What Body Stuff Are You Too Embarrassed to Talk About?


Plus get 30% off my new favorite underwear

by Maddie Eisenhart, Chief Revenue Officer

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For as long as I can remember, my body has been subject to the (often loud, always unsolicited) opinions of others. Don’t show so much skin. Get a more supportive bra. Have less body hair. And on and on. And for as long as I can remember, I have also wanted to portray a public persona that said, “Fuck all that noise.” As a budding young feminist, I protested dress codes, I cut my hair, and I refused to be made to feel less because of my sex. From the earliest days of puberty, the message was very clear: be perfect, and never let on how you got that way. Basically, be Spanx in the streets, and Victoria’s Secret in the sheets, and do both at the same time, and never talk about any of it.

Which is why I was excited when we were approached by Dear Kate, a new line of underwear that’s designed specifically for women’s bodies and all that they entail. I can’t believe it’s taken this long for our culture to realize that most lingerie isn’t designed for the rigors of everyday life (aka sweat, discharge, and everything else we’re not supposed to talk about), but Dear Kate totally knocks it out of the park. Their stuff (available up to size 3x) is cute, comfortable, supportive, and somehow manages to not show any panty lines (I may or may not be wearing these right now). But the real draw is that they they have a special lining that absorbs up to three teaspoons of moisture in case of sweat, discharge, leakage, or whatever else our bodies throw at us—in other words, everyday life as a woman. And since the lining is made of 100% fabric and no plastic, it’s totally breathable and machine washable, too. Because I got no time for hand washing. (And P.S. Dear Kate is offering 30% off to all APW readers today when you use the code APW30 at checkout, and I’m telling you, you should get some.) Basically, they are the underwear I’ve been waiting for my whole life.

body as frienemy

So when Dear Kate asked if we wanted to talk about bodies, I was like yes, OMG, please, it’s about time. I still remember the first time I felt prolonged shame about my body and its various functions. I was thirteen and had achieved peak middle school status: I was captain of my cheerleading squad and I had boobs. From the outside, it looked like God had giveth with both hands. But I was also profusely, grossly sweaty. Like… pit stains in everything I wore sweaty. The kind of sweaty the gym teacher pulls aside to give deodorant to. And like many a teenage girl, I did everything in my power to hide it. I refused to wear anything that might show a sweat stain, instead torturing myself with knit sweaters well into warm months. I banned the color white from my wardrobe. Sometimes I wouldn’t even raise my hand in class, if I thought it might betray my secret.

I hated feeling like I needed to be ashamed of my body for working the way it’s supposed to. And in the subsequent years, I have worked hard to figure out where my feminist values fit in with the expectations of women in this country. And it turns out, for me, where I take the most issue is what happens under the surface. While I love makeup, dye my hair, and wear sequins like they’re second skin, I hate the idea that our bodies in their natural state are inherently, well, gross. And that the only acceptable topic of conversations in and around our bodies are how much we weigh and a number for a good wax specialist.

Puberty, Round Two

But here’s the thing, for all the work that I’ve done to eliminate body shame as an adult, the aging process just sucks sometimes. This year I turned thirty, and then a month later found out I was pregnant, and now it’s like puberty 2.0 over here. My boobs are changing, my diet consists mostly of bagels and lemonade right now, and as a fun side effect, I pee a little every time I sneeze. And from everything I’ve been told, it’s only going to get weirder.

For years, I’ve told myself I’ll be the kind of woman who ages gracefully. Who doesn’t turn thirty and freak out. I thought it would be about wrinkles and grey hair and telling myself I’m good enough. But as Michael and I enter the next stage of our marriage together, I’m feeling like the aging process is awfully one-sided right now. Sure, he’s worried about losing his hair, but as I’ve watched friends go through childbirth and family members experience early menopause following a hysterectomy, I now realize that I have no freaking clue what lies ahead. Will my boobs always be this new size? Will my vagina ever be the same after I give birth? Am I always going to pee a little when I sneeze? Is being a woman just a constant state of adjusting and readjusting and learning to be okay with the new normal?

The answer is, I have no idea. It’s possible I’ll just be in the thick of it forever, managing expectations and trying to bolster my own confidence. But it really helps to see some of this starting to be normalized. I appreciate companies like Dear Kate that strive to make products that work with women’s bodies, instead of against them. And I’m grateful for the people who are willing to put their own bodies out there, like the woman who free-bled through her first marathon, or the reality TV star who shared postpartum pictures in which she’s only wearing mesh underwear.

Because you know what the worst part of middle school was? (Other than everything, because middle school.) The worst part wasn’t my body. It was the shame and secrecy. It was feeling like I needed to fix myself, or become invisible. So maybe that’s the next step. I can’t promise I will feel amazing about my body all the time as I enter my thirties and approach parenthood. But I can refuse to feel shameful, and I can refuse to hide.

So let’s talk about bodies, APW. What body stuff have you been too embarrassed to talk about? What do you wish we had more freedom to discuss? What’s surprised you as you’ve gotten older?

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This post was sponsored by Dear Kate. Dear Kate is a new brand of underwear, designed with patent-pending fabric technology to be sweat proof, moisture wicking, and stain releasing, all while being totally breathable and comfy as hell. In short: they are redefining what it means to be “special occasion underwear.” Dear Kate undies and leggings (which are also A+) can absorb up to three teaspoons of moisture in the event of sweat, period leakage, or the occasional sneeze. And when I say they are cute, I mean I want to wear my turquoise Ada briefs every day and my galaxy leggings every night. Dear Kate is offering APW readers 30% off all orders placed before November 7, 2016 when you use the code APW30 at checkout. Click here to pick out your favorite Dear Kate style. 

Maddie Eisenhart

Maddie is APW’s Chief Revenue Officer. She’s been writing stories about boys, crushes, and relationships since she was old enough to form shapes into words, but received her formal training (and a BS) from NYU in Entertainment and Mass Media in 2008. She now spends a significant amount of time thinking about trends on the internet and whether flower crowns will be out next year. A Maine native, Maddie currently lives on a pony farm in the Bay Area with her husband, Michael and their mastiff puppy. Current hair color: Purple(ish).

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  • Anon

    I hate my stretch marks. Hate them. They run across my belly like any red scars, rifts in my skin. They are not there from a baby, they are there because I got fat. Not because I was sick or pregnant or healthy at any size, because I ate and drank too much and moved too little. There’s nothing to be done about them and they make me feel deeply unsexy.

    • Danielle

      I’m sorry :/ If it makes you feel any better (?), the red/purple stretch marks I developed in puberty eventually faded to clear/silvery marks. They’re still there, maybe always will be, but they did fade over time. Maybe yours will do the same?

  • LydiaB

    My number one has always been “chub rub”, no one seems to discuss it! Trying to explain why I’m wearing cut off tights under skirts on holiday, tucking my skirt between my legs or why I just can’t face a bit of a walk in the heat to my husband made me so embarrassed. After one really bad patch I just showed him the red, raw patches on my thighs and now he always asks if I’m okay and I’m not embarrassed (much!) to tell him I need to put my shorts on after swimming to walk back to the hotel! The discovery of these little shorts + midi skirts being in fashion + just telling him the issue have made this holiday season the first that hasn’t been painful!

    • Ashlah

      Oh yeah, I explained chub rub to my husband when I ordered Bandelettes for under my wedding dress. He didn’t realize it was an issue for women of all sizes. It’s unbelievably painful! Glad your thighs are happier these days!

      • LydiaB

        And I mean, why would they know when we are so desperate to hide it because it just feels like it’s to do with our size when even my super slim friends get it too! Thinking back to the amount of John Wayne walks I’ve done to try and not aggravate it further, like that could have been more attractive than fessing up!

      • toomanybooks

        Yessss. Bandelettes have truly been great! Guys at my office were complaining that in hot weather, women can wear skirts to the office, but guys can’t wear shorts. Hello! I’m sure I would be way more comfortable in those cargo shorts too, because if I just wear a skirt I get chub rub and have to wear some sort of shorts or bandelettes anyway!

    • CW

      BodyGlide totally solved this for me in the summers. I can’t believe I didn’t know about it earlier, and then didn’t think of using it for regular days and not just running until this year. D’oh!

      • Jess

        Lotiony deodorant works pretty well too!

    • Emily

      Yep, totally with you. My family’s nickname for me is Thunderthighs – really nice. And while I’ve actually lost a bit of weight recently, this problem really never goes away. I avoid shorts completely because of it. Glad you’re feeling better now!

      • Amy March

        Oh fuck them.

    • Mary Jo TC

      I understand that feeling, but haven’t had it in a while because I stopped wearing shorts because I hate shaving (see above). If my shorts aren’t long enough, they always bunch up at my crotch, over the bulge of fat at the top of my inner thigh. It looks real classy when I try to adjust them. Now I understand why moms wear long shorts.

    • I finally broke down and told my husband about chub rub after he complained yet again about me wearing Spanx. No, I don’t enjoy Spanx but I do enjoy not having raw patches in between my thighs.

      • Jess

        I’m actually kind of surprised that this is such a shock for so many dudes on this thread. R gets chafing if we walk more than a mile or so and he’s not in athletic underwear, and I heard about deodorant for chafing while running from my dude friends.

        I thought this was an all people problem until today! I wonder if it’s just because as women we’re so trained to hate and be ashamed of our bodies that we treat it like a big secret even though it’s a universal problem?

        • Ashlah

          I think women more often wear clothing that is conducive to friction between the thighs. Most men who wear boxers or boxer briefs are already protected by default, and very rarely are they wearing skirts. A lot of men wear shorter running shorts than daily shorts, so it makes sense that runners would be aware of it. I don’t know if there’s also a physical difference in the way fat is distributed between men and women’s thighs that tend to make women’s touch more, but even if they’re the same, I bet the difference in typical wardrobe has a lot to do with it.

          • Jess

            Yeah, the wardrobe difference makes a lot of sense, especially with the advent of boxerbriefs and guys wearing compression shorts for most sports (probably due to exactly this issue).

        • Mary Jo TC

          Also guys have leg hair! I do think it makes a difference.

          • Jess

            This makes sense too! The guys I know who have talked about it have much thinner hair around their mid/upper-thighs due to rubbing against clothes and things, so it probably helps when it’s there!

      • Anon

        If you would rather not wear spanx, but still would like chub rub protection, I’m a big fan of jockeys skimmies. They aren’t controlling, but they smooth a bit and are light and not as restricting (and way cheaper) and protect from the chub rub.

    • LP

      Does anybody else get under boob chub rub? I have it so bad, and it’s just awful, even though I wear a bra except for when I’m sleeping. WTF

      • CW

        I do when running/exercising. And it takes forever to heal. :(

        • LP

          Literally have had the same spot for at least 4 months. It’s driving me insane.

          • Anon

            Are you sure that is chub rub and not eczema or a fungal infection?

    • Mary Jo TC

      I think one other reason this hasn’t bothered me much lately is because I let myself get pretty furry down there. I think the hair acts as a little buffer for the thighs rubbing together. It has to get pretty long, though, and getting through the scratchy stubble stage is the hardest part. And someone who just doesn’t have very thick hair might not notice much of a difference. If you get sweaty, though, the hair doesn’t help, the thighs still rub.

    • EF

      men’s silk boxers. give them a try when wearing skirts or whatevs — they mean no rub whatsoever.

  • Ashlah

    Discharge. Ugh. It makes me paranoid of smells after my lunchtime walk. It leaves stains in my running shorts when I go commando. IT EATS HOLES IN MY UNDERWEAR. It’s natural and normal and important for vaginal health, yes, yes, but can be oh so annoying in daily life. (And can’t we all agree on a better word for it?)

