Before I even saw my vagina, the doctors saw it. They labeled me “female” based on what was between my legs, which later on would coincide with my gender as girl, now woman, cisgender.
Vagina. My friends and I laughed when saying the word. I was scared to look at it, but I knew it was there. I felt its little chubby hood between my thighs. I would pull my nails over the budding hairs and when they blossomed, they tangled, clung to the wetness. The folds, like a rose, and velvety like its petals.
March 1st, 10 years old, bathroom stall before lunch. Burgundy blood painted my underwear. I thought I was dying. How could my vagina deceive me? She was sneaky rather than surprising, a subtle distinction. I burst through the stall, zipped through the hallways to the cafeteria to find my grandma, a lunch aide at the school. I landed into her arms, soaked her shirt with my fearful tears. As we walked out the door, me tucked under her arm, she said to Mr. Strumello, “Lauren became a woman today.”
Actually I did not become a woman at 10 years old nor does the principal need to know the status of my reproductive system…but thanks, Grandma.
Over time, I became friends with my vagina. I would look at her: plump, pink, and perky. I would watch myself in the mirror trying to put a tampon in. It was like sticking a pencil into a shut clam shell: clenched close. Each attempt left my fingertips bloody. I thought we had open communication, my vagina and I, but I knew she was stubborn. She would eventually learn to dance, but only around other girls who I thought were cute. I would cross and tighten my legs to stop her from moving. Stop doing that around pretty girls, I’d yell, shaming her for her most natural urges. I read prayers to my vagina, hoping she would understand that what she wanted was wrong and sinful. That’s what I told her.
In high school, my vagina felt like Niagara Falls, making my panties a puddle. My vagina, a mango, a papaya. I tried to plug up all that juice: I started putting my finger all around her (she loved that), but my mind would wander to all the pretty girls who couldn’t know I liked them. Me and my vagina would cry at all the things that couldn’t be because of who and what we are:
A girl and a vagina.
My vagina is focused; she has always known what she wants and likes. My vagina is communicative; if there’s something wrong, she tells me. My vagina is spontaneous; she does whatever she wants to do in the moment. My vagina is calm and patient; she waited a long time for love and she is. She is loved.
Artist Statement: This piece is modeled after Eve V. Ensler’s iconic play The Vagina Monologues. After performing in the play in grad school, I always wanted to write an intersectional perspective on my own vagina/vulva while relating to my queerness and budding sexuality. After reciting monologues of other people’s vaginas, I was finally inspired to write about my own.
Bio: Lauren Todd is the Program Coordinator and Visiting Instructor at UConn Stamford in the Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program. She is pursuing an MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing from Bay Path University. She also has a Master’s degree in Women’s and Gender Studies from Southern Connecticut State University.
Cover Photo Original Art by Lauren Todd