First and foremost, I’d like to begin with a deep sigh of relief as I announce that yes, nipple hair is normal! Happy trail hair is normal! Heck — armpit, ear, arm, back, upper lip, and hair where the sun doesn’t shine on the body serves as a protective barrier and is completely normal! Who would’ve known? I sure didn’t. I grew up struggling to come to terms with the fact that I was a wooly mammoth who had inherited the hairy Latin genes from my mom, instead of the more desired curvaceous genes. Since then, I’ve learned that hair on any area of skin is normal despite what Venus ads or social media may lead you to believe.
In middle school, I distinctly remember asking my aunt to take me to Victoria’s Secret so that I could get my grimy hands on every possible pastel PINK push-up bra. All I wanted was to stop being the butt of all the mosquito bite jokes that were innocent, but nonetheless, relentlessly hurled at me by the boys and girls at my school.
While the mosquito bite jokes did eventually subside in college, my insecurities shifted to other aspects of my body. If I could redo the curriculum that my health teacher swiftly spewed my way in middle school, I would include a more in-depth lesson about how exactly the cisgender female anatomy differs depending on each body. It's important to recognize that not all vaginas and nipples are pink! The same way that people of different ethnic backgrounds range in shade, so do the colors of female body parts.
Despite being compared to a sweet smelling flower or fruit, especially in pop culture art, vaginas don’t smell like the beloved Marc Jacobs Daisy perfume or like a half cut grapefruit. In fact, you should be concerned if it does. Try to stray away products that interfere with your healthy pH balance in order to avoid infections. Speaking of scents, it's quite normal for vaginas to have a pungent odor to them. In fact, some common scents that vaginas may give off include “tangy or fermented,” “coppery like a penny,” and “sweet like molasses.” If the scent strays away from its usual aroma, and instead is “chemical like a newly cleaned bathroom,” “skunky like BO or a smoked herbal, earthy scent,” “fishy,” or “rotten,” then it may be your body’s not so subtle cue for you to see a doctor.
Some tips for maintaining a healthy pH balance and avoiding these inconvenient, alarming odors include hydrating with good old reliable H2O, wearing cotton underwear that isn’t excessively tight (so try to avoid wearing those cute silky or lacey thongs daily), avoiding an abrasively fragrant laundry detergent, and rinsing your vulva with warm water and drying it thoroughly with a towel.
It’s also important to pay close attention to the color of vaginal discharge as it can be indicative of what's happening inside your body. For example, clear and white discharge means you’re quite literally in the clear. However, grey, yellow, or green discharge could mean that something funky is going on with your body. Pink and red discharge means you’re either about to menstruate or are menstruating, but it can also mean you’re experiencing irritation, an infection, or potentially cancer. This is all the more reason to either track these trends in your head or on an app/notebook, and keep an open line of communication with your OBGYN.
Speaking of vaginal care, newsflash to the women who were shamed to think that masturbation is sinful — it's a normal part of having human urges. As a matter of fact, in case nobody told you, clitoral masturbation and penetrative masturbation are both equal forms of self care and stress relief that are especially crucial after a week jam packed with deadlines. Basically, there is no right way to masturbate. Not to mention, you should feel liberated and empowered to explore your body and discover what works best for you.
Aside from ways to take care of vaginal health, I wish someone told my peers and I that Eurocentric beauty standards, often synonymous with “conventional attractiveness,” are not the only form of beauty. I never understood why the makeup tutorials I followed on YouTube never turned out the way I expected. It wasn’t until last year that I realized I have hooded eyes, which is why my lack of eyelid space didn’t leave me with the same dramatic and eyeshadow-heavy look the gurus wore. I simply was not equipped with the same canvas as them, which is why it’s so important to consume media from people who look like you. Supporting creators who don’t fit the Western mold of beauty is how we as consumers can cultivate a more diverse and inclusive platform where we can feel seen and beautiful.
I’ve come a long way from feeling uncomfortable with my body, but I still have a lot more to learn and accept about myself. My hope is that my generation, as well as future generations, can come to a point where we are honest about our bodies and understand that beauty is not a monolithic category. As my younger cousin and step sister continue to blossom into mature women (and even if they don’t decide to carry on as female presenting individuals), I want to be transparent with them. I want them to feel like they can come and talk to me about anything, even something boomers proclaim is “taboo” like sex and vaginal health.