    • Jessica

      I totally feel you on everything you just said. ETA: I use pantyliners on days I’ll be walking/sweating a bunch to help mitigate the underwear thing.

      • Jess

        I did that throughout high school… Trying to explain to my mom “but my underwear is always wet” was horrifying.

        • Jessica

          Yikes. I never talked to my mom about body stuff. She bought me a 3rd rate book about my changing body to avoid those conversations.

          • Jess

            When she’s the one with the $$ and you’re adding pantyliners to the cart every week, questions get asked! I think what I actually said was a very mumbly version of, “I need them…”

          • Olive

            My mom (and I, to be fair,) also avoided those conversations and I would sneak pads from her or my sister until I started driving and could go to the store by myself. I grew up completely, 100% embarrassed of having a period and still have never spoke to either of them about it. I feel like I need to read a self help book if I ever have a daughter about how to have a good, open relationship.

    • Kara

      OMG….YES. And to add to all that, in high school, my mom kept taking me to the gyn because she thought something was wrong with me. Nothing was wrong, it was all discharge. Talk about the shame.

    • Mary Jo TC

      When we first married, my husband thought my underwear was so gross because he thought the stains on it were from pee or poop, and I had to explain to him that it was from the other hole down there, and not something I could control.
      I don’t know much about Dear Kate, (and about to look it up now) but I’ve used Icon underwear from Thinx for urinary incontinence and liked them. I’m glad they’re coming up with more options for dealing with this stuff than just pantyliners.

      • toomanybooks

        Oh my gosh what a horrible assumption to hear! And I feel like I have to hear about dudes leaving “skid marks” on their underwear all my life, but they don’t know about normal, non-controllable discharge? Jenny Slate was really doing us all a service when she talked about it in Obvious Child.

        • Ashlah

          I love that scene so much. Hearing the reactions of the women in the theater was amazing.

        • ItsyBit

          omg YES THAT SCENE. The first time I saw it (with a friend) I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe, seriously. The second time I watched it I was with my husband and full-on cackled, partially because it’s amazing and partially because of his reaction to my reaction. So freakin good.

    • Haley

      I have been trying different birth controls for a year because my original one was discontinued and my vaginal odor has changed and gotten stronger. I used to wear jeans a couple times in a row but now I feel I have to wash them each time. And that’s only one side effect of trying to find the right birth control to control my migraines. The last year has me feeling so unlike myself.

    • Anon Today for Reasons

      better word: “cervical fluid” – I’ve learned to appreciate it after reading all about its many forms and uses :P

      • Ashlah

        Yes! I much prefer that phrase (and yes, at least there’s one reason to appreciate the fluid itself!), but I don’t imagine it’ll catch on in the larger culture outside of fertility talk any time soon!

    • Christy

      Healthy discharge doesn’t really have a lot of scent. You can sweat down there during a walk however because both men and women have a lot of sweat glands there.

  • Jessica

    I love Dear Kate! I’ve posted about them in Happy Hour when people say they’ll have their period on their wedding day–they are great! I highly recommend picking up a 3-pack of the sports ones. I often work out in the middle of the day and will put on a pair of Dear Kates before going back to work to help with the odors (which is my #1 body stress).

  • Anne Schwartz

    ADULT ACNE. I know this is not super taboo but the hormonal ance that comes with birth control makes me want to punch everything.

    • Jess

      I don’t know the last day I didn’t have at least two pimples. Probably when I was 10.

    • Lisa

      Ugh, this. We had a big discussion about in the birth control thread recently, but it’s really been the bane of my existence. I tend to get cystic acne, too, which can be really painful in addition to unsightly.

      • OMG, cystic acne. I’ve given up on antibiotics to treat it because I’m so sick of feeling nauseated and I don’t like the idea of taking one every day. But they always appear on my thighs and vulva, and the first time it happened I thought I managed to contract an STD. So painful, so sucky.

    • Trinity

      It’s the worst. I had cystic acne from 10 until I was 24–when I finally went on Accutane. My cystic acne finally (mostly) went away after that… but now that I’m pregnant, my acne is returning.

      • doublegus

        I got terrible cystic acne in pregnancy on my face and back – it was so embarrassing not having that “glowing” pregnancy look. And I was hot all the time and just wanted to wear tanks!

        • AA

          YES! The number one thing I’m worried about for my wedding is how my skin will look, and I have so much shame about it. Like, both shame that I will probably, at almost thirty, have a few pimples, and shame that I care so much. Which is crazy because if I were worried about my weight I would be able to remind myself how messed up that is, but you never see people saying that skin problems are beautiful, or that perfect skin is an unfair standard. We’re all just supposed to…make it happen somehow? In my normal life I’ve managed not to waste too much effort and money chasing perfection, but the wedding feels different somehow. Ugh.

          • Lisa

            Are you hiring a make-up artist? If so, she can help hide your acne on the day-of, and your photographer can remove anything else in Photoshop. I was concerned about my skin, too, but I can’t find any traces of acne in our wedding album.

          • Mary Jo TC

            OMG I could have written every word of this. I feel you so hard.

    • Sarah E

      Skin stuff in general just makes me feel gross, and I feel so uncomfortable acknowledging it in any but the most generic euphemisms.

    • emilyg25

      Never really had it as a teen, had to go to the dermatologist in my mid-20s. Wtf?? Weirdly, pregnancy cured it.

      • Mary Jo TC

        Mine has also been markedly better since my first pregnancy, though it hasn’t disappeared. And breastfeeding also seems to improve it, or at least keep it from getting really bad. Maybe my skin likes my hormones levels to be steady instead of to fluctuate?

        • Amie Melnychuk

          Ditto. Pregnancy and breastfeeding were wonderful for my skin. The in-between pregnancies was rough! We were planning on having another, and soonish so another round of Accutane was out of the question. Being 29 and having cystic acne is not fun.

    • Alexis

      It’s the worst. I have active acne and some pretty terrible scars. Also, I’m ashamed of how much it upsets me. Like isn’t 23 too old to actually cry about pimples, and not want to go school because of it? ugh

    • gipsygrrl

      UGGHHGGH. Yes. Acne has been the bane of my adult existence. And can I just tell you that I had the WORST PIMPLE EVER two weeks before my wedding. Like, had to have the doctor incise it, it was so bad. And I was 38!!! I’ll second the recommendation above to hire someone to do your makeup before your wedding – I felt pretty and confident because of that.

      But, yeah. It sucks. I really feel science hasn’t caught up with acne yet (It’s tied to what you eat! No, it’s hormonal! No, it’s genetic! Here, take this medication that causes birth defects!”)… but boy, I can’t wait until it does.

    • the cupboard under the stairs

      Not just adult acne, but BRIDAL adult acne. I love all the body positivity on APW, but for all that…how often do you see zits in wedding photos? Wedding acne really does seem to be the last taboo: so many people have it, nobody talks about it.

  • Jess

    Cellulite.

    I have had it on my thighs and butt since I was 15, I had it when I wasn’t eating, I had it when I was working out all the time. There is nothing I can do about it, and there was nothing I did to cause it, but I am so embarrassed by it all the same.

    • Lauren

      Same, since age 13! Been self-conscious for 17 years, and it really seems like nothing helps. When I work out consistently I know I feel better about it, although I’m not sure it’s any less noticeable in actuality.

      • Jess

        Yeah, I feel like it doesn’t really change when I work out, I just care less about it because look at my sweet muscles!

        I remember being in high school and refusing to wear shorts because my legs were all lumpy and nobody else’s were. At least as an adult, it’s more common.

    • Maria

      It has occurred to me that a lot of parts of our current beauty standard are basically asking women to look like hairless men. The cellulite thing is DEFINITELY one of them. Y’know what group consistently has perfectly smooth, un-dimpled butts and thighs? Dudes. Dudes have them. Regardless of how fat or lean they are, they have gloriously smooth legs and rears.

      I, being a lady, do not. And will not. I gave up on feeling badly about the whole thing when I was watching dimpled, jiggling butts of absolute top-of-the world lady-cyclists at the World Cyclocross Cup. If they aren’t winning the war on butt-jiggle and cellulite, it’s not meant to be won.

      The gents, however, locked that sh*t down.

      • Jess

        I’m not sure if it’s men or 15 year old girls. Which really bothers me on a very deep level.

        We’re all supposed to have no body hair, large perky boobs, but no cellulite or stretch marks.

  • Alexa

    Oh, man. I turned 30 in August and am in the last couple weeks of (my first) pregnancy and it has messed with my body-related sense of self so badly. Mostly I like to think I do a pretty good job of focusing on my body as a tool and appreciating all of the things that it lets me do, but apparently my body sucks at multi-tasking. It seems to be doing pretty well at the whole “making another human being” thing, but has become super unreliable/unpredictable for almost everything else (including such basics as eating, sleeping, and walking).

    It’s usually overshadowed by awareness of the impending baby, but I worry a fair amount about the challenges of the post-partum recovery process, especially when combined with the general effects of aging. I don’t even care that much if I get back to my old weight/body shape, I just really want to get back to a point where I feel comfortable again in my own skin and moderate to significant discomfort isn’t a default fact of life. (And I’m all too aware that that may never actually happen, since there are many other reasons/situations that cause similar issues.)

    • Amanda

      I felt like I got totally back to normal like 9 months post baby. It takes a while for your organs to shift back to prebaby places (weird!). The number 1 best thing immediately post baby was no heartburn, being able to sleep on my back again, and no more waddling. Normalishness will happen!

      • Jenn

        I am currently 2 weeks pp and agree the no heartburn is amazing. Tums have been relegated to bathroom cupboard!

    • Sarah

      Getting my period back a few months after giving birth made me feel better–physically and emotionally. It does mess with breast milk supply but that is manageable. Honestly, I was excited to not menstruate at first but realized it made me feel more like myself (weird I know).

      • doublegus

        I’d like my period back so my hormones can get back to normal! Breastfeeding hormones have killed my libido. (This doesn’t happen to everyone, lovely pregnant ladies).

      • Mary Jo TC

        Agreed. Sex after baby wasn’t 100% back to normal until after I got my period back. For me that was a full year.

  • Anon for this

    I am 31, have been with my husband for over 7 years, and am pregnant with our first child. During the barrage of tests the doctor ran last week, he did a pap smear and tested for HPV. And I’m positive. I burst into tears on the phone with the doctor and hung up as soon as I could.

    I feel disgusting. Dirty. Like I’m being punished for the 9 other people I slept with before my husband. There’s a sane part of my brain that understands the facts, that this is a ridiculously common thing to have, but most of my brain has been taken over by my Catholic upbringing and the guilt that goes with it. I don’t want to sleep with my husband right now, which sucks. I have no idea who I’d possibly talk to about this, but it’s eating a hole in me.

    Has anyone else been through this? Will I return to sanity?

    • Anon

      Oh hey me. And a majority of everyone else too! Tell you husband and then have sex. This isn’t a big deal at all.

    • emmers

      I had an abnormal pap for the first time this year (which delayed me being eligible for life insurance– the life insurance people want me to wait for a regular pap, so hopefully next time). In my research (tho I’m still fuzzy on a lot of this stuff, so correct me if I’m wrong!), apparently there are a ton of HPV strains (& not all are covered by the vaccine, which I didn’t have), and a lot of times you can have them for years before they show up. My understanding is also that you can’t really test for HPV in guys, so who know where the HPV came from– either me or my husband, or who/when we got it. It did feel icky for me, and stressed me so much at the time because of the damn life insurance, but lady, you are not alone!

    • Anonysaurus Rex

      I was diagnosed with HPV, and I am the weird point whatever percent who get it after using barrier birth control and only having one sexual partner. It was really traumatizing for me, especially the resulting colposcopy. I’m a bit over two years out from it now, and the infection has cleared on its own. I don’t really think about it anymore, except when I have to discuss my medical history, and then I feel horrible shame.

