Loved Her Fiercely

I was nine years old when I “blossomed into a lady.” I remember it like it was yesterday, I was sitting in my fourth period Earth Science class when I felt a sharp pain in my lower abdominal area. I felt an intense urgency to urinate so I rushed to the bathroom, ran into the first stall, and pulled my plaid skort down. A maroon puddle stained the middle of my faded flower patterned Hanes underwear. Did I just poop in my pants? I was so embarrassed I could feel the heat radiating from my cheeks. It made no sense. How could I have taken a shit without noticing?! I tried to clean up the mess and waited until after school to change my panties. That evening, my mother came into my room, stained panty in hand, and began to hug me. “You aren’t mad at me for pooping in my pants?” I asked my mother. She bursted into laughter and held my hand as she gave me “the talk.” Looking back on “the talk,” I realize how cliche my mother had been. She described my period as a gift given to those ready to become a woman. She explained to me that I would be receiving the gift every month and should not be ashamed of it. I wanted to know what it all meant. My mother said, “Well, now you can also get pregnant.” I had nightmares about being nine and pregnant for the weeks to follow and made sure to curse my vagina every night before slumber.

    Ten years have passed since my first period and let me tell you, I have really blossomed into the woman my mother said I would be. I know how to get around major cities like Miami and Boston, cook an amazing penne alla vodka, play “Wonderwall” on the guitar and also know that the average (erect) penis size is 5.6 inches yet I know virtually know nothing about my vagina. My genitelia is as foreign to me as the depths of the ocean or the Chinese language. Growing up in the sex-crazed city of Miami, I constantly heard boys bragging about their penises. They were proud of their penises as they bragged about its size and capabilities. To this day, I have not heard one female truly brag about her vagina.  Public school sex-education was an arbitrary two-hour course that taught girls how to wear pads and taught men how to put on a condom. Naturally, the male section in sexual education took up the majority of the course. The only exciting fact I learned was that vaginas had three holes.  I realize that even today many of my female friends have been in the dark about their vaginas, too! Are we supposed to shave or let it grow? How do we put on a tampon? What hole does our piss come out of? Can a vagina break? How do we know if we have an STD? These are questions that most girls have wondered about their vagina but have been too afraid to ask. It was not until recently that I garnered the courage to explore what lied between my legs.

    Approaching my vagina was no easy feat. Unlike the rest of my body, I felt extremely shy and uncomfortable analyzing my vagina. I attempted to approach my vagina in the same way boys approached their penises. I tried to name it and had trouble choosing between Athena, after the Greek Goddess of Wisdom, or Zenon, the supernova girl from the Disney Channel Original movie. I decided to poke around and was instantly turned off by the slimey unknown parts. I even tried discussing my vagina to my girl friends only to be quickly shushed. the realization that talking about my vagina was tabooed inspired me to learn more about female sexuality through the privacy of a book. I became obsessed with chick-lit, from Gossip Girl to Valley of the Dolls, I devoured the novels that told tales of strong, independent female protagonists who were sexually awakened by steamy men. The once exciting chick-lit novels quickly became old and I found myself even more dissatisfied with my vagina than ever. All these novels had taught me was that I needed to fall in love in order to truly understand my own body, to fully uncover what lied between my legs. Was I really unable to figure my body out on my own?

    I decided to embark on a personal quest a la Lewis and Clark and explore the unknown territory that is my vagina. The only guideline I set was that I would embark on this journey alone. I was ready to debunk the chick-lit theory and learn about my vagina on my own. I studied feminist texts and poems that encouraged self love and discovery. As Ntozake Shange writes in her play for colored girls who have contemplated suicide when the rainbow is enuf, “I found god in myself and i loved her, i loved her fiercely.” The words that laid within the feminist texts inspired me to love my vagina.

    Falling in love with my vagina was easier than expected. All it took was a change of perception. Instead of approaching it with disgust and shame, I praised its beauty and its power. I began to stare at my vagina for long periods of times. Instead of scribbling the names of my crushes on my notebook, I sketched my labia. When I freestyle rapped, I would brag about my vagina in the same fashion that my male peers bragged about their penis. But most importantly I began to talk about my vagina with females. I would try to ease it into daily conversations or joke about it. Unfortunately, i was unable to find a good amount of fellow females who shared the same sentiments about their vaginas. They are afraid of their vaginas, of what it represents, and of its power. I could not help but wonder if gender inequality stemmed from the fact that girls were raised to hide all concerns regarding their vaginas. Some of my self-proclaimed feminist friends squirm when they say the word “vagina” and are quick to call me perverted when I praise my genetalia.

    Michelle. That is the name of my vagina. She is not named after a greek goddess or a Disney character because she is a part of me. My vagina, like my arm, or my face, is a defining characteristic of who I am. It does not define me fully but it is an important piece of me. It is not a part of me that should be shamed or unappreciated but rather loved and explored. Being able to face my own body has allowed me to learn about myself. I have embraced my sexuality and my femininity  on my own simply because I could. Females are not taught enough about their bodies. We are groomed to be modest about our bodies which disallows us to fully understand it. Although I will never be able to fully see my menstrual cycle as a monthly gift, I do not curse my vagina for it. My vagina is still so foreign and otherwordly to me and my exploration is still ongoing. Learning to love my vagina has taught me to love myself.