Tuesday 29 March 2011

The vaginal frontier

There was a time when men and women set forth to conquer unexplored areas. The Antarctic. The Himalayas. The moon.

They invented things - lightbulbs, computers, shoes with wheels in them.

We have come up with solutions to most of life problems and have come up with problems simply to use the solutions that have been created.

But having done these amazing things, there are now few areas left unplundered. Few frontiers unexplored. And until relatively recently, the vagina was one of them.

Or course women have been shaving and waxing for some time. According to Wikipedia, Middle Eastern societies have been waxing since 4000 BC. Us Westerners only caught onto the trend in about 1945, when swimsuits became more revealing and the sight of  pot scourer-like hair flirting out the edges was deemed unsuitable public viewing.

Then, thanks to Sex and the City in the late 90s, the concept of the Brazilian took hold of our imaginations. All of a sudden, a neat bikini line was positively slovenly in comparison to sporting the bald eagle look. And once this particular trend was given an airing, well, all of a sudden the lady garden became the final frontier to be explored.

With the smooth, blank canvas the Brazilian affords, it was inevitable that someone would come up with the next big thing. There, crying out for a bit of beautifying, were millions of naked vajayjays. And thus the words 'Vajazzle' and 'Vajazzling' entered our lexicon. If you don't know what vajazzling is (where have you been?), its a way to pimp your vaj. Bling it up. Make it sparkly. In short, you stick crystals onto it. I won't go into the reasons why you want to do that - Katyboo explains it all brilliantly here (this is a must read). And let's not forget Vattoos....nuff said.

So having gone from not waxing, to waxing, to waxing it all off, to vajazzling and vattoos, not to mention labiaplasty and vaginoplasty, surely we had plumbed the depths of what else could go on in that particular ah-rea.

But no. There's more.

Thanks to a tip off from blogger This Mid Thirties Life, the latest lady garden craze is the Vajacial. That is a facial for your vajayjay. Yes, you read that correctly.

Apparently several US waxing salons are offering these treatments.  For example Stript Wax Bar in San Francisco has a 50-minute long treatment involving four steps:
Skin is cleansed with an antibacterial body wash and witch hazel.
A papaya-based exfoliating gel goes on before the esthetician extracts ingrown hairs.
Then an anti-freckle, anti-acne, or calming mask is applied.
It finishes off with an application of lightening cream.

This brings several questions charging into my brain.

  1. Surely there must be a fair amount of 'massage' that takes place as various potions are applied and removed. Couldn't that have .... consequences? And are you charged extra for that?? Nothing like a facial with a happy ending.

  2. What if some of that exfoliating gel goes where it shouldn't? That's gotta make your eyes water.
  3. Anti-freckle cream?? Really? How many freckles can you get down there? Don't you get freckles from too much sunshine? Quite frankly if you're super freckly down there, perhaps you should have avoided all those nudist beaches. And if your body is naturally freckled all over, surely a freckle free vaj would look odd?
  4. Similarly - lightening cream? Why would you want your vaj to be lighter than the rest of your skin? Is it meant to be able to glow in the dark so that it can be easily found, like a fluorescent beacon with landing lights guiding you home? I'm fairly certain that your partner will find it regardless of what colour it is.
  5. Why in the name of all things holy would you want to be a vag esthetician? I'll bet it's not a career choice often discussed at career guidance day.
Having given birth twice, I know that a vagina can become very public property. Your 'intimate private' area becomes a shipping lane that might as well be broadcast on the nine o' clock news just in case someone in the world hasn't seen it yet. But that's childbirth. Everyone is too busy looking at what's coming out of your vaj, rather than the vaj itself.

Perhaps I'm simply in the wrong phase of life to consider vajacials and vajazzles and anything else that is designed to beautify this particular area. Perhaps if I was single, in my 20s, living in LA I'd be waiting in line to have exfoliating gel rubbed onto my girly bits.

But I feel - with a rather large portion of relief - that these particular trends are going to have to pass me by. Discussing vajazzle designs and vaginal exfoliating options at the school gate isn't something likely to happen, certainly not in the West Berkshire countryside. And besides, I reckon my poor husband would be happy to see my lady garden at all, horticultured or not.