      So I suppose the answers to your questions (from my experience) are yes and mostly yes. You are not alone in this.

    • emilyg25

      You may have gotten it from your husband! HPV is a super common thing. Please try to be kind to yourself.

    • savannnah

      Upon getting a positive test for HPV back: oh, must have picked that up in my slutty year in DC …and I haven’t thought of it since and all my recent paps have been normal.

      • Yikes

        holy shit! ouch and wtf?!

        • Yikes

          about the iud/colposcoy thing, not the HPV thing- just to clarify…

    • All adventurous women do

      Yep, I have/had it. So do most of my friends, actually. One night several years ago we were having a girls night, drinking wine around a fire pit, and one of us was like, ‘guys, this is so embarrassing and I can’t believe I’m telling you this but I just found out I have HPV and I’m super freaked out.’ Another friend kind of meekly said ‘me too’ and then after a beat I said ‘me too!’ and we all burst out laughing. It was a moment of relief I’ll never forget.

      The other commenters are right, something like half of all sexually active people have it, and men don’t show symptoms so there’s no test for them. I was pretty ashamed at first (especially because mine initially presented as a pretty bad case of genital warts) but I’ve been symptom free for many years. The virus has cleared my system so I don’t even think about it any more. I didn’t even think to tell my husband about it until he saw an old, expired prescription for the antibiotic cream I used and asked me what it was for.

      You will return to sanity, I promise! Pregnancy hormones probably aren’t helping right now either:) Solidarity!

      [In case you haven’t seen the episode of Girls where Hannah finds out she has HPV, my anon name is a reference to the scene when she tells Jessa she has it and Jessa brushes her off saying “all adventurous women do.” Made me feel better at the time!]

    • Spot

      If it’s any consolation, my own gyn told me that every sexually active person is “practically guaranteed” to have some strain or other of HPV at some point in their lives. It’s that insanely common. It was reassuring to see a professional literally shrug about it and talk about it like any other value-neutral widespread virus. I think you should tell your husband why you feel the way you do, and then celebrate swapping body fluids again when you’re calmer.

      Recognize that most of us grow up with this expectation that there’s a defined cause and effect for this sort of thing and that a diagnosis is some kind of comeuppance or punishment, which is as ridiculous as it is flat out cruel to our fellow humans and ourselves. Speaking for myself, sometimes that Catholic upbringing isn’t honing in on positive things and needs to told to shut the fuck up once in a while.

    • Anon for this

      Thank you for the solidarity! It means more than I can say right now (preggo sitting on the couch, trying not to cry. again.).

      I just did a google search and according to the CDC there is no test for men, even though they can pass it on to women who might then get cancer, and certain strains can cause penis cancer. Like, WTF.

      I don’t have the strain that causes warts (I’ve never had any symptoms nor has my husband) which means I could have the strain that causes cancer. YAY.

      But, bonus, I feel less alone.

      • ART

        I have been dealing with an initial abnormal pap and the resulting biopsies for a couple of years, and just this morning got word that all my tests were normal and my HPV test was neg, but they STILL think my abnormal pap and cervical changes are caused by HPV because it’s so, so common, and because it can resolve to a point that it’s undetectable (most of the time they don’t even BOTHER testing before you’re 30 because they just *assume you have it* so they only tested me when I was 29 because I’d had an abnormal pap). All of the follow up screening for precancerous stuff, if they think they detect it, is intended to happen so early that they never let it become cancer. My colposcopy rant was getting long so I might make a new post about it, lol. But please be kind to yourself about this!

      • Eenie

        Just to add to the convo, most doctors don’t even test for it most times because it just causes needless stress and shame for the patient and mostly resolves itself.

      • emmers

        There are soooo many strains, apparently, for what it’s worth. So try not to freak out. I know it’s hard.

        • Anonysaurus Rex

          I called my doctor friend, crying after I got the initial diagnosis, and her first words were, “You’re going to be fine, and DO NOT go home and google this. It will make everything worse.” I’m very thankful I listened to her advice because I’m sure my worst case scenario syndrome would have kicked in to high gear while reading through WebMD.

    • anonn

      I’ve been through this!! In college I volunteered as a sexual health teacher so I knew all the numbers on how common and normal HPV is (something like 90% or more of sexually active people get it in their lifetime). Even then, I LOST it when I found out that I was positive for a cervical cancer strain of HPV (most CC causing strains are covered by Gardsil, mine was not). I spent many dr. appointments sobbing to my sweet doctor. I waited a year for the next pap when everyone promised it would have cleared – and it didn’t. I was SO UPSET. For days, I would cry whenever I thought about it. I was certain it would never clear and I would get cancer. I decided to get back in a positive mindset with less fear. And… by the 3rd pap I was so, so nervous, but I was clear!!!

      You WILL be okay. I understand what you’re going through- I felt guilty and punished too. The first and second times the pap came back with HPV were so sad but sanity returns! At first it was all I could think about, but eventually, you just stop thinking about it.

      Some fun facts I learned about HPV from my doctor (that were comforting to me):
      -Tons of people get HPV and don’t know at all (i.e. all men, and women who get it and clear it between paps) so you might have just had an inconveniently timed pap! If it had been a few weeks in either direction maybe you would have been none the wiser.
      – you can get HPV and it can sometimes take years to surface, so don’t stress about how/when you got it.
      – Even at it’s worst case, there will be no surprises. HPV moves so slowly- it could be 10 years before it could transform into different cells.
      – I got the positive result at a really stressful/bad time in my life. I was worried my body wouldn’t have the energy to clear it. My doctor told me this nice story about her child who had some warts (HPV) on their feet as a toddler, all the way up to a middle schooler. Every year she would take a little footprint stamps of her child for a scrapbook, and every year the little warts would show up on the footprint. Then, her child got in a tragic accident and was in the hospital for a long time, but happily, completely recovered! That year, she took the footprints, and the HPV was gone! Of all the years, that would have been the worst one- but the body works in its own way.

      Sorry for the incredibly long post, but I am really passionate about this and I wish I had felt less scared and alone. You will be OK!

  • anon for this

    Upper thigh hair. It’s dark and course and I really just don’t know what to do about it. I’ve tried shaving it, but it get’s stubbly and uncomfortable within a couple of days (my hair grows really fast). I’ve tried waxing it, but that doesn’t seem much more effecting than shaving. I’ve tried bleaching it, but the hair is so course it didn’t really seem to do anything. Does anybody else deal with this? I’m really self-conscious about it.

    • Jessica

      I have friends who have had bought groupons for laser hair removal and are really happy with the results.

      • emmers

        I’ve gotten laser hair removal! I’m a fan– though full disclosure, it doesn’t make the hair go away, it just reduces the amount, and makes it generally finer. But if this is a shame-area for you, completely recommend. It make me wish I had done the groupon way earlier.

        • Lauren

          Can I ask what the Groupon rate was? I’ve been hesitant to do this because of a) worrying about the final cost (assuming I might need to buy several groupons to cover the whole area I’d like to) and b) because I’ve heard it requires repeating treatment a bunch of times… I’m curious about your experience with it!

          • emmers

            I’m trying to remember. Maybe $500 or $600 total? I did a Brazilian, my armpits, and eventually paid full price for nipples cuz it was cheap (they gave discounts to groupon users wanting to continue). I still have hair everywhere, it’s just finer and easier to shave. I guess it’s patchier, so i think some of it went away fully. The process also took awhile, like 6 months (1 treatment a month). I think they said it’s better in the winter, since there’s more contrast between your skin & the hair, though I think I had treatment in summer too. It was kind of my pre-move-in, pre-having-combined-income treat for myself. No regrets! I was also really worried about the pain, since my sister in law said it was bad, but I remember it being warm but not particularly painful.

          • Lauren

            I think it could be worth it for me just to make it finer and easier to shave! Currently I have so much difficulty with shaving because somehow (even if I change my razor super-frequently and use lots of lather/shave cream/what have you) shaving gives me bad razor burn and/or ingrown hairs so easily! I blame the coarse-ness of the hair, and maybe my skin is kind of sensitive too? But I imagine if the hair was just a lot finer that ALL MY PROBLEMS would just go away. (Well I mean. The hair problems anyway.)

          • emmers

            I do still get some ingrown hairs in the bikini area, on my bikini line, so I try not to trim super close there. But it definitely overall makes shaving easier.

    • Sarah E

      I don’t shave my legs anymore, and though I’ll use scissors to keep hair trim and easier to clean, I just wear longer shorts, and this summer invested in swim shorts/skirt that covers it. I’m more self-conscious about that than hair anywhere else, but shaving/waxing anything else seems way worse that just wearing bermuda shorts.

    • Lea

      Electrolysis.

      • emmers

        I hear that’s painful, but the most effective. Doesn’t it kill the hair cells one by one?

    • Cellistec

      I feel you. Depilatory creams work best for me. But damn do they smell like chemicals and create a mess to get the hair off. Let’s just say I’m relieved it’s no longer swimsuit season.

  • Jane

    Maddie – I feel you on the pit stains. People were so mean about it in middle school, but I feel like it’s an issue as an adult too. Even now, I choose all my tops based on how much sweat they’ll show. As a result, I wear so much black.

    • Alyssa Andrews

      Totally. Living in a hippie town has helped heal some of those Junior High pit-stain emotional wounds, but while reading this article I was like “… oh, maybe THAT’S why I’m always reaching for black clothingt!” Whenever I’m thinking of buying a gray or white top though my 100% first thought is still “what will this look like if I sweat in it?”

    • Oh, ladies, I feel you on the sweat. I’ve tried prescription deodorants, but I think because I take medication daily, I’m just generally sweaty as a side effect. I have to shower twice a day sometimes so that I’m not slicked wet and gross smelling.

  • Mary Jo TC

    Leg hair. I wish I could just bare my hairy legs and be done with it but so much shame. My hair is dark and long and unmistakable. I wasn’t allowed to shave my legs until a few months too late, and still remember a mean (and I now realize, transphobic) kid calling me a “he-she” when I was wearing a skirt. Now I basically wear slacks, jeans, tights, and maxi skirts (with no slit) as much as possible to minimize the amount of shaving I have to do. I usually am able to get away with no shaving at all from September through May, and maybe showing my legs 3-4 times over the summer. This past year, I got through the entire summer without having to wear a bathing suit. Shaving your bikini line is sooo difficult! I don’t even know how to reach all those places, and more than half of them I can’t even see. When I watched the Olympics this summer and saw the female swimmers wearing suits that covered their legs to their knees it made me wonder where I can get one of those. Anyone else hate shaving but feel unable to stop?

    • Lisa

      I don’t have the same issues with leg hair (mine is mostly fine and light despite my super dark hair) I can commiserate on the bullying. My mom wouldn’t let me shave my legs because she thought I was too young at 12 and only finally gave in when a girl who had been picking on me told me to “cut my hair, shave my legs, and get a life.” My little sister has much darker hair than I do, and I really advocated for her to be allowed to get rid of it younger than me because I was so worried that people would tease her like they had me.

      • emmers

        I remember getting teased about leg hair, arm hair, and upper lip hair. It’s really good you advocated for your sister, since I’m thinking about this 20 years later and cringing.

        • Lisa

          Thank you for this. I’m sitting here thinking how awful society is that I felt I had to do this for her and that I might have inadvertently pushed her towards a decision she wouldn’t have made for herself. I’m good at the Catholic guilt thing and have been worrying for the past 30 minutes that I was a bad big sister.

          Then I think of our Nair experiment (my mom wouldn’t let her shave, but other products were ok?), and now I’m trying not to laugh. That stuff smelled disgusting!

