Amanda Marcotte fisks an offering from Not a Desperate Housewife that veers between the risible and the disturbing – a letter to a young woman from her vagina. Although the notion of a literate vagina invites mockery, it strikes me as a perfectly reasonable framework on which to hang advice: the problem only arises when the advice boils down to “save me for your future husband and all will be well”.
So I’ve shamelessly stolen the format, widened the focus so that the letter is from the whole body rather than just one part, and present my own version, possibly just as risible but hopefully not nearly as disturbing:
From what you read and hear, you might be forgiven for thinking that I belong to advertisers, or the government, or to your hypothetical future husband. I don’t. I belong to you and to you alone. Sometimes you need help or advice from other people about what’s best for me, but if you listen to me, you will understand me in ways no-one else can ever hope to understand me, and you must never let someone else’s opinion of what’s right override your own experience of me.
Don’t be in too much of a hurry to share me with the rest of the world. I’d like us to get to know each other first, just the two of us. We can have lots of fun together, and all the while you’ll be learning about me and what I can do for you. When the time comes to share me, you’ll enjoy the experience far more for everything you’ve learned. Have the courage to use all that knowledge to make us both happy: anyone who tries to make you ashamed of knowing what you like is not someone you should be sharing me with.
Remember that you don’t have to share me with anyone who asks. Sharing me with one man doesn’t mean you have to share me with every man, and sharing me with a man once doesn’t mean you have to share me with him every time he wants me. And if you find you’d rather share me with women than with men, you don’t have to try out any man who thinks he can change your mind. No-one has an automatic right to me except for you: you always have the final say on how and with whom you share me.
Take care of me so that I can stay healthy and useful to you for years to come. Information about diet, exercise and so on is easy to come by, but when it comes to sexual health you’ll find yourself surrounded by myths and misinformation. Until we’ve got to know each other, I can’t tell you exactly how you should go about protecting us, but as a general rule, when there’s someone besides the two of us involved, latex is your friend.
The time may very well come in the future when you want babies. We’ll go through every step of it together, and you’ll get to know me better than you ever did before, but remember that making a baby is hard work. Please don’t think you have to go through it until we’re both good and ready. There are many ways to keep yourself from getting pregnant when you don’t want to be, and I trust you to choose one that works for us both. Don’t let anyone tell you that pregnancy is my job – I have many jobs, most of them quite unrelated to child-bearing.
I’ll do my best to be everything you want me to be, but remember that I have my limitations. Please be patient with me when I can’t do what you want straight away, and don’t be frustrated that I don’t look the same as the women you see in the adverts. It’s sometimes hard to love and accept me the way I am, especially in the face of pressure from the rest of the world, but if you can do that, we’ll both be happier than if you try to force me to be what I’m not.
I can’t make decisions on how to run our life together, so I’m trusting you to do that. Believe in yourself and remember all the lessons we learn together, and you shouldn’t go too far wrong.