I shall have to find another frontier to explore instead.

Monday 28 March 2011


This post is still not about Seattle, it's about Rio. Not the place, the movie. I don't often take up PR companies on their offers of freebies but for once, I was offered something that I could go to and I wanted to go to.

We just happened to be in London this weekend as a family (that's us in the pic), so when the offer came in to go to a preview screening of the new animated kids film Rio, I said yes please.

It was very exciting to go to the Empire Cinema on Leicester Square, feeling very much like country mice in the big city. Inside it was crazy with Carnaval type samba dancers shimmying around fake palm trees, while face painters painted and balloon modellers modelled. It was loud, busy and manic and I was very, very pleased to get into the theatre and don our 3D specs.

In case you haven't seen the trailors, Rio features a blue macaw called Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) who can't fly. He's also the last male of his species and is brought to Rio to mate with the beautiful Jewel (Anne Hathaway), the last female blue macaw. Obviously things don't go according to plan, otherwise there wouldn't be much of a story (certainly not one suitable for children!)

During their adventures they meet funny birds Pedro (Will.I.AM) and Nico (Jamie Foxx), Luiz (Tracey Morgan) the drooling bulldog and the baddie Nigel (Jermaine Clement), not to mention lots of thieving monkeys.

The story is sweet (almost sickenly so with the perfect ending) and it's not jam-packed with laughs (although I did laugh out loud with the text message the monkeys sent and the stripping security guard with his gold pants). But what made me smile with my whole body was the music in the film. It was toe-tapping, infectious, booty-wiggling samba with fantastic dance routines by multi-coloured birds, all set against the beautiful backdrop of Rio de Janeiro.

I'm not normally a 3D fan (gives me a headached) but the 3D in this was incredible, particularly when some of the characters were racing through the favellas, while the flying scenes made my toes curl they were so effective (not a big fan of heights).

My kids enjoyed it, although my youngest didn't like some of the bits with the baddies. They liked the drooling dog. They would. They're boys. Anything gross is good. They rated it 8 out of 10, losing marks probably because they don't have their mother's desire to shake her groove thang whenever she hears samba.

Perhaps it was just because I'd sailed to Rio that the location had a special place in my heart, or perhaps deep down I just want to be a samba-dancing, bikini-clad, butt-shaking romantic. But this film, with its bright colours, beautiful scenery and general feel-good vibe made me leave thinking: "I loved that" even though when pressed I couldn't really say why.

Rio opens in cinemas on 8 April, just in time for the Easter holidays. Go to http://www.rio-themovie.co.uk/ for more details.

Monday 14 March 2011

You are a star

Sorry. I know I should be posting the final Seattle installment, but I can't. For many reasons. I will return to the subject again and give you the final verdict soon.

But I wanted to write a short blog post about something that moved me greatly yesterday. I've been in a pretty blah place recently. And it's become apparent that I sometimes (most of the time) see things half empty instead of half full. I doubt myself and generally lack self esteem. And it's been a long time since I felt shiny.

Then last night I watched 'The Wonders of the Universe' on BBC 2 with Professor Brian Cox. If you haven't see it, go to iplayer and watch both this episode and last weeks. It will blow your mind.

Firstly, the man (besides being fairly good looking and is able to play the piano and has a brain the size of the universe - stand in an orderly line ladies) is able to make complicated scientific things fascinating. He makes me want to go back to school and retake science, and believe me, science and I were not friends.

Anyway, last night's episode was called Stardust and the premise of it was that we are all made out of the exact same elements that stars are. In fact the elements that make up our bodies and our world are formed when a star dies. Carbon to iron - it all comes from the collapse of a star. Without a star dying, we wouldn't be here. You need to watch the show to understand it. But it made me think:

If we are really made out of stars, then we all have the ability to shine brightly.

From now on, whenever I'm feeling more black than white, more down than up, more can't than can, I'm going to remember that I am a star. I have all the chemical elements I need to sparkle. And without wanting to get completely yar-fully-hey-shoo-wow on you, we are literally children of the universe. How friggin awesome is that. And doesn't it make the fact that you have a teetering ironing pile pale into significance?