          • AP

            Ha, my mom wouldn’t let me shave either, but she would let me use Nair!! To this day I don’t understand the rationale. I guess she thought I would cut myself? The Nair lasted like 2 weeks before I just started using her razor in the shower.

          • Kat

            I always wanted a big sister so I was very concerned about making sure I taught my little sister all the things I wish someone had told me. Then she got to be a teenager and didn’t want my advice on anything and I had a lot of guilt about “forcing” her to do things my way. But just this past month she applied for college and her application essay was about how having an older sister made her want to pursue a higher education, and stand up for herself and others, and a ton of other super sweet stuff. So, all this to say that your sister probably appreciates you being an advocate more than you know

          • emmers

            My mom just never addressed it with me. I think she felt awkward. I remember secretly buying nair with my allowance at one point, and you’re right, it smelled horrid!

        • Katherine

          I did not know shaving arm hair was even a thing until I entered law school. It still baffles me.

      • Lexipedia

        I remember begging my mom to let me shave after I started at an all-girls Catholic middle school where I had to wear knee socks and a kilt every day. We both have fairly light hair, and since her crunchy-hippie days she has just avoided shaving if at all possible, so she just assumed I shouldn’t shave either. I couldn’t handle the shame of the fuzzy legs, and bought my own razor and just started shaving without telling her.

        • Mary Jo TC

          The girls at the all-girl Catholic high school in my town were known for rarely shaving. I think it’s more awesome now, than I did when I was 13, but it was definitely a cool, feminist thing.

          • Lexipedia

            Jelly.

      • Anon S

        Oh my gosh. This. I wasn’t allowed to shave for what felt like an unreasonably long time. Well into middle school. I was so so embarrassed about it. I ultimately shaved my legs while at a sleepover, and then my parents noticed and got upset about it. They made me grow all of the hair back and told me that I couldn’t shave unless I paid for all the shaving supplies on my own. Well, I was in middle school and didn’t have a job, so that was a no go. It was honestly kind of traumatizing in a way. I felt so much shame about my hairy legs, and they made me feel so juvenile even though my body was rapidly going through puberty. I don’t love shaving but I will probably always shave at least my lower legs and pits because the embarrassment I felt as a tween is so vivid still. Anyway, I also advocated for my little sister being allowed to decide when she wanted to start shaving. And while I won’t want my future daughters to start shaving too early, I’ll also never keep them from shaving for some arbitrary reason if they feel they need to.

    • Anon

      http://www.landsend.com/products/womens-beach-living-control-swim-shorts/id_191498?sku_0=::BLA

      Please don’t let your insecurity keep you from enjoying swimming with your kids!

      • Mary Jo TC

        I like the idea and will definitely consider these, but I actually feel they aren’t quite long enough. To cover all my dark pubic hair, I need to cover at least the entire top half of my thighs. And are these tight? Like, do they stay put or would they ride up and move around? And I really wish I could cover this part of my body at the pool without looking matronly and like I am trying to hide my body (even though I totally am).
        What I really want is for norms to change to accommodate my insecurities, so that it is totally normal for other young women with conventionally attractive bodies to make the same clothing choices as I do without making people think that something is wrong with them. I don’t want to be the only woman at the pool who’s in her 30s dressed the same as the women in their 60s.

        • librarianinprogress

          There are rash guard swim shorts/leggings out there. I didn’t get any swimwear but I got a UPF shirt from this company and they also have swim leggings: http://www.coolibar.com/thumbnail/UV-Swimwear/Women/Shorts-Tights-Skirts/pc/2223/c/2279/2211.uts I’ve been meaning to get some myself one of these days since I hate shaving so much!

          • Ashlah

            Those skirted capris are super cute!

        • Alexa

          As a different option, the last time I bought a swimsuit I decided to get a pair of guy’s swim trunks for bottoms instead both because of hair/stubble issues and the chafing issue mentioned in a different thread. None of the “longer” women’s options came anywhere close to long enough for me. I can pair them with a bikini or tankini depending on what I’m doing/who I’ll be with, and it’s far and away the best I’ve felt in a swimsuit in many years. (If it matters I just turned 30. All of this was pre-pregnancy; right now I’m using giant exercise shorts for swim bottoms, but I’m hoping to get back to this afterwards.)

          I’m also a total nerd, so the fact that the men’s section has Marvel and Star Wars options was an extra bonus.

          And my mom was a total hippie who I don’t think ever shaved during my childhood and totally swam with us all the time anyway. Maybe it can help to think that the more we can ignore/push back against these kind of norms the less power they will have over our kids?

          • Jess

            I did this as a teen, and honestly, I am super jealous that men’s trunks are getting more fitted & stylish now because it would have made it so much easier.

            That said, I’m finally at a point mentally where I’m actually enjoying my body in a bikini, so I’m milking that for all it’s worth and will probably go back to the trunks if it stops.

    • Ashlah

      Yes. I’ve gotten more comfortable with some leg hair in certain situations (I run outside at least once a week, and frankly I have no intentions of shaving my legs that often, or just in case someone driving by happens to glance at my shins), but I wish I were the person who could wear a dress to a family function without worrying that it’s been a few weeks since I last shaved. If I’m wearing a dress, I’m not confident enough to go unshaven (or without hiding my hair under tights). As a major feminist who wants to tell everyone that their gendered expectations of my body can suck it, it’s a bummer.

      • Mary Jo TC

        I’ve also gotten comfortable enough to wear capri-length yoga pants that bare about 3 inches of my calves when I’m unshaved if I’m only going to the gym or grocery. And generally unless it’s a formal event or something I can wear something sleeveless if I have a bit of stubble under my arms, as long as it’s not like, a tuft of hair. That’s my limit though. It’s taken 2 kids and 32 years to reach that level of IDGAF, and I’m not sure I can go any farther than that unless something changes in the culture around me.

    • doublegus

      I’d love to stop shaving my armpits, but I have yet to be brave enough to go out in public with visible hair there and sleeveless shirts. I get crazy itchy razor burn every time I shave them, so they are either hairy or red and bumpy. It’s so much more comfortable with the hair. I’m an introvert and don’t like being the center of attention, especially when people I don’t know are involved, so I’m not sure I can take the leap.

      • Ashlah

        I think that’s part of my struggle too. Women having visible armpit or leg hair are always assumed to be making a statement, and I just want to not shave and not have to talk to anyone about it.

      • emilyg25

        I’ve been pushing this. I only shaved about once a week in summer. There’s definitely times my colleagues saw my stubble. But I’m trying to give fewer fucks. It’s a stupid standard.

        • Lisa

          I tried my hand at getting away with a lot this summer — not shaving legs nor armpits for longer periods of time, no make-up, hair only pulled back, and no bras. A lot of this had to do with my walking commute in the awful, humid heat, but it made me realize that apparently my professional reputation didn’t hinge on any of those characteristics.

      • Becky

        I started getting my armpits sugared this past summer because I was having really significant chafing issues while running. I’ve been really happy with the results and definitely won’t go back to shaving. I think that the sugaring has also helped with the consistency of the hair when it grows out – it’s much finer. Working at an elementary school with no A/C I’ve been more comfortable going this route than foregoing hair removal altogether because I wear a lot of sleeveless shirts because I sweat too much to wear T-shirts most of the time.

      • Diana

        I am 100% the same way, and I’ve gotta say, something has changed my life: the epilator. Shaving is the worst! Somehow epilating that hair leaves me with a less-red and bumpy underarm (it’s not perfect, but it’s way better), and bonus, you only have to epilate like once a week or so. The hairs do slowly start to grow in, but honestly, nobody is looking that closely, so a few stray hairs here and there are something I’m totally comfortable with. I LOVE taking showers that do not involve hair removal in any way. Epilators! They’re awesome! They’re super popular in Europe but somehow never caught on in the U.S.

    • Amanda

      Re knee length swimsuits: the kind you saw in the Olympics are racing suits and are very expensive and tight (uncomfortable for normal wear). I do know that there are more places that sell modest swimwear that would cover your legs. You could look at burkini options online.

      • emilyg25

        When I was shopping for a reasonably cute swimsuit, I saw a surprising number of swim tights and swim skirts. Athleta and Lands End had them.

    • Her Lindsayship

      Shaving is getting SO OLD. My fiancé agreed to get me laser hair removal for the bikini area as a wedding gift. I mean, it’s mostly a present for me, but I don’t think he’s being completely selfless there either. I feel more comfortable with it shaven, but I am way too lazy to really keep up with it, but I would also probably never spend the money on it myself (guilt complex anyone?). I’m so excited for that day.

      Definitely one of those things people just don’t talk about though, right? I was talking about laser hair removal with a close friend (temporary roommate even), and I mentioned that I’d like to get it and he got very awkward. But like, dude, I’m not going to hold myself to this ridiculous standard of hairlessness AND be secretive and coy about it! I only have so many fucks to give.

      • Anon

        I’m sorry, but how is a man you are not romantically involved with supposed to not be awkward when you talk about that? I see literally no good thing for him to say. Some people have different privacy boundaries and we should respect them.

        • Cleo

          This comment is much too harsh. The reason there’s no good thing to say is because us women have been conditioned to protect Man Feelings by not talking about things like shaving, waxing, periods, and even pooping and farting, so it’s logical to assume a man has never dealt with that discussion (about laser hair removal) before. Obviously there’s a time and place for certain types of talks, but with a close friend and temporary roommate…why hide it if you’re comfortable?

          Also, the right thing to say is – “If it helps you, then go for it,” or “Wow, I didn’t realize you had to deal with so much for the sake of grooming,” etc.

          • Guest

            I mean, I would be uncomfortable if my friends brought that up to me. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with body hair (I don’t do anything with mine besides wash it regularly and sometimes trim the edges to keep inside a bathing suit), but I don’t want to know what people do with it who aren’t my husband, because that’s beyond my privacy boundaries. I’d be upset if a close friend (male or female) started talking about that, because I clearly would be uncomfortable and it isn’t respecting my feelings to keep continuing on with the conversation. That’s the sort of thing that I would only bring up with someone I was in a romantic relationship with or as a discussion about going through puberty with one of my future hypothetical children. (Or with anonymous internet strangers.)

          • Cleo

            I completely understand your point. I have friends who are more modest and to whom I wouldn’t bring up certain topics unless they led me there first. It’s about reading the situation, and the person with whom you’re speaking.

            I’m assuming Her Lindsayship read the situation/person to the best of her ability before bringing up the topic of laser hair removal.

            In the case that she read the situation wrong, the solution isn’t to precensor about certain topics in general, but for the person on the receiving end to say: “I appreciate that you feel close enough to me to talk about such a personal subject, but this topic is something I am not comfortable discussing. Can we talk about something else? I got into the most ridiculous situation at work today…” or, “Dude, TMI!”

    • Arie

      my self-compromise on this is that everything above the knee is optional. Honestly, it’s just too much real estate! my calves/ankles are hairier, and the hair is more coarse, so I usually keep those shaven. But honestly, every time I get to my knee and try to keep going I just kind of lose interest in the whole operation.

      • Lisa

        I read a passage in The Lovely Bones when I was in high school that struck me as revolutionary at the time. The dad gives his teenage daughter the advice that his wife never shaved above the knee and didn’t even shave her knees unless she was going to the beach. My thought was, “You can get away with that??” Turns out you can.

        • VKD_Vee

          My mom told me “ladies only need to shave from the knee down” when I was in puberty, but looking back on it I think it was in a loving but misguided “Momma aint raisin’ no HO!” kind of way. In any case, I didn’t figure it out for a while and now I’m just… used to shaving like that? I think I’ve shaved above the knee, like, three times in my adult life.

