Not long after I started puberty, I became convinced that something was wrong with me. Something very wrong, and VERY gross.
A mysterious gunk had started to appear in my underwear.
Now, I know what you’re thinking:
You bet your sweet asses we are.
It was 1988 when I came into adolescence like a Wild West sheriff busting through a set of dusty saloon doors. In those days, brand new teenagers had a lot of questions, but few answers. There was no Internet back then. No World Wide Web. No comprehensive font of knowledge that everyone could access. The best a kid my age could hope for in those days was the World Book Encyclopedia, and as a source of information it had the following flaws:
- You had to trek all the way over to the library to look at it;
- You had to use it at the reference desk in front of God and everyone;
- It was *always* out of date; and
- It absolutely 100% did NOT deal with questions about yucky things happening in underpants.
Long story short, I found myself in a bit of a pickle when I hit my teens and began finding stuff in my panties that had never been there before. I couldn’t talk to anyone about it, because mortified. And I had no place to learn about it, because 1988. So for the next TEN YEARS I just reconciled myself to the fact that I was a disgusting weirdo with a nasty vagina and white slime in her underpants.
I became so immune to the whole phenomenon that when the Internet finally did become a thing, it never occurred to me to Ask Jeeves if he ever got snail trails in his panties. (And in hindsight, I’m relieved I didn’t—I’m not sure I would have been comfortable with the results.) I continued to live on in ignorance, keeping my used panties tucked WAY down at the bottom of the hamper, and *never* letting my ex-husband do the laundry.
Time passed, however, and when I reached my thirties, I noticed that my conversations with lady friends were starting to become more and more intimate. I mean, not “HEY GUYS, DO YOU EVER GET WHITE CRAP IN YOUR UNDERWEAR? I KNOW I DO!” intimate. Well—not at first. But I was hopeful that over time I would be able to broach the subject.
Finally, one day, I did.
“So . . . guys. I was kinda curious about something. I was wondering, if you can you know . . . TELL . . . I mean, just by looking, not by taking a big whiff or anything. . . if a pair of your underwear has already been worn?”
At first, silence.
“OH MY GOD. YES.”
“YOU MEAN, I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE?”
“WHAT IS THAT STUFF?”
At which point a glorious and enlightening conversation about underwear gunk began to take shape. We talked colors. We talked consistencies. We talked dry versus wet. Smell versus no smell. “Normal” gunk versus “I should really see a doctor about this” gunk. How pregnancy made it SO MUCH WORSE.
We discussed how certain times of the month made the gunk heavier, and other times lighter. We discussed stain removal techniques. We discussed what it was called (“vaginal discharge”). What it should be called (“snizz jizz”). What we told our husbands about it (“a bird keeps pooping in my underwear.”)
The entire conversation was amazing. I don’t think I’d ever felt more relieved in my life. If you’ll excuse the debased metaphor, it was as if a goopy white burden had been lifted from my 100% cotton shoulders.
Long story short, if you’re a lady, you’re gonna gross up your smalls. End of story. It’s totally normal. But it’s also one of those things they don’t tell you about in sex ed class, and most people’s mothers aren’t going to say anything about it either. So to make up for that, I’ve decided to go ahead and take on the responsibility of acting as the world’s first advocate of Underwear Gunk Awareness. Don’t believe me? Here’s my first public service announcement:
Ladies everywhere: you’re welcome.
Circa 1560. PD – Art. Source: The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. – Modified
.World Book Encyclopedia (1990). Photo taken in the library of Central European University. Source: Nataev. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
“A Woman Praying” – Willem de Poorter. First half of 17th century. PD – Art. Source: Web Gallery of Art. – Modified
“Women Talk” – Elisabeth Nourse. Circa 1900. PD – Copyright Term Expired. Source: Nieuwe schoenen – Modified