So if you're ever feeling low, just remember that you too are a star. Let yourself shine.

Monday 7 March 2011

Sleepless in Seattle - part 5

Wednesday rolled in with a bright blue sky and bags under my eyes. We decided to spend the morning revisiting some of the places we'd already seen. We browsed the suburbs. Drooled over houses we could never afford. Stopped at small lakeside parks. Imagined playing there with our boys. Generally drove aimlessly about hoping that a large sign in the road up ahead would say: take this decision -and steer us to the right answer for our family.

We stopped at a supermarket so that I could remind myself of US food products. When we used to the live in the US, I remember being utterly amazed at how many different types of cereal you could get. Most of them with bucket loads of sugar. I also remember always buying sliced turkey from the deli counter yet I NEVER buy sliced turkey in the UK. Why is that?

Heading into the supermarket it struck me again how loud the packaging was in the US. Everything seemed to scream its message in neon or primary colours. Where were the understated whites & creams with simple Copperplate fonts on a box of biscuits? You know - sort of Dutchy Originals. I started thinking that I could move there if only to start up a range of products that came in simple, quiet packaging as they would stand out in a quiet little bubble on the shelf amid all the noisy colours.

I left the shop (store) feeling mixed. Not up. Not down. Just kinda blah. As though new products which ordinarily would leave me over excited, just felt meh. Being influenced by the novelty of silly things like foreign foods might have been fine when I was young, free and single. But this was a decision that would change the course of our children's lives completely. I needed more than pepperjack cheese to win me over.

We headed over to another school. A state elementary. It seemed nice, but beset by problems most state schools suffer from - funding. But apparently the PTSA was 'super involved' and 'super active' to ensure that the kids had a 'super nice time' at school. As we were leaving, the lady showing us around said: "Sorry about all the book bags lying on the floor. They belong to the kids at ski school." "Ski school?" we asked. "Yeah," she said.  "They finish school early on Wednesdays and some of the kids get taken to the mountains for skiing lessons. It's just a 40 minute drive away."

Skiing as an after school activity. Check. Not something readily available in Berkshire. That went onto the pros column.

We headed south of the I90 to check out a place called Newport Shores, a small suburb of very fancy houses right on the lakeside with little canals in between for more moorage space. This was Wisteria Lane, with kids running in the street, shooting hoops, zooming around on scooters. It was a kids' paradise. And it had it's own yacht club. Another plus.

We drove past another of the secondary schools - amazing sports facilities. Honestly, better than most local English sports clubs have. We stopped in at a mall for some lunch. We sat in a Red Robin, surrounded by high school kids. It was fascinating to watch them. The cool kids. The Asian kids. The nerds. The nerds checking out The Girls. It was exactly like in the movies. Only the kids actually seemed really nice and not too posey, but that was because we were South of the I90 and away from Uber Posh-ville.

So there we were, eating our buffalo chicken wings with bottomless fries and bottomless soda, and we asked each other: "So, what do you think? Should we move here?"

And there it was. The ninety million dollar question. How do weigh all the pros and cons up, when some pros weigh so much more and some cons could break your heart?

We made up a list on the ipad.

- a 15 minute commute for my husband vs 1.5 hours each way
- a husband/father who didn't travel abroad for work 80% of the year
- great schools (but scarily big)
- much bigger houses
- beautiful area
- better off financially
- the chance of a better quality of life
- the chance for me to find a new career or something completely different to do
- a grand adventure (those who know me know that I'm always looking for the Next Big Thing)

- the weather is no better than England
- it is very, very, very far away from just about everywhere
- leaving behind our friends, what little family we have here and the network I've only just built up. Ripping up those fledgling roots just as they were starting to get a good grip
- the plastic feel to the place - no heart or character
- would life really be different or would my husband still work all the time?
- raising children with a completely different culture to either of ours
- our quality of life right now is pretty good, bar the missing husband/father. There's the chance we could make it worse. Why walk away from a sure thing?
- what the heck would I do for a job?

It was a long discussion. One that seemed to drift around in circles without ever feeling as though we'd really found the perfect answer. We just kept coming back over and over and over again: if we don't move, how could we make it work in the UK? How could my children see more of their father and how could I be a single parent less of the time? And there just isn't an answer to that. Not one that works. And believe me, we have brainstormed them all.