          • Lisa

            Haha, I love it! I think I’m pretty similar; I’ve got next to no hair on my thighs so it feels silly to put time and energy into shaving them. I’ve done it maybe twice and then remembered why I never do it.

      • anon

        I’ve legitimately never shaved above the knees on a regular basis. When I started shaving my legs, I was in school uniforms, so I would just shave the couple of inches between my knee socks and the skirt hem (so not always even down to my ankles) and then once I started wearing real clothes, I started shaving down to my ankles.

        The only time I shave above my knees is if I want an excuse to stay in the shower longer and feel like I need an actual reason.

        • Arie

          hahaha YES I did that in high school too. I was one of the weirdos who loved having a uniform so I didn’t have to make any decisions! My work wardrobe is very uniform-like for the same reason now.

      • Emma

        I don’t ever shave above the knee because if I do, I get spots (like, pimples. With pus in them). And it scars. I’ve still got scars from the few times I tried shaving above the knee several years ago.
        It’s weird because below the knee is fine, and my bikini line is fine, and I’ve had brazilian waxes and that’s fine. But there’s a zone between my knee and my bikini that FREAKS OUT if I shave it. I have very blonde, fine hair though so it’s not very obvious (not that it would be wrong if it was, obvs).

    • CW

      My public high school girl’s swim team had a tradition where none of us (unless you were also a cheerleader/dancer/etc) would shave for the entire winter swim season until the last meet (regional or final or state) of the season. It was a competition of who could grow the longest leg hair in that time. Totally made me not worry about shaving unless I felt like it after that. Normalizing FTW!

      • Lisa

        I think that’s an everywhere swim team thing! Most of my good friends in high school were swimmers, and they had a similar tradition. The boys would also shave their heads after dyeing it red, white, and blue (nearly all of their hair turned white with the pH imbalance in the old pool) the week before state.

      • Jennifer

        That’s definitely a swim team thing. The boys even shaved everything prior to state. It was to help shave off seconds in events.

  • Amanda

    Peeneezing (sneezing when you pee) – normal during pregnancy. All the relaxin hormones are getting ready to push a baby out of there, it all gets looser.

    After baby, things need to heal if you had a vaginal birth. The relaxin goes away in about 3 months. If you do kegels and you keep peeing when you sneeze, talk to your obgyn or your midwife about it. I went to a pelvic physical therapist. Turns out my muscles had a hard time RELAXING after I would do a kegel. I’ve been doing the exercises she prescribed me for a month and my peeing while running and sneezing are greatly reduced!

    My therapist says she sees a lot of very incontinent women in their 60s+. They started leaking after having children. They’ve been leaking for 20+ years!!! It’s easier to fix when the problem is new.

    • Sarah

      Um….if you breastfeed relaxin can stick around longer. My PT (who I saw for pelvic stuff during preg) so it’s not uncommon for relaxin to cause issues with your knees or other joints. Cue my 2nd…and much longer..round of PT! During pregnancy PT which I highly recommend she felt my “sit bones” while doing a Kegel and told me I’m not supposed to act like I’m cracking walnuts down there. Ah bodies.

      • Amanda

        Interesting! I did not know that breastfeeding can influence relaxin, but it makes sense.

    • Danielle

      I am in my first trimester and YES to pee-sneezing. Yes also to burping all the time (?), lots of gas, and general nausea… also all the time. And heartburn, mostly at night, so I’ve basically had to sleep sitting up the last few weeks.

      Pregnancy is totally f*ing my body up (not outside yet…except my breasts getting bigger and hurting SO MUCH). But inside it feels like this tiny little fetus is having a grand old roller coaster ride at my expense!

      The good part is letting go of some of my body shame, around my husband at least. It’s hard to feel ashamed when you basically feel like hell.

  • I have a weird body– as in, I have a genetic disorder that has led to a whole new world of body issues. In some ways, it’s changed my relationship to my body in a lot of good ways– healthy and strong matters to me way more now than fat or thin or acne or anything else. But it can be hard to not feel defective or feel self-conscious about new things. I scar and bruise like no other, and my skin and eyes are so sensitvie that makeup is a struggle and slowly becoming an “only special occasions” thing.

    • Katherine

      After dealing with an eye illness, I can no longer wear makeup on my eyes at all. I can’t completely understand your situation, but I do sympathize with going through that period of time where makeup becomes a major source of frustration.

  • ruth

    I’ve been feeling lately like I am the last woman on earth who does not Brazilian wax. I read a statistic lately that 80% of women in the U.S wax their pubic area and I keep thinking that can’t be right, given how expensive it is. I’ve always felt quite good and confident about my body in it’s natural state, and figure if there’s hair down there that’s how Nature intended it. But this trend is starting to make me self conscious – not around my husband, who is fine with it (as he says “if you’re having sex, and what’s going through your head is to be perturbed by the woman’s pubic hair than something is very wrong with you, or the sex you’re having!) but I’m beginning to feel self conscious undressing next to other women in yoga classes, pools etc… I really have no interest in ever Brazilian waxing (I tried it exactly once, before my wedding, and it was so painful all I could think was “I’m paying $50 bucks for this?! This should be against the Geneva Convention!) I find it so abhorrent the idea we have in our culture that women are supposed to be completely hairless everywhere, and want to stick to my guns about not waxing as an act of protest, but I’m starting to loose my nerve in the face of some of the looks of disgust I’ve received. It feels like Middle School all over again, when I held out for 2 years against shaving my legs as an act of baby feminist protest but then eventually caved because I just couldn’t stand any more stares of revulsion from the “popular girls” *sigh*

    • Lisa

      I tried waxing a few times and didn’t have any strong feelings one way or the other about it, except that I like saving my money and that waxing feels like a needless expense. The only time I’ve ever really thought about it or felt slightly out of place was when we went to a bathhouse on our honeymoon; I was one of the very few women there, and I was the only one who was completely natural. After a while it didn’t bother me as much though. Bodies were bodies, and if the men next to me could be nonchalant about whatever their faults were, then I didn’t need to be ashamed of this part of me.

      And honestly, if women are watching and judging you in the locker room, then it says so much more about them than it does about you.

      • VKD_Vee

        Where are the mix gender bathhouses, tho?!

        • Lisa

          Baden-Baden! We went to the Friedrichsbad, which is the oldest bathhouse in the city. There are 17 different stages with optional horsehair brush scrubbing and massages. What I affectionately refer to as the “burrito stage” (the 30 minute naptime near the end where the attendants wrap you in warm blankets) is officially my happy place now.

          We even considered going back the second day we were in the city because we loved it so much, but it was divided sexes on that day so we decided not to. I’m not really a big spa person, but if I lived near that city, I would totally be getting myself an annual pass. It was an amazing experience!

          • VKD_Vee

            How incredible! That seriously sounds amaaaazing!

          • Lisa

            It was! 10/10, would recommend.

    • Ashlah

      For what it’s worth, I’ve never waxed my pubic hair. I shave maybe once or twice a month because husband likes it, but doesn’t really care that much, and I’m lazy and shaving makes me itchy. I don’t change in public anywhere, though, so I don’t have to wrestle with that bit of it. Women who judge other women’s pubes are the worst.

      • Jess

        I have and honestly, it doesn’t work nearly so well as I expected for the money. I still end up with too many hairs and it grows back in the same time it takes when I shave. Not worth it.

        Women who judge other women’s pubes are, indeed, the worst.

      • Jessica

        I have gotten exactly 2 bikini waxes. It makes my husband dive head first down there, so I plan to get them before our vacations or on very very special occasions. Otherwise I don’t find it particularly amazing.

    • Mary Jo TC

      No-wax solidarity! I do a close trim with an electric razor because I don’t like a bush, but I also don’t like to be totally bare. Very grateful that this issue has never come up as a problem for me with either men or women. I never change in public. Maybe it’s a benefit of being the only woman my husband has ever seen naked in person that he doesn’t care. And if he did care, I’d tell him too bad, my body.

      • nutbrownrose

        Amen to the close trim! Whenever I used to shave all the way bare I would get the most painful ingrown hairs down there…so let’s just say there is no bareness below the panty line. A question though! How does one trim one’s hair further back without cutting oneself? I can’t cut what I can’t see (and no way am I going blind with a razor anywhere, let alone in the sensitive parts), but I can’t cut, hold the mirror to see, and keep the skin away from the scissors.

    • emilyg25

      Occasional close trimmer here too. Anecdata suggests trimming is common, but waxing isn’t really. And remember that no one is looking at you in the locker room!

    • Cleo

      As someone who does wax (and who also has an admittedly high pain tolerance), the reason I continue to do an almost full Brazilian (with landing strip) when I’m in a relationship is that I’m much more sensitive during sex when I’m bare and I’m able to get to orgasm from penetration alone (no manual stimulation required because there’s nothing impeding certain types of friction…). So for me, at least, it’s for my pleasure and has nothing to do with the dude.

      Nothing wrong with not waxing. When I’m not with someone, it’s bikini wax only when I know I’m going to the beach/the pool. It’s expensive and not the most fun.

    • anonymous today

      Totally with you on this. I have never tried waxing, and shaving gives me ingrown hairs, so I just trim. I don’t even like shaving my bikini line for swimming so I choose shorts-style swim bottoms. I’d rather be comfortable and not worry about stray hairs or red bumps! I refuse to feel self conscious about it even though I know we are in the minority because it’s what I prefer and my husband is on board – no one else has a say in my pubes! I actually don’t mind changing in front of others – sometimes I feel like we all need a reminder that pubic hair is natural hah!
      But I will say I am SO GLAD I found my husband early and never did a lot of dating since bare became ‘the norm’. I know in the world of dating these days I would be so self conscious, but I also wouldn’t want to put up with the pain/itching…. truthfully though I probably would have caved to society’s expectations :(

    • Sarah E

      This is why I kind of love the YMCA locker room. So many body types, so many women of all ages just changing and focusing on themselves. Totally blows stupid magazine pictures out of the water.

      I don’t swim hardly ever (but somehow justified spending $$ this summer on swim bottoms that cover my thighs), and I generally avoid short-shorts and swim suits, but when I’m just changing clothes? Well, if I’m getting naked, it must be an okay space. Fuck everyone else and their messed up ideas about women’s bodies. If someone is disgusted, they can look the other fucking way.

    • Alyssa Andrews

      I do wax — and while the first time was the ABSOLUTE WORST, the pain is more tolerable over time. There are a lot of reasons I do it — mostly because after waxing for a few years, my super thick coarse hair has become thinner and IMO, more manageable. AND, the woman I see makes it as painless as it could possibly be (still uncomfortable, but definitely bearable), and she and I just hit it off from my first session with her (and I’m not one to just “hit it off” with people easily). Plus, I’m with Cleo, it makes me more sensitive during sex, which is a huge plus!

      • anon again

        So nice to hear you found a good waxer (is that the right term?) on the first try! One of my friends was told by her waxer that she is so ‘wet,’ she should wear a tampon before coming in to get waxed, even if not on her period. I’ve never tried waxing, but that conversation and the idea of a stranger close and personal has totally scared me away!

        • Alyssa Andrews

          Oh my gosh — I didn’t know being “too wet” was a thing, but I’m irked that someone would tell your friend that! Yeah I actually did not see my person my first time getting waxed, and the first person I saw was awful and it was so painful for me. I saw my gal on the 2nd or 3rd time, and compared to the first time getting waxed, the whole experience was completely pain free (as in, I thought she had just put her hand on my leg and removed it, then looked up and realized it wasn’t her hand, she had started waxing. She’s that good). It is a little awkward at first to have someone so up close and personal, but I think being with someone you’re comfortable with and/or trust to do a good job and not hurt you goes a long way.

