As co-founder and editor of alternative feminist website Mookychick Online, my inbox is filled on a daily basis with marvels* aimed at Womanly Me. I get to witness all sorts, from highly unnecessary camel toe spatulas to sex aids designed to (maybe) emancipate and (definitely) stimulate every orifice except the eyes and ears. And, okay, maybe not the nose.**
I love looking through all this stuff. But when I opened an email to find an advertisement for '18 Again Vaginal Cream', a chill struck me to my core. Eurgh. This was ugly. This was ageism waving a feminist flag.
I've often felt the info surrounding life's landmarks has been given a security clearance level I don't possess. Like periods, for example. Shortly after my first blutbad (thank you, GCSE German) I was marched towards the tampon aisle and debriefed on both insertion and the imminent danger of toxic shock syndrome. Great! On one level this highly useful intel meant I was now as ready for anything as Sarah Connor in The Terminator or Lieutenant Ripley in Alien.
In fact, my diary entry for this landmark day read: "Just inserted a tampon. Mega! Pretty sure I haven't got toxic shock syndrome. Also I hope sex is better than periods."
But that was me putting a brave face on it. Probably, now I think about it, just like Lieutenant Ripley did when she got her period for the first time. While sex is patently more fun than menses, what I should have written was:
"Hey, diary. I'm going to be intermittently sticky for the rest of my ovulating life. Cheers."
From now on I'll approach life's biological challenges with skill and tactics. The next landmark may well be menopause, and I'm eyeing it like a mildly thirsty antelope fancying its chances at the watering hole. Or like Lieutenant Ripley eyeing a jagged hole in a metal ceiling with a single droplet of acid falling from it in slow motion. Actually, yes, just like that.
And I've got intel this time. A family member recently explained about the need for some women (older or otherwise) to use hydration lotions on their muff because the poor thing can dry up to the point where it gets sore. Very practical, I thought. My body is changing all the time, and unlike Ripley, I don't even have a foreign entity growing inside me as an excuse. Now that I actually know an all-pervading stickiness could be replaced by its opposite at any moment, I'll be checking out hydrating gels as and when.
This 18 Again cream that landed in my inbox, though... it was basically a hydrating lotion, and if it had been called something like My Lovely Moist or Happy Waterfall I'd have been all over it like a rash.
Okay. Wrong euphemism.
What I didn't want was to be offered my youth back. The cream contained pomegranates and gold dust, and while I'm quite into both of these there's a time and a place. The time is rarely 'now', and the place is never 'up my vagina'. I didn't want a golden uterus or my hymen back. I think I just wanted this cream to be a bit moist and safe to apply internally. Not too much to ask, surely?
Instead, the product promised me that 18 Again cream was a 'product for woman empowerment', because 'preservation of youth and not losing your fight to age has become the new mantra of society'.
Society's mantra, maybe... but not mine.
My mantra is currently this...
I will age. I'm doing it right now. Rather than trying to reverse the clock I want to get to know my body and work with it. Maybe at least one of us was saddled with a partner we don't really want, but hey, we're a tag team. Right? Right.
I don't need 'sex sells' marketing for my vagina. It doesn't need to impress people the way we're encouraged to think a face does. After all, a vagina is not a face. If I go clubbing, my friends aren't going to check me out down below and say 'Mags, have you done something new with your vagina? You look so well-rested...'
I don't want to drink from the fountain of youth. I don't want snake oil vaginal youth creams, and I don't want the 'Designer Vagina' labiaplasty which girls as young as 14 are apparently having, either.
I just want to know what lies ahead, and to be ready for it when it comes. My vagina and I are going to age together, till death do us part, and we're looking forward to every single moment of it.
Just not so much the dry or sticky ones.
* I haven't been offered a customised merkin yet. This is a problem. I'd quite like one of those.
** Nah, go on then, the nose.