A Letter to my younger self - Babe, your vulva is fine

Dear my younger self,

Writing this letter to you is difficult because I know what you’re going through right now and I know that nothing I or anyone else can say will change how you feel. But I’m going to give it a shot, because I know you need to hear this. 

 Right now, you think your vagina is “too big”. First of all, that’s not your vagina. What you’re actually referring to is your vulva, specifically your labia minora. You’re probably wondering why you’ve never been told that before and it’s undoubtedly because your sex education hasn’t been as thorough as it needed to be. But that’s a conversation for another time. 

So, you think your labia is too big. For years your labia has bothered you, but you’ve ignored it, hoping that if you didn’t confront the situation it would go away: but it didn’t. Months went by and your self-hatred gradually grew more and more intense, until it was the first thing you’d think about when you woke up and the last thing you’d think about at night. You’re 14 years old and you despise yourself.

I remember Mum (rightly so) having a go at you for staying out late one night, she told you that “you could be up to anything with anyone” and you replied, “nobody would want to come near me anyway!” as you slammed her door shut and stormed into your room. I think that might have been the first time Mum knew you were having some issues. I’m not sure if she just thought it was standard teenage girl stuff, but I remember you felt as if you had let yourself down by allowing your mask to slip. This was silly, you’ll soon come to realise you can trust Mum with anything.

One day the fake confidence will become too difficult a task to continue with. The shame and self-loathing will become all consuming. You’ll google “how to get rid of a big vagina?” and the answer “labiaplasty” will come up. The more you read into this you find out that a labiaplasty is a surgery to reduce the size of someone’s labia minora. You’re over the moon… finally, an answer! A way out! You will start to make impossible plans to save for a £3000+ surgery with a paper round job that pays £2.90 an hour. These plans don’t work out. You need a solution now, this week… today! 

As time goes on you can’t bear to look at yourself, or even touch yourself. You begin to neglect your personal hygiene to avoid thinking about your labia. You’ll start to notice you have more vaginal discharge than normal and that a bad smell is coming for your vulva. This will be your tipping point. You’re going to spiral in your bedroom for hours until you know you have to call Mum. This will be a difficult conversation for you to have Cassie. It will be the first time the words will ever leave your mouth, but I promise you it will be worth it. This will be the day you realise you can trust Mum with anything: it will be the start of the tightest bond you will ever have. 

After 60 seconds of wailing down the phone, Mum will demand you tell her what’s wrong immediately. You don’t know how to word it, you don’t even know where to start. “My vagina is too big mum, and it smells”. You’ll grow up and look back on this moment and be in awe that you had the courage to be this vulnerable. Mum will first be relieved that you’re not pregnant, in danger or dying. Then she will comfort you and book you a doctor’s appointment, where you plan to give your desperate plea for them to refer you for surgery.

You and Mum will walk side by side into the doctor’s surgery. You can tell this is difficult for her too but you don’t care because you know this is about to be the most humiliating conversation of your life. Your name is called, and you start crying the second Mum starts talking to the doctor. He tells you you’ve got Bacterial vaginosis (BV) and that after a course of antibiotics you’ll be as right as rain. As for the size of your labia, he tells you it’s normal. Labia come in all shapes and sizes, and that it’s quite common to have a large labia minora. He says surgery isn’t the best option and that you just have to live with it. You feel deflated and like you’re back at square one.

You’ve been watching a lot of porn recently and you’ve seen that the women on those videos don’t look like you. They look ‘perfect’. I know you’re wondering what it is you did differently, what you did to deserve the body you have. You did nothing and your body isn’t bad or something to regret or hate. You’re perfect too. These performers aren’t a true representation of all vulvas. In fact, they only represent a small portion of vulva-owners. One day you’ll learn that mainstream porn isn’t the best thing to watch if you want a healthy, realistic view of people’s bodies, especially your own. You’ll read the definition of ethical porn and you’ll decide that this is the smartest route to go down. Sex positive, inclusive, consent focused porn. This will help you learn to love and accept your body. 

Your first sexual experiences will be a mixed bag. One boy, who will later become your boyfriend for a short while, doesn’t even notice. Another will laugh about it with his friends. This will be tough, but you are tougher. Later on in life you’ll figure out you’re queer. You start to mingle in queer spaces and start being intimate with people who care less about what you look like and more about who you are and the fun you’re about to have together. 

You’re going to fully immerse yourself in feminist spaces and learn that you’re not alone in this. So many vulva-owners grew up hating themselves and have come out the other end. You’ll see all these wonderful people take pride in their vulvas and you will join them. I know you won’t believe this, but you’re going to start talking about vulva diversity online. No, really! You’re going to get a vulva cast and you’re going to show it off online, inspiring so many people on Instagram and TikTok. You use your voice and your experience to educate and empower other people on vulva diversity. You shout from the rooftops that we’re all different; that all vulvas are beautiful. You’re going to fall for a woman who adores every single part of you and you will be happy and confident and you will deserve it. 

I want you to know this will not hang over your head your entire life. Right now, you think you’ll never truly be happy in your body, but you will be. That seems impossible right now, I get it. But you will get there. I need you to know this: this is not a you problem, it’s society’s problem. Patriarchy will tell women and femmes that they should hate their bodies and that we should be spending our time, energy and our money trying to look like Barbie dolls. I need you to do your best to ignore those messages. The beauty standards they want to reach are harmful, unrealistic, and unattainable. You will realise that one day and everything will change. Cassie, you’re going to fall in love with your body, I promise you.

Just hang in there. 

I wish I could hug you right now and tell you everything is going to be okay. I know that I can’t, but I am trusting the process because I know the ending. I know you’re going to be just fine.

All my love, Cassie

Cassie does not endorse any products or brands