    • Katherine

      I shave once a week and actually started doing so before I realized it was “sexy”/culturally expected. I have a very strong and unpleasant odor (I know it’s my natural smell, but I’m not a fan) that shaving controls nicely. I don’t think I could ever wax though. I’m such a weenie about pain.

      • Lea

        I find that just close trimming eliminates so much odor, which is basically trapped sweat.

        • Katherine

          Thanks!

    • Lea

      Don’t. Don’t feel bad. You are right that the hair is there for a reason. Scientists are finally coming out and saying that shaving and waxing cause trauma to the tender skin down there, opening you up to tiny cuts that invite STDs and an increase in Molluscum Contagiosum. The hair there is meant to be protective. I just trim.

    • Eenie

      I don’t wax, have never waxed, will never wax. I think the statistic was 80% have had a Brazilian at least once in their lifetime. I also just bought some swim shorts so I have to shave even less! My husband doesn’t care, he thinks the entire practice of doing that is very time consuming and doesn’t add benefit for him.

    • girls are talkin’

      I love a Brazilian – I can’t shave without getting ingrown hairs, and waxing consistently makes the hair much finer and softer. And it feels great to be hairless– the skin is so soft. I don’t find the pain terrible, either. Going to a good esthetician is key. That said, waxing is expensive and now that the first bloom of my current relationship has faded I’ve gotten really lazy about it. (I used to live in a city where a good wax was only $30. Where I live now, it’s at least $60.) My boyfriend definitely likes when I’m hair-free, but at the same time he’s cool with whatever.

      I also don’t subscribe to any ideas about different kinds of pubic hair grooming being more feminist. If you want to wax/shave/laser, do! If you don’t, don’t! Neither choice is necessarily a feminist or an unfeminist one. (I definitely know social circles where doing the amount of bodily grooming that I do is heavily judged – replacing one standard of beauty with another isn’t the answer.)

    • TeaforTwo

      I would be more inclined to believe that 80% of women HAVE had a Brazilian wax rather than that 80% of women maintain it.

      I’ve had a handful of Brazilian waxes…mostly in my twenties, mostly around the start of relationships as a fun thing to do when I was having lots of sex that was new and exciting. Lifelong monogamy/pregnancy/infant care/just generally other priorities mean that now I miiiiight consider one before a special vacation but also might not.

      I don’t understand who could possibly be giving you dirty looks in a changeroom. Someone who has way too much time to invest in pubic hair upkeep AND policing, I guess, but I am sorry that is happening to you.

    • Sarah McClelland

      Ya. Not waxing over here, never have, and I doubt I ever will because there are WAAAY better ways to spend my time and money. Plus I have had allergic reactions on my eyebrows with wax, so not even gonna go there… And I tend to agree with the ladies saying that the folks giving you stares in the locker room need to find better uses for their time!

    • Colleen

      I don’t wax. Never have, probably never will. Maybe before that dream vacation to Fiji (which will also probably never happen. Sigh.) I’m a close trimmer when I remember to be, which is usually every 3 months or so. I use my husband’s hair clippers to get the job done. It works for me. Please don’t think that you’re the only non-waxing woman in the world. And maybe consider finding a new gym? One where women have better things to do than judge each other’s pubic hair situations!

    • Yet another Meg

      I’ve never waxed my bikini line, and never will. I barely shave down there ( or under my arms) because I get terrible ingrown hairs, which, let’s face it, is way more uncomfortable and unappealing than a bit of hair. It doesn’t matter to the only person who sees me naked who matters, and if it did matter to him I don’t think we’d be married. I wouldn’t worry about it too much…that being said, I can totally understand how it can be hard. Stay strong! ( If that’s what you want to do of course :D)

    • guest

      Do not give in! I, an anonymous internet commentator, am with you. And find some hippy / crunchy groups to get different feedback from. It’s helpful to connect with others doing the same countercultural thing/s for affirmation, confidence, and to remind yourself that you are not “the last woman on earth” to resist the Brazilian.

  • Kate

    I don’t want to wax my bikini area. I am okay with shaving around the edges (literal bikini exposed areas). But I get HORRIBLE red marks and ingrown hairs, which I never get on my legs. Any advice besides exfoliating and moisturizing?

    • Rosie

      I have an electric trimmer so I can keep it all fairly neat without shaving. Would that work do you think?

    • Lexipedia

      After *ahem* “borrowing” a boyfriend’s shaver to neaten my bikini line before an unexpected swim I’ve become a convert to men’s electric shavers (the kind with straight foils, not the ones with those circle things). Trimmers don’t help me, but the foil shavers’ blades don’t touch my skin and still make things really smooth. I got mine on sale at Target, and although it is wet/dry it definitely works better to do it dry before a shower. https://www.amazon.com/Panasonic-ES8103S-Electric-Nanotech-Cordless/dp/B001DNE3KQ/ref=sr_1_1_s_it?s=beauty&ie=UTF8&qid=1477339775&sr=1-1&keywords=panasonic+shaver

    • april

      Have you tried Tend Skin? I used to have a similar problem, and this stuff has helped a lot.

    • Kate

      Thanks for the tips. I have tried the Schick Trim Style electric trimmer but have never heard of Tend Skin. I will try that and then look into a mens style shaver. THANK YOU!

    • anon

      I was a competitive swimmer for a long time and we would constantly shave our whole bodies. My favorite tip is to put peppermint scented rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball or pad and rub it over the shaved area! Minty and fresh and you will NOT get any bumps! In swimming lore, using lots of lotion actually blocks the pore, leading to more bumps if you just shaved (APW Derms- is this true?). I also use green aloe from the grocery store sometimes, but I think it is the alcohol in it more than the aloe that helps with bumps and redness.

  • Alyssa Andrews

    Such a relief to read from the perspective of another junior high profuse sweater! No gray shirts, no white shirts, no lifting my arms above my ribcage… Aside from junior high being — well — junior high, sweating caused a lot of internal strife and self-consciousness. Maybe that’s why I usually wear dark colors now?

  • Jess

    Does anybody else struggle with stiff nipples? Mine are stiff like… all the time. No bra? Always stiff from just rubbing on my shirt. Thin bra? Nipples poking right on through. Working out? Nipples to cut diamonds.

    Like, I would go without a bra/get in on the cute bralette trend, but I need that cup so I’m not nipping out 24/7.

    Am I physically more sensitive than other people? Am I just paranoid about it from being teased about it all the time growing up? Help!

    • Lisa

      I have small boobs and have experienced similar issues. I can get away without a bra if the shirt material is thick enough or if I have several layers, but built-in bras or bralettes don’t help too much otherwise. My husband doesn’t understand why I’m sensitive (har) about this issue, but that’s a beauty standard I haven’t been able to shake yet.

      • Jess

        Small boobs! Yes! Maybe that’s it!

        I mean, if I have a sweatshirt with some sort of non-printed embellishment I can go without, but otherwise, they are front and center and *obvious* even in a thick cozy sweater. Like, middle schooler pointing at me and going, “Cold in here? Har har har.” obvious.

        I mean, at home, who cares, but in public? There’s no way.

        • Amanda

          Large boobs and I have the same problem. It drives me crazy because there are no (almost no?) Molded cup bras made in my size so it feels like they’re popping out way more than I would like. I definitely get embarrassed if I notice that they’re out

    • Kate

      Oh I totally feel you on that. It’s an ongoing joke now that my nipples will let you know when it’s less than 70 F in the room. I own it now, but as a teen it was pretty embarrassing.

    • Bec

      There are definitely just different kinds of nipples… my mum and sister both have what they referred to as “bullet” nipples – constantly poking through everything. It’s just the way they’re built! I have much smaller, flatter ones that mostly only get pokey in the cold. I grew up with a book called Girl Stuff by Kaz Cooke (basically a guide for girls going through puberty that says that EVERYTHING IS NORMAL and is also really funny) that reassured me that no, I wasn’t weird to have fairly flat ones. And later my high school friends identified mine as “porn star nipples” and therefore valid. Otherwise growing up I would have had the exact opposite concern to yours!

      • Lauren

        “Different kinds of nipples” indeed — I was always self-conscious that my nipples rarely got pokey under any circumstances, and thought there was something wrong with me! Eventually I learned that “inverted nipples” were a thing, and that mine are at least mildly so (one more so than the other). Even though I’ve mostly come to terms with them, I still get mildly self-conscious when anyone first sees them, like I have to explain or justify their existence.

        • april

          I have an inverted nipple (yup … just one). My husband likes to say it’s “shy” :)

    • Anon S

      1. I am so sorry that people teased you about it. I think that (being made fun of for something) can create hangups long into adulthood
      2. I hate wearing bras with underwire or too much padding. I have pretty small boobs (except when I am on hormonal BC and then they are still small but a cup size larger than their normal small. Holla!) and I don’t have any desire to make them seem larger, so I don’t need a bra for cleavage-making purposes. I even insisted that my wedding dress must not require a bra. Anyway, I often just don’t wear a bra. Most of my swimsuits don’t have padding in the top. And….my nipples poke through and my boobs don’t look perfectly round and perky. And I have just decided that I am a mammal and I have nipples and people can get over it if they aren’t okay with it. Like, if they were unaware that I possessed nipples (just like every single other human) then now they know and we can all move on with our lives.

      I only wish this level of body confidence translated to any other area of my life in which I feel uncomfortable.

      • Jess

        Ha, I love that! Yeah, being teased for something really makes it stick in your brain!

        I learned to love the shape of my boobs after watching some porn and being like “hey! that girl has my boobs! Her too! Her too!” If people pay to watch them be topless, my boobs must be fine!

  • emilyg25

    Before I had a baby, I always kinda laughed at my coworker who said that after giving birth, you lose all embarrassment. But after, yeah, it’s true. Pregnancy/childbirth/nursing is a doozy.

  • I started thinking about how to answer this and quickly realized I can’t pick just one. And I’m a little sad about that. You’re supposed to see yourself as beautiful. I see myself in the mirror and I’m just there. How do you get to having a positive opinion, versus a negative or neutral? I’m not ashamed of my body, but I’m not proud of it, if that makes sense. Sometimes I dread leaving the house for work because I’ve just gone with one of the dresses that’s good enough, not that I love. And I feel fine in it, OK. But how do you feel great in your body?

    • Jess

      I have no good answers to a final “great” but in a constant battle with body image, I do look to days that I felt great about my body and think about why and try to do more of that.

      For me, it usually coincides with days I used it to do things – a big yoga session, running, hiking – just being active makes me appreciate it more. If I have an event, I get ready by dancing around the bathroom to really get into the joy of my body’s movements.

      I am trying to avoid buying anything new that makes me feel “ok” and stick to things that make me feel most like myself.

      I do pick times to think about my body and times to not – I kind of have a uniform for work, because I don’t want to have to worry about how this skirt is sitting or whether this shirt is pulling at me weird. I just want to put on my khakis and polo (or black pants, tank top, and cardigan. or whatever) and go. I am slowly updating so that uniform is more dressy than it is right now, but it’s pretty much a grab and go.

      I save looking good for weekends and dates.

    • april

      So there’s definitely something happening in marketing/advertising right now (looking at you Dove commercials) with a clear message that all women should feel confident and beautiful and comfortable in their own skin at all times, and it’s BS. Feeling ‘meh’ about yourself some days is totally normal. I don’t even think super models feel gorgeous every day of the year. My advice – you should 100% embrace the days when you feel like you look amazing and cut yourself some slack on the other days.

