I was 12 1/2 when I started my period. The moment it happened I was at band practice (I played the clarinet), and I was, of course, wearing white pants. Later that day, my mom ushered me into the bathroom with a box of tampons and told me to “read the instructions.” I didn’t get a pep talk about womanhood or sexual responsibility. Queen Latifah did not jump out my closet singing the chorus of “Ladies First.” There were no fireworks. But despite the lackluster reception, this was in fact the launch of my complex relationship with my vagina.
Now that I’m safely in my 30s, I realize that most of my body issues are behind me, and I can say with some confidence that my vagina is in fact my bitch now. Here are some of the most vital takeaways:
Birth control doesn’t have to kill you.
Traditional methods of contraception don’t work for everyone, whether it be unwanted/unintended side effects or simply a matter of preference. At the end of the day, I learned that despite the extra work involved, natural methods of birth control, such as the rhythm method, made the most sense for me. And they can be effective.
Yes, there are foods I have to keep out of my diet (like soy, which can throw off our body’s natural hormonal balance). Yes, I had to forgo sex for a few months while I tracked my menstrual cycle symptoms (hello, vagina journal). But these small inconveniences don’t even come close to the amount of satisfaction I have being in tune with my body. Also, for me, knowing my body is free of chemically induced periods and copper whatchamacallits is also a bonus.
Childbirth is not a punishment.
I remember asking my mom one simple question when I was three months into my pregnancy. “What is natural childbirth like?” My mother, in her most passive tone of voice, turned to me and waved a hand to the air. “Eh, it’s not that bad. You’ll be fine.” It was these words of wisdom which rang in my ears over the remaining seven months and throughout the six hours of natural labor.
Childbirth is obviously nothing to trivialize. But the Hollywood image of a woman gasping for air as she’s whisked into an emergency room, cursing out her husband and threatening the lives of medical staff, is inaccurate if not just plain offensive. Apart from actual illness, physical limitations, and life-threatening complications, women are built to give birth. Your birth is your birth, however you choose to do it (or need to do it to keep mother and child safe), but don’t be fooled, our vaginas are magical.
Your vagina likes to eat. (Yes, you read that right.)
Ten years ago, I stopped eating meat and replaced my college “I’ll never die” nutrition plan with a mostly plant-based one — the benefits of which were, of course, through the roof. More energy, clear skin, faster growing nails and hair, and effortless weight loss. But the best (and most endearing) benefit was, well, a tasty vagina.
But whether you eat an all-meat diet or survive on arugula and water, there are a ton of foods that actually keep your vagina in tip-top shape. Fruits like pineapple, almonds, cranberries, avocados, and surprisingly garlic can not only keep your vag smelling like a proverbial rose, but also can prevent yeast infections and increase your overall reproductive health.
Prone to bacterial vaginosis? Coconut oil is actually a natural antibacterial. It helps maintain a balance between the bacteria we need and the bacteria we don’t. If you’re one of those women who likes to use coconut oil to moisturize after a shower, take a finger-full and stick it where the sun don’t shine next time.
So when you’re at the grocery store this week, don’t be selfish. Pick up a few items for our favorite downstairs neighbor.
Sex saves lives.
Remember that old adage about love and sex going hand in hand? I finally called bullshit on that little bit of advice, and my life got a whole lot better. This was especially helpful when I was happily single. Even though my emotional needs were being handled by my favorite lover at the time (me), I was neglecting my sexual needs. Studies have proven having a healthy and active sex life can increase mood and reduce stress. Sex can also burn around up to 250 calories and give your muscles a much needed workout.
It’s my personal philosophy that if more people were getting laid there would be significantly less pain in the world. Regular sex is a little easier if you’re in a committed relationship (one hopes), but being single shouldn’t mean you’re not getting your rocks off too. If anyone wonders why you’re swiping right on Tinder instead of reading the latest news about Trump, tell them you’re doing God’s work. Saving lives, one orgasm at a time.
Sex gets better with age (for some of us).
Contrary to what I previously imagined, sex takes an interesting turn in your 30s. According to my mother, sex in your 40s and 50s is also pretty extraordinary. My time might have been more free in my 20s, but my vagina most definitely was not. These days not only do I have a much healthier body image and sense of self, I am also completely uninhibited by social norms and societal expectations. In short, I’ve never been hornier. Studies have even supported this phenomenon, finding that women ages 27 to 45 are much more sexual (and have more sex) than women ages 18 to 26.
Interestingly enough, it’s men who generally see a decline in sex drive around this age. This could be tied to physical changes or an over-reliance in porn and masturbation, but it’s oddly amusing to realize that the sex-crazed maniacs from college are probably bowing to the unrelenting, insatiable women in their lives a decade later. Of course, if you’re a woman with a high sex drive who is saddled with a man who has a low sex drive, those turned tables are severely less entertaining. But this does explain the unrivaled popularity of porn-for-ladies that has taken over Tumblr.
The most important thing I learned about my vagina since entering my 30s has been that it is, despite what Congress may think, mine. Women are in the interesting position now to reclaim our vaginas. Whether we were born with them, chose to have them, or are saving up to get one, the well-being of our lady pockets still rests firmly in our own hands. You don’t have to be in your 30s to explore your options, do some research, and ask for second opinions.
Remember how powerful women are, and that the source of our magic is right there between our thighs. A consistent reminder since that fateful day in junior high that we are capable of overcoming anything and that we are much stronger than we’re ever given credit for.
All hail the vag, ruler of the free world.