e met a long time ago. According to my mother you were my “privates,” or my “down there,” but we were friends before I ever caught your name.
I couldn’t see you, but I could feel you. I felt you often. I liked you.
I grew older and you became “vagina.” It was fifth grade and I learned that someday you would bleed, and that someday a baby would crawl out from your folds. I started to fear you.
Through the next few years we navigated periods and tampons together, but somehow that intimacy drove us apart. I didn’t understand what was between my legs, or why, only that it meant pain, discomfort, and the awkward tampon shuffle once every single month. You know the one - the dance of creatively hiding a tampon up my sleeve, in my waistband, or the worst, taking my purse to the bathroom during class, which was not so stealthy but oh so shameful.
We didn’t hang out so much - actually, not at all.
In high school I finally learned your name. Vulva. Labia. Pretty. Then a few slides later in the health class presentation were the photos. Damaged and shriveled and diseased. What I could expect my lovely vulva to become should I ever have sex.
I started peeking, desperate to understand you. I studied you. I liked you.
Soon the internet was accessible, and I looked for you there also.
I didn’t find you.
I found soft and smooth and naked and pink and small. I was ashamed.
Others had gone looking as well, because the jokes became abundant. I heard jokes about your smell and your color and your length, from the boys and girls alike. I learned another horrifying consequence of sex, that you would grow and grow and no one would respect you for it.
I hated you.
I hated you for so long.
When I finally did have sex, I obsessed over you. I didn’t want you to be seen or touched anymore than you had to. I carefully watched you, expecting you to change. To darken, to stretch. You didn’t.
I started to get to know you again, by myself and with others. I met your crown, my clitoris, something unnamed and kept from me in school. I learned your purpose and your strength. Your power.
To my vulva, I’m so sorry.
I’m sorry that I feared you, that I hid from you, and that I dreamed you were something that you’re not. I’m sorry I listened to the jokes, that I laughed to hide my discomfort, and that I perpetuated falseties about your anatomy and it’s connection to the number of partners, the number of times a person has sex.
To my vulva, I love you.
It’s taken so, so long. It hasn’t been easy. I’m still trying. But you are mine. You don’t scare me, vulva, you empower me. You are my intimacy and my pleasure. I see your complexities and I see your beauty.
To my vulva, thank you.