      (And for more on why I think the body positivity trend is at least partly an advertising ploy aimed at selling you more stuff – check out this parody website: http://www.janest.ca/ )

  • doublegus

    My most embarrassing body issue is eczema around my eyes. It’s red and peeling and just won’t go away no matter what creams, steroids, diet changes, etc I’ve done. I can’t wear make up because it just catches on the peeling skin. I can hide it a bit with my glasses, but I miss contacts. I get very self conscious about it, especially since concealer was the make up item I consistently wore to cover my hereditary dark eye circles (it gets old having people ask if you’re tired/sick all the time).

    • Vanessa

      Was it diagnosed as eczema? If this is coming off as unsolicited assvice please ignore but I had angry red peeling patches around my eyes for a couple years and recently discovered they are perioral dermatitis (which despite the “oral” in the name can often occur around the eyes). Most steroids and creams make it worse, so if you haven’t already it could be worth visiting a dermatologist. I thought mine was weird acne for a while, and then when it grew and the spots all connected into large red patches I thought it was maybe eczema, and my regular doctor misdiagnosed it and gave me steroids and when I finally went to the derm she identified it right away. Like I said, please ignore if you’ve already seen a dermatologist – I just don’t want anyone else to be in that situation if they don’t have to!

      • doublegus

        I’ve had the eye dermatitis, too, but this has been diagnosed as eczema. It itches like hell and I scratch it in my sleep no matter how short my nails are. Ugh. Cringing just typing it out. I will take the red bumpy armpits and dark circles and whatever other body issues I have if I could just get rid of the damn eye eczema.

        • Vanessa

          Ugh I’m so sorry, that sounds maddening. I really hope you’re able to figure out a way to control it!

    • Cleo

      Same story as Vanessa here, and, again, sorry if this is unsolicited advice, but I feel your pain. I spent years uncomfortable and self-conscious all the time.

      I have what I thought was eczema, but then, after a visit to a dermatologist, was told it was perioral dermatitis on my eyelids and lips. It flares up in times of stress, when I’m sick, and after I go on an airplane.

      I use Aquaphor (water-based ointment with the consistency of Vaseline) and a prescription anti-fungal cream to control it.

      Good luck!

    • ItchySkin

      Religiously using cereve skin products has helped me more than any steroid cream or diet change. Good luck!

  • Lexipedia

    Question for all who have been pregnant, did any of these body anxieties resolve themselves/shift post-pregnancy? I was having a discussion with a currently pregnant friend the other day, who is having a “honeymoon baby” and only moved in with her husband after the wedding. Apparently he got some sort of food poisoning last weekend and was having some of the icky stomach reactions that tend to come with those situations, and was super embarrassed about being pretty trapped on the toilet – something they’ve never gone through together. She thought this was pretty hilarious, though responded quite diplomatically, saying that he is about to become deeply intimate with a whole new set of her bodily fluids and that a bit of poop doesn’t even compare, so he better get over this embarrassment ASAP.

    • emilyg25

      For me, yes. I don’t care anymore. Not in a “letting yourself go” way, just that I’m not easily grossed out anymore and I’m so in awe of what my body can do that I kind of love it. Plus I know that my son sees me as beautiful. And my body changed SO MUCH, SO FREQUENTLY, that I just stopped being that attached to its current state.

    • doublegus

      I’d say my post pregnancy body has more issues than my pre pregnancy body, but what I have now is perspective. I grew and pushed out a baby and chose to do it naturally and now I feed that baby with my body. Nothing had/has been more physically/mentally demanding for me and I have a new respect for what my body can do. I worry less about what physical problems I have (except for the eczema crap – see other post), though I do still worry over them at times. I guess the guilt part of feeling like I don’t love my body all the time is gone. I can always counter any thought about squishy stomachs/weird breasts with the magnitude of what I did/do.

  • Mary Jo TC

    Let’s talk big breasts and breastfeeding. Since having my second child, the size of my breasts has bothered me. I’m breastfeeding, and that makes them so heavy that I feel uncomfortable without support even just for the amount of time it takes to take a shower. I feel disproportional and fat. None of my bras or button up shirts from before the pregnancy fit.

    Since my first pregnancy, my breasts have become totally nonsexual for me. First they were tender, so my husband wasn’t allowed to touch them. Then they were full of milk, so he wasn’t allowed to touch them. After we weaned, I let my husband touch them again, and he liked it but I didn’t. Any contact with my breasts felt too much like nursing again. When my husband put his mouth on my nipple it made my skin crawl and felt Oedipal or something. It’s like an entire sexual pleasure zone has been shut down for both of us. This change seems permanent. :-(

    I guess the one upside is that I do feel more comfortable nursing in public with my second child than I did with my first. I won’t do it if I feel like I’m on display–I couldn’t be that bad ass Parliament woman standing at a podium with a baby on her breast. I couldn’t even break out the boob if I’m in a meeting of a dozen people sitting around a table–too many eyes on me. Or one-on-one with a male acquaintance. But I can find a corner in a crowded place, or quiet the baby while I’m in a large audience. Kind of funny the small differences between situations that feel comfortable vs uncomfortable. It’s progress I guess.

    • Anon

      Idk why you are concluding this change seems permanent when you are literally still breastfeeding! Wait until you stop. Give it a while of not nursing, not being pregnant, not thinking about getting pregnant. Why would your pre pregnancy stuff fit? You’re nursing- buy new things!

      • Mary Jo TC

        I think it’s permanent because I’m on baby #2. The feeling didn’t go back to normal in the year between weaning the first and getting pregnant with the second. Also, nursing has been kind of painful for me, and I just think my brain has become wired to associate my breasts and especially nipples with pain and with babies, not with sexytime. Maybe it will take longer than a year, but I hope to have another kid (or 2) and by the time I’m completely done with pregnancy and nursing I will be so old and my poor breasts will have gone through so much…

        And I’ve tried to buy new things, but like I said, I’m disproportional now. Things don’t fit because conventional sizes don’t fit breasts this size. Not if they fit the rest of my body, anyway.

        • Anon

          I wear 36G. And normal clothing. There are options!

        • Jess

          Regarding the sensitivity, I have a “no fly zone” on my nipples because it makes me feel super icky. The rest of the breast is fine, but that area is a no go. Maybe something like that could work?

    • doublegus

      I’m the same way and would have trouble with letting down from feeling like too many people were looking at me in certain situations. However, my kid now gets too distracted with looking at all the things to nurse at all in public, so it’s bottles now if we’re out.

    • Guest

      I’ve never been pregnant but I don’t like it when my husband spends too much time in that area. Hands I’m ok with but if the lips linger on the nipple too long it totally kills my mood, totally makes me think of nursing a kid every time. C’est la vie..

    • anon

      Not pregnant, have never been pregnant, but I feel you on the breast size and feeling disproportional and fat. I’m a 32G (British sizing – that translates into an American 32DDDDDD, I think). My 32 band puts me squarely in “small” clothing territory, but there’s no freaking way a small will fit my boobs, so I always buy tops in medium or large and they fit me terribly but at least my breasts don’t look like sausage stuffed into it’s casing. I can’t do a lot of the cute trendy clothing (or any clothing, really) without looking like a lolly pop. I feel like there’s no way I can dress without looking like a giant pair of boobs. The physical discomfort of being so large goes without saying.

      It’s gotten so bad that I’ve pretty much decided to get a reduction, which makes me feel kinda bad because I always looked down on plastic surgery in that “you’re enough and shouldn’t change for society” way, but the truth is I’m miserable. So now I’m just playing a waiting game, because we’ll be TTC in the next couple of years and I’m pretty sure I should wait til all that’s over to get a reduction. Is it selfish to want to get baby making out of the way so you can have a reduction already??

      • Lisa

        That’s not selfish at all! You shouldn’t feel bad about getting the surgery period, but especially so since it’s a quality of life issue. It might even be helpful to vet the plastic surgeons now, talk to them about your concerns in the short-term vs. long-term, and see what they’d recommend. You shouldn’t be miserable every day because of this.

      • Nonners

        Right there with you. I’m a 28J so my frame size (ribs and waist) is XS but my bust is a size L or XL. Nothing fits and the back/shoulder pain is getting ridiculous.

        I’m also looking into getting a reduction. In my mind, I had to switch the thought of plastic surgery being a “looks” thing and realize that this is a beneficial medical procedure that will reduce pain and enable me to have a better quality of life.

        If you haven’t yet, check out RealSelf to get some ideas of what you want from the procedure and research surgeons in your area.

        Best of luck with the wait!

        • anon

          Thanks! I’m in the process of switching my mindset – even my husband, who loves my breasts, supports me in getting a reduction because he believes it will make me feel tons better, so I know it really isn’t about looks at this point! I’ve already vetted at least one surgeon in my area, he’s the one who suggested I wait to have children first. I’ll look at RealSelf – thanks for the rec!

  • Witch Fingers!

    I get warts on my knuckles in the summer. I’m really worried that I’m going to have them during my wedding and my hands are going to look (and be) disgusting.

    • Kate

      I get this too! Mine aren’t warts, it’s like some infected sweat gland thing, and the worst part is that nothing short of cold weather and non sweaty hands helps me. I hate hate it, and nothing has fixed it so far. I have heard that constantly Purelling your hands dries them out and fixes some of the problem, but I’ve never tried.

  • Fiona

    I change my underwear once or twice a day in order to not feel ridiculously self-conscious.

  • Lexipedia

    Erm, because everyone has been talking about body hair, I’m wondering if anyone could help with a communication problem that I’m too embarrassed to discuss IRL. So, I’ve always been an intermittent brazilian waxer (beach trips, etc.) and done maintenance on the bikini line in the interim. When I started seeing my partner I was pretty regularly waxed, but it’s expensive and tends to irritate my skin. A few months in I let it grow out to a more trimmed state, when everything was soft instead of stubbly, and shortly after that he requested that I go back to keeping it smooth. Apparently any hair on the under-parts is uncomfortable for him during sex, which is something I’ve never heard before, and tends to affect his ability to stay hard.

    Since then I’ve been using the electric shaver I used to use on the bikini line to shave everything, but I need to do it every day we are going to have sex in order to keep things not scratchy. I’m really starting to resent this, but don’t know how to talk to him about it, which I know is silly because otherwise we have great communication. I think that it’s because it specifically relates to his ability to “perform” sexually, and talking about that is often a sensitive topic with guys. Any ideas on alternate grooming methods, or ways to talk about this without hurting the manly ego?

    • Kate

      Here’s an idea: don’t talk to him. This isn’t about him- it’s about you and your comfort. Option 1: just stop shaving and let things grow out. Don’t even mention it to him, because in a big way it ain’t his business. Then give him serious side eye if he asks you to shave. Option 2: Announce that being shaved all the time is a HUGE pain-in-the-ass and you’re letting that bush grow. Say this in a “this is what’s happening” tone, not a “comments from the peanut gallery welcome” tone. If he’s a good guy, he shouldn’t guilt you about this. While he’s allowed to have preferences, you shouldn’t be expected to follow them as law. I also hiiiiiiighly doubt that any hair is actually physically “uncomfortable” for him. It’s probably just different from what he’s used to, and he can adapt, because you’re super hot with or without some peach fuzz.

    • Sarah E

      Resentment makes it reaallll hard for you to get hot and bothered, too, I assume. That’s a good place to start. I like Kate’s suggestion of just forget about him. You could ask if it’s a visual or a sensation thing. If it’s about sensation, there’s all kinds of silk playthings you can start using– from lingerie to ties or whatever. If it’s about looks, he can close his eyes ;-)

      • Lexipedia

        I think it’s a sensation thing, I definitely let him finger me less for fear of a face or a comment when I miss a spot before we even get started.

        • Anon

          wait no. No no. Idk where he has gotten the idea that making a face at your body is ever acceptable, but it is not. Forget not hurting his manly feelings! “Hey, stop making faces at my vagina, don’t treat my normal body like it is unclean and a problem for you.”