So, four large soda pops and two large baskets of fries later, we decided that on balance the pros outweighed the cons. We should do it.

We pondered our decision as we walked through the Cougar Mountain National Park. The beauty of the place (very Twilight type woods) seemed to reinforce the rightness of moving there. But we slightly questionned it again once we studied the sign at the start of the trail which gave instructions on what to do if you come across a bear or a cougar (do look a cougar in the eyes, but don't look a bear in the eyes - you really don't want to muddle those up).

We then had dinner at another ex-work colleague's house which had the most amazing views over the whole of Seattle, the lakes and Bellevue. It was so jaw-droppingly beautiful that it seemed to reaffirm our thinking.

After another lovely evening with lovely people, we went back to the apartment and actually slept.

We still had a day to go but our decision was mostly made. I just wished that I could silence the niggling rumble of worry in my belly.

Friday 4 March 2011

Sleepless in Seattle - part 4

Another sleepness night. Jet lag and life changing decisions are a killer combo in the sleep stakes. So day 2 rolled in with a blur. We had to head out to the far side of Bellevue to go see a school. A high school. Our children are nowhere near high school age but we figured we needed to know what was awaiting us down the line.

The school was in a less affluent part of town but the buildings were immaculate and the sports facilities amazing. We met with one of the deputy heads. Apparently the school has 1500 kids (aged 15 - 18) and there are over 60 different first languages spoken by the pupils. It made my mind boggle. Despite the sheer numbers being overwhelming, we left feeling pretty impressed by what we'd seen. For a state school, it looked slick.

We then explored all around Lake Sammamish, the lake on the East side of Bellevue. Although nice, we decided that having one lake between us and the city was enough, so there was no way we'd consider putting two lakes between us in suburbia and life outside the picket fences.

We nipped into another private school for a prospectus (lovely looking school but completely stuck up their own backside reception staff who couldn't have been less pleased to see two prospective parents willing to shell out $60k per year for two kids to attend). So we left and headed for our third school of the day, another private one.

This school turned everything I thought about schooling on its head. For a start, the school building was an old office park. It's curb appeal was low. For a private school charging a LOT of money, where were the beautiful buildings and acres of sports fields? But once inside we began to realise that this was no ordinary school. They teach children in a completely different way. They teach them to think. Not simply to learn, but to question and enquire. We were given a mock science lesson. And both my husband and I sat enthralled as they took as through the content. It made me want to go back to school.

They use tablet PCs for the kids and if a child feels that a teacher is going to fast in class, they send the teacher a private instant message and the teacher knows to recap without the child feeling embarrassed. It's also hands on learning - the kids have built a rock climbing wall, a wormery for all the food scraps, their own black box theatre where they do all their drama productions and they have to build their own canoes. Proper wooden canoes. If they float, they've passed. If they don't, they have a swimming lesson.

Their mission is: think critically, act responsibly, lead compassionately, and innovate wisely. I love that. And it's so current. It teaches and prepares children for today and tomorrow's world.

I left with one thought: I want my kids to go there. Sure they'd have to make the grade (they have to be very bright and have a natural curiousity about the world around them) and we'd have to live on bread and beans to afford it, but wow! It was just such an incredible place.

After leaving that school on a high, we then discovered the suburb of Kirkland which actually had a little downtown area with restaurants and shops and access to the lakeside beaches. And although it was still a bit plastic, it felt more like a proper neighbourhood where you might actually get to meet your neighbours. What's more, it would still only be a 12 minute commute to work for my husband. 12 minutes vs his current 1.5 hours each way (when he's in the country).

And slowly the ticks in the pros columns started lining up.

We ended the day with a couple my husband works with, eating amazing food at their gorgeous house, learning all about what it's really like to live the American way with kids and a job. They seemed so happy and together. And I started to imagine us living in a house like that and it seemed doable.

We collapsed into bed with brains aching from over-stimulation. The see-saw of emotions - could we live here? could we not? - was leaving me feeling a little sick. Or perhaps that was just too much good food and wine. Either way, we had one more full day to make our minds up. Thursday would be decision time.