HealthSexual Health My Experience Of Growing Up With Hygiene Myths in India

My Experience Of Growing Up With Hygiene Myths in India

Growing up is a hard time for most of us. The awkwardness of breast formation is quite a nightmare. And then there are other hygiene myths which don't let you rest in peace.

Growing up is a hard time for most of us. The awkwardness of breast formation is nothing less than a nightmare. And then there is menarche – first menstruation or the beginning of menstrual cycle – almost a terror. When mothers and aunts start hushing about each others’ daughters’ new found monthly affliction. Soon opinions overflow into our mothers’ and elder sisters’ mind about possible remedies. Kitty parties turn into brazen meetings where our intimate hygiene takes shape.

Hygiene MythsMrs. Sharma: Heena is almost 12. Why hasn’t she started getting down yet?

Mrs. Singh: Oh, I’m so worried I can barely sleep at night.

Mrs. Gupta: Don’t worry.  My daughter just started and she’s only 13.

Mrs. Verma: Thankfully, Rohini started when she was just 11 and a half. I barely had any chance to teach her about things. She just landed home in tears one afternoon from school. You must be prepared!

The harrowing looks at Mrs. Singh and Mrs. Gupta’s faces urged Mrs. Sharma (the eldest one in the lot) of pitch in.

Mrs. Sharma: Don’t worry! Just make sure they carry pads and tan dark panties and everything will be alright. You know in our times….

Just then Mrs. Raheja (quiet till now) interrupted.

Mrs. Raheja: Yes, yes! But do teach them to wash well down there. You know how foul it can be, I’ve heard of these scented pads nowadays…..

But girls, thankfully, we all get through it. And alive!

Being caught up in menstrual myths and misconceptions is not the worst that could happen during the awkward growing up years.  There are so many other private hygiene practices that are often mis-taught by our mothers, sisters, cousins and the unpalatable aunties.

Here are few of my (un)favorites:

Douche in Demure

Patriarchy in douching products from the past.

1. Wash-wash-wash

“Does it burn down there too much, beta?”, asks mummy. “You must wash it as much as possible.”, advises Neeta aunty.

Unbeknownst to us, we just follow as we are told. We want to get rid of all possible fluid remnant and smells because we are taught that it is gross. What often follows is “douching”.  French for “wash” or “soak”. It is a practice of spraying or showering the private area (vulva) with water in an obsession for cleanliness. In fact, excessive douching can do quite the opposite and leave your vagina smelling further.

Vagina has multitude of resident bacteria (good microbes in this case) which survive in an acidic environment and douching reduces this acidity. Such disturbance upsets the vaginal flora (microbes) causing infections such as bacterial vaginosis. It is also linked to PID (Pelvic inflammatory disease), pregnancy complications and cervical cancer.

2. Clip-wax-shave

“You need to shave your pubic hair for better hygiene”, told an elder sister to an embarrassed ninth grader. What followed for next decade is not far from imagination.

On the record, your pubic hair exist for a reason. They provide cushion against skin abrasion as well as reduce the risk of external infections. Trimmed tails of hair follicles are not only extremely uncomfortable but rather painful on a daily basis. Watch Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues if you don’t believe me.

There is nothing shameful or embarrassing about having pubic hair. It is an individual choice and can never be found as a recommended practice for better personal hygiene. In a world obsessed with everything shaven, sparkly and soft, pubic hair have become friends only to the veets (reference to: hair removal cream in India) of the world.

3. Tampon is a virgin’s foe

Oh, this is such a classic. Tampons are small cylindrical mass of absorbent material (much like a menstrual pad) that is inserted into the vagina during periods. There is no scientific proof  of using tampons causing breaking of hymen. Again, use of type of sanitary hygiene product during the menstrual cycle is an individual choice. From sanitary napkins, tampons, reusable pads, to menstrual cups – the choice is on the individual to make.

4. Bras are the savior

“You must wear a bra or they will sag too soon!” I was literally petrified of sagging breasts and a brassiere was the make believe savior.

Problems with bras

Image Courtesy: Busty Girl Problems

Bras are nothing more than accessories designed to present breasts into voluminous attractive objects. Take it easy. It won’t kill you to take them off for a while now and then. Even metal cups won’t stop age from taking it’s course and there is no escaping – with or without a bra.

5.  Vagina needs fragrance

This is an absolute disaster and is more an urban myth than anything else. Your vagina has a natural musky scent, resident microbial flora, normal secretions and a resultant smell. There is no need to wash it with soaps or spray perfumes around the area for better smell whether for the special someone or confidence booster. Vaginal sprays are nothing more than a hogwash result from consumerist needs to sell more and more.

Dump these misconceptions down the gutter girls and you will go from awkward to awesome very soon!

Featured Image Credit: An advertisement for a vaginal cleansing product

Disclaimer: This article is a reproduction and was first published here. It has been re-published with due consent.

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