          • Lexipedia

            I think that it’s more of an “ouch” face then an “ew” face? Like, if he kisses me with a few days of stubble I might wince because it’s sandpaper-y on my skin.

        • Sarah E

          Or, if he’s initiating sex “Idk, it’s hard for me to get in the mood when I’m just waiting for you to make a face at my body or criticize how I choose to groom myself”

    • Anon

      This is what my husband says too. I can’t figure out what the ideal length is – or exactly what area is “scratching” him. It’s not a visual thing, just tactile. It’s so frustrating, because I don’t know when we’re going to have sex to keep it trimmed. And even when I’ve just trimmed, he complains about it. I have no idea how to make my pubic hair less scratchy. I don’t like to be made to feel as if it’s my fault that he’s having problems staying hard, but I also would be willing to do just about anything for us to have sex more often. So I guess I’ll start using an electric razor more often? Anyway, glad to know we’re not alone in this.

      • Lexipedia

        OMG thank you for not making me feel awful about this – “I don’t like to be made to feel as if it’s my fault that he’s having problems staying hard” is something I so identify with. It’s like, unless I’ve shaved every nook and cranny that very morning, then it’s “scratchy.” Otherwise we have a really great and communicative sexual relationship, but I feel like male performance anxiety is something that female partners tend to mince around. Like, if I comment is it bad? If I don’t say anything, is that bad? I’m sticking with using an electric razor every day that we have sex, but it makes me feel anxious about being ready to spontaneously have sex (or disappointed if I spend time shaving everything and we don’t end up gettin’ it on).

    • AmandaBee

      Have you considered letting it get a bit longer? Stubble = scratchy, but longer hair isn’t really.

      If his issue is ANY hair, then I hate to say that it’s probably not about the scratchy sensation. Some folks have just been socialized to be turned off by hair, and that sounds like something he needs to deal with on his own time.

      • Jess

        Seconded from experience.

    • Anon S

      Oh, the manly ego.
      My husband has commented on my thigh hair a couple times. Not in a terribly aggressive or mean way, but not in a “you do you, I don’t care” way, either. I don’t tend to shave my thighs because the skin there is more sensitive and it takes a long time and I just don’t care. Anyway, the second time he commented, I told him that I’d consider consistently shaving my thighs when he started consistently shaving his thighs.
      He looked at me like I was nuts. But, I mean, it drives me mad that men are allowed to exist with their naturally occurring body hair but women get the side eye for not being hairless at all times. Time for some fuzzy equality.

      • Anon S

        Replying to add-
        The point of my story was to say that you should do you. And your man-person can either get over it or move along. If it is the stubble that bothers him and is painful, but you don’t want to keep it super smooth for whatever reason, then just let it grow out. The “bushier” it is, the less stubbly and poky it will be.

  • Katherine

    Hemorrhoids: let’s discuss. I was completely unaware that these occurred in your 20s, and yet here they are. Never have I been so itchy in the least convenient place to try and scratch in public. For any other sufferers out there, witch hazel wipes have been a saving grace.

    • doublegus

      Witch hazel pads for the win! And Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Spray. It felt wonderful after labor. Still feels wonderful six months later when needed. ;)

    • Lawyerette510

      Yes, in my mid-20s it was something that I experienced maybe not regularly, but certainly not infrequently. I’ve found as I’ve changed my lifestyle and diet for other reason a side effect was that I began having smaller more frequent bowel movements and now the hemorrhoids are very infrequent.

    • Ashlah

      Oh yeah, I’ve had one recurring hemorrhoid for ages. I was embarrassed about it for years because I had no idea how common they were (I’d only ever heard of them in the context of jokes), and only recently told my husband about it (shocker: it wasn’t a big deal at all). It got better when I improved my diet (more fiber) and started exercising, but it still tends to flare up just before/during my period, due to the associated digestive issues. It’s also been around more often since I started taking a prenatal (lots of iron). I feel fortunate that mine doesn’t tend to hurt or itch much, but it certainly is uncomfortable. I’m a little worried about what may lie ahead in pregnancy.

      • TeaforTwo

        If they get awful during pregnancy, tell your care provider! I suffered through mine in silence until I had about two weeks left to go and they got just unbearable. My midwife prescribed a foam that drastically improved my quality of life.

        I hadn’t even known it was an option until a friend mentioned that she’d used it during pregnancy, so now I am a procto-foam evangelist. (Yes, it is called procto-foam. I made my husband pick up the prescription.)

    • E.

      OMG I just realized I have them too! I never actually knew what hemorrhoids were, but when you described the itchiness I had to look it up. I have definitely experienced it on and off for awhile (also in my 20s)

    • nutbrownrose

      is this like a strange sudden burning sensation in the anus? because if so I have the answer to this most painful (mercifully brief) experience in my life.

    • anon

      I feel compelled to note: not all itchiness down there means hemorrhoids!

      My country GP diagnosed hemorrhoids just based on my description of the symptoms, but witch hazel etc just made it feel worse. I lived with it for YEARS before I finally saw a gyno for something else, and turns out the ‘hemorrhoids’ was actually dermatitis which made my poor skin fragile, raw, itchy, and prone to breaking (which, in turn, caused the vag/sex problems that made me see the gyno). Ladies, avoid my fate. :-(

  • Absorbent undies FTW!

    I love Dear Kate undies! I got 3 pair to try out (after learning about the brand from an interview on Stuff Mom Never Told You podcast) because I tend to have lot of spotting unpredictably during the month. They really do perform well and I like the way they look & feel – not an easy combo for undies :)

  • Lawyerette510

    How about stress incontinence (peeing, sneezing, coughing, laughing), in your mid-thirties when you aren’t/ haven’t been pregnant? It’s something I’ve been experiencing lately and while I normally talk to my doctor about anything, I feel really strange and embarrassed about this.

    • Jess

      I’ve been having this since getting my first kidney stone two years ago! I have no idea what to do about it, since all advice seems pregnancy related.

  • Anon

    Varicose veins. Started getting them in my 20s from sheer bad, genetic luck. Only one leg but my insurance doesn’t cover it. The last time I asked a doctor about it I was told they’d probably just come back if I got pregnant, so I should probably wait to do anything about them. My mother finally noticed last year and asked in the most appalled voice if I had them, which made me feel like more of a freak.

    • Kate

      Yes! I’m in my early 30s, no pregnancies, but have gotten varicose veins in one leg. So annoying! I don’t care as much about the look but I keep worrying that there’s something medically wrong with me.

    • AP

      Moms, I swear! I was fifteen when my mom casually remarked, ‘you have a lot more cellulite on your thighs than I did at your age- you either got that from your dad’s side or you just aren’t as athletic as I was.’ WTF. (And my mom was a nice mom! I can’t imagine what living with a mean mom would have been like.)

      • Lisa

        Right?? My mom said this past weekend that her mom always made her feel bad about her body by saying she didn’t need bras because she had no boobs, and she would never have said anything like that to her daughters. I looked at her agape and said, “MOM. YOU SAID THAT TO ME WORD FOR WORD. Only once, but still!!”

        • AP

          LOL. Mother/daughter dynamics are so crazy. For some reason my family loves to give me grief about my swearing. My step dad told me the other day that my mom would never swear (she’s become a perfect little church lady in her retirement) and I was like, ‘HA, JOKE’S ON YOU the first time I ever heard the F word it was out of HER mouth when I was like 7!’ Sometimes I feel like I know my mom in a way that no one else ever will, not even her husband:)

    • Anon S

      Ugh. Yes. The veins. All the veins. I have a dark blue (maybe varicose?) vein on the back of one of my knees and I also have all these little red spider veins on my thighs. They make me so unbelievably self-conscious. My mom has them, too. I suppose it is genetic. I will probably, at some point, pay to have them removed.

    • ItsyBit

      THIS. I’ve had “spider veins” (are those a thing? or is that just what we called them in my house?) since I was a teenagers and I kind of hate them. It doesn’t help that I haven’t been really active in the last few years, so they’ve gotten a bit worse. But honestly nothing beats the embarrassment at being 16, in shorts and having to field a very genuine, “Oh my GOD, is that a BRUISE?” from a guy my age regarding a fairly large group of ’em on my upper thigh. uuuugh.

  • Jess Kegels

    Maddie. Kegels. You don’t have to pee every time you sneeze. Kegels. Slow ones, fast ones, Kegels. For serious.

    Also, read Diastasis Recti by Katy Bowman for counter balance to all those Kegels you’re going to do. Or at least check out her blog Nutritious Movement.

    But for real. Kegels.

    Also, do your perineal massage past 30 weeks. Save the VJay!

    • Katy Bowman!! Yesssssss

    • TeaforTwo

      Counterpoint: the data on perineal massage are not convincing either way, and “massage” is a SERIOUS misnomer. Perineal massage sounded super fun to me until I realized what it actually entailed. So Maddie, you do you.

      • You do you. Perfect advice for all pregnancy/baby related everything.

  • a few

    Will my boobs always be this new size? no – they will go back to your pre-prego size or smaller (especially if you breast feed)/ Will my vagina ever be the same after I give birth? yes – it will go back to some state or normal after a few months. Am I always going to pee a little when I sneeze? possibly – but there are treatments for that! Is being a woman just a constant state of adjusting and readjusting and learning to be okay with the new normal? yep.

    • Lisa

      Not necessarily on the boob front… my mom always jokes about how she didn’t have boobs until she had kids. She was an A-B cup before pregnancy, and she eventually ended up with a solid C. I always say this is the one thing I’m looking forward to!

    • K

      Also not necessarily on the vagina front :-/ Especially if you need stitches.

  • I might have to order some of those. Something my sister (thankfully) warned me about, is that as pregnancy progresses things get really….juicy down there. A ton more discharge. At one point I was actually worried I was leaking amniotic fluid, but its totally normal. It’s getting to the point where I feel like I’ll need to start wearing pantyliners. Just a heads up that you might notice the same thing.

    • K

      Meanwhile, I was getting so much discharge at the very end of my pregnancy that I very nearly didn’t notice that I actually WAS leaking amniotic because my water had broken and I was on my way into labor!

      • oh no! This is terrible/hilarious. Hopefully it all went well!

  • Tina G

    My body and I have had a rough couple years together. After 30-ish years of relative health and body positivity, I was diagnosed with prediabetes and PCOS and resulting fertility troubles. Then a complicated twin pregnancy and birth, and failed (quit?) breastfeeding. Less than a year later, thyroid cancer. (Turns out I’ll be fine, but now I take a pill instead of having a thyroid.) The changes – both physical and otherwise – are too many to list, but there’s an interesting dichotomy of wanting to keep quiet about these things due to shame / “properness” / not wanting to make people feel weird about hearing the word cancer / not wanting people to be asswaffles about diabetes and wanting to be like, “Guys. This is what’s up.” I haven’t quite sorted out how to negotiate that, so I just go with my gut. Anyone else struggle with who / when / in what way to share these body things?

  • mssolo

    I had one of those crosspolination ideas recently, where I was reading an article about Thinx (like Dear Kate, but the next step in, in that they can hold two tampons worth of blood you need neither tampons nor pads with them) and an article about girls in Malawi having to skip school while on their periods due to the being unable to afford pads (or shamed out of using reusable ones), and now I’m wondering if there are any charities out there donating Thinx-esque products to girls in countries where disposable solutions are too expensive. maybe a buy one, buy one for a girl in Malawi sort of set up?

    • Lisa

      I’ve been wondering the same thing, too! It seems like it would be much more efficient than pads.

  • the cupboard under the stairs

    This isn’t weird body stuff, per se, but…am I the last woman on earth not to tweeze/shape/fill in my eyebrows? I feel like a hot mess every time someone brings up brows.