by Carrie Cutforth
I've been around the interwebs long enough to remember when we used the term "interwebs" unironically. As one who is both hyperactive and a hypochondriac, I often find my fingers ever-on-the-ready to fire off search strings such as: "Is it bad to put X in my vagina?" or "Is it bad to have Y coming out of my vagina" or "What should I put in my vagina to get rid of Z?" It has only recently dawned on me that Google knows far, far too much about my hoohah.
Over the last 20 years, I have searched for the material safety data on the myriad of substances I have used to violate my love cavern: everything from the innocuous (yogurt, tee tree oil, garlic cloves) to the patently absurd (popsicles, hydrogen peroxide, and, yes, even rat poison). As my body has matured, my vaginal inquiries have gone from past pregnancy woes to current perimenopausal frustrations. "How many buckets of blood is it safe to lose during your period, anyhow?" and "Is vaginal female pattern baldness a thing?" are just a couple of recent examples.
But it all started back in the spring of 1996 with the query:
"CAN VAGINAS FALL ASLEEP?"
I was 22, nine months pregnant with my first child, when my muff inconveniently fell asleep in that numb pins-and-needles manner more commonly presented in other appendages. I had just moved to a strange city and long distance phone calls were expensive as fuck. I couldn't possibly have told my mum that my cooze was catching zzz's even if I had wanted to. Ew, gross!
Fortunately, it was nearly a year after Sandra Bullock first blew our freaking minds with her online cheese-pizza-ordering mojo in the now-laughable film The Net. The possibilities of the dawning "Age of Information" were endless: Now humanity could bypass the need to ever speak to another human being about anything ever again!
I don't recall how I managed to fire open Netscape with that delicious crackle-hiss-pop of a dial-up modem in order to perform my very first internet search on Alta Vista (which had just launched as the world's first public internet search engine a scant three months prior). Cybercafés had only recently become a thing the year or so previous, and public libraries had yet to mass adopt internet stations. More likely, I had paid an acquaintance a surprise social visit in twisted subterfuge to borrow their computer for "just a sec!"
"Can vaginas fall asleep?" I nervously typed in. With begrudging relief, I learned there was no need to panic: Yes, it was completely normal for the beaver to soundly saw wood, and there was nothing I could do but live with it. Oh well, it wasn't like my cooch was going to be called upon to operate heavy machinery or drive.
"IS MY VAGINA DESTROYED?"
By 2001, I had finally acquired home internet via a promotional CDROM found in my mailbox. By the time I gave birth to my tomato-faced second child – who weighed in at a whopping 9 lbs 10 oz and was also inconveniently shaped like a bowling ball – my Boolean search string literacy skills had leveled up as evidenced by the query: "Monstrously sized baby" AND "Gave birth" AND "Destroyed vagina" AND "Any hope?" OR "Please, for the love of god when will this suffering end?"
Since that period in my life when my puffy pussy appeared like roadkill freshly run over, I have asked Jeeves about my STDs, Yahoