before and after pictures of vaginas, not unlike what I imagine Michael Jackson did with pictures of noses before things went horribly awry. She knew, right down to the last detail, how she wanted to improve her lady-parts.
But I still didn’t get it. When she said weird, what did she mean? What did it actually look like? What was so bad about it? The way she talked about her poor little friend, it was like she was walking around with the vagina-equivalent of the elephant man between her legs.
She took a deep breath, and with pain in her eyes said: “The middle lips hang lower than the outside ones.”
“What do you mean?” I said, thinking I could not possibly be understanding this correctly. “How much lower? Like, down to your knees or something?”
“No, nothing like that,” she said. “I’ve just got an outie and it’s gross.”
An outie? What the what? I asked her to explain to me what an outie was. Turns out, her inner lips (that’s the labia minora, for those in the know) hang about a centimetre lower than the outside ones. That was an outie. And it was an abomination. Disgusting. But worst of all, it was ‘a turn-off’. The labiaplasty was going to transform her outie into an innie. Or basically, a very neat single slit between her legs, not dissimilar to what I assume Barbie has under those plastic knickers.
I was perplexed; if that was the definition of an outie, then I had an outie. I thought everyone had an outie! But then I started thinking: how many vaginas have I actually seen? Mine. My mum’s. My sisters’. That’s it.
Did they even have outies? I didn’t even know I supposed to check! Now I was starting to think that maybe my sisters and I were like an old-timey freak show version of Little Women and I never knew I was meant to be embarrassed.
When I got home I did some serious research. And by that I mean I watched a lot of porn, because I was told the women in those films have what I should be aspiring to: very neat and precise vajayjays. I also read everything I could find. Apparently, this concept of ‘innies and outies’ was extremely well known. So many articles, studies and opinion pieces had completely flown under my radar. I talked to friends, who all knew immediately what I was on about. Innies were in, outies were out. How could I have missed this?
I started to obsess over my outie.
Lying in bed at night, I would constantly tug at it and try to mentally measure how long the ‘overlap’ was. I called an ex-boyfriend in a total meltdown and asked him straight out if my vagina was disgusting. Somewhat (and not surprisingly) confronted, he hastily ended the conversation but texted me later and said this: “I’m going to do a service for men here and say it’s just girls freaking other girls out.
I’ve talked a lot of shit with a lot of dudes and I can honestly say the look of vaginas has never come up”. As someone who has had a better look at my lady-parts than I’ll ever get (it’s just plain logistics), that should have been comforting. But it was too late. I’d already gone online and read enough sleazy interviews with enough sleazy men to cancel out any reassurance he gave me. He may not talk about it, but I knew that a lot of others did. He couldn’t convince me. I was gross.
Eventually, unable to sleep, I got up one night, found a tape measure and tried to get some specifics. And it was at that moment, naked and spread-eagled in front of the mirror, lifting my stomach with one hand and trying to measure my vag-flaps with the other, that I stopped cold.
What the hell was wrong with me? How bizarre, that something I had never known I was supposed to worry about, had now, in less than a week, begun to morph into one of my major insecurities. I couldn’t believe that I was obsessing over a concept that had been completely constructed for me by others in just a few days. I already have enough bloody problems trying to love myself in spite of my weight when most of society tells me I shouldn’t, how could I let yet another warped idea about beauty affect my self-esteem?
I wouldn’t. I decided right then and there, naked and spread-eagled in front of the mirror, that this was not something I was going to feel bad about. I’ve already made it to 26 without once thinking about the state of my outie; there’s no reason I can’t continue down that blissful, anxiety-free road.
I wish my friend could join me on it and we could let it all hang out together. But I know how hard it is to feel good about yourself when there are so many people insisting that you’re not good enough.
I’m sure accepting my outie is easier for me because I was able to get on top of that obsession before it got out of control (although by crying naked in front of the mirror and calling my ex-boyfriend in a panic about the length of my labia minora, one could argue I had already lost it).
But when you’ve been thinking at length about your length for years, I understand that it could be hard to reach a place of self-acceptance. It will take time. But until then, I hope this declaration helps bring her a little closer to vagina love (and a little farther from a labiaplasty):
My name is Rosie Waterland, and I HAVE AN OUTIE!