A Note To My Daughter About Her Vagina

by Nicole Leigh Shaw
Originally Published: 
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Dear Daughter,

It’s not a hoo-haa. It’s not a puffle or a daisy or a “down there.” It’s not your other butt or your looloo. It’s your vagina. Kid, I brought your vagina into this world—I’m not going to marginalize its importance by calling it your pookie place.

Sweetheart, the reality is, your vagina is the least interesting part of your sexual and reproductive organs, so let’s not give it so much power over us that we can’t even call it by its given name. If you ask me to discuss your clitoris at length, I’ll have much greater reason to blush. A vagina is just a canal, and in this metaphor, the clitoris is the singing gondolier.

It’s the gondolier that can get you into trouble.

“But Mooooom,” you may say. “My other friends have fluffies and pinkies. Vaginas are soooo embarrassing!” And I’ll say, “Honey, your other friends are going to go to college someday, or the backseat of their high school crush’s car, and they are going to find their fluffies up against a stiff peeper (or another fluffy) and the kind of person who is ready to have the very adult act of coitus, should be able to say: ‘This is my vagina you’re trying to thrust your penis into. Should you do so while we are not protected by prophylactics like condoms with spermicidal lubricants, we could, at best, create a new life that will require us to care for it, putting aside or on hold all of our own plans. Or, we will agonize over whether to put that life—that baby—up for adoption or to abort it, both choices that will forever change the way we think of ourselves. Barring babies, we could end up with a sexually transmitted disease, potentially terminal.'”

That kind of frank discussion never happens when a boy wants to put his wiener in your front buns. I promise you this, in the history of procreation, never have a synonym for a hot dog and a woefully mis-mapped anus produced offspring nor spread STDs. There are no STD hot dogs. But penises and vaginas (lead by that serenading little gondolier, the clitoris) are responsible for lots of both.

So, my gift to you as you are on the brink of adulthood is your vagina. Your cervix and labia and ovaries, too. The whole package, really. Your perineum and your clitoral hood and even your areolae.

But I’m not really giving you vaginas and vulvas and fallopian tubes. I’m trying to give you ownership of yourself. I’m trying—I’ve been trying since you were a little girl and asked me the names for your body parts—to give you the truth. If I can’t tell you about your pubic area without resorting to pet names, how will I tell you about failure and triumph and rejection and resilience? All of those are measurably more difficult to talk about and survive than having a vagina.

I’m giving you truth. I’m trying to be honest about the human condition at large, from your crotch to marriage. For example, marriage can include fighting and forgiving, but the ones that fail often only have one or the other.

Also, people die, even the good ones.

Giving birth is messy and scary and powerful.

Sometimes love is a choice, yes, even loving your child.

Sex should be good in every aspect. Good sex will build you up, never bring you down.

You should know that there are very few answers to your questions that will still satisfy you as the years pass.

You should know that your life will change and, in the most tedious ways, never change at all.

I hope you realize by now that sometimes things that are good for you, like getting all those shots as a child, will hurt or make you uncomfortable, but the benefit is often worth the pain. Ditto mammograms and breakups and regular cardio and broccoli.

Truth doesn’t actually hurt, as the saying goes, it’s finally realizing that you’ve been lied to that hurts.

Though it’s a blow, comparing yourself to someone else and finding yourself lacking is infinitely more educational than feeling superior.

Pets are a commitment you make to another living creature, not a hobby.

Buy the cute shoes and find a place to wear them.

Never ignore debt, road signs, or rectal bleeding.

Try foods you don’t think you’d like.

Get in the picture once in a while. Someone is going to want to look at your lovely face when you’re no longer with them.

Learn to recognize your own ignorance.

It’s your vagina.

I could go on, but the point was to prepare you to learn these things for yourself. I’m trying to teach you that the world you’re inheriting is governed by adults, not children. You’ll be responsible for your part in it soon enough, even if I will frequently remind you that you were once my baby.

But know that none of these adults have nu-nus in their panties.

So we’ll talk about testicles and nipples and why men need one and don’t seem to need the other. You need to know all of this now because someday it will just be you and your vagina, figuring things out on your own. Because I can’t and won’t and don’t want to hold you forever in my arms shielded and sheltered by swaddling cloths and euphemisms. I want to watch you fly away someday. Fly long, and far, and wide. And I want you to know exactly where you’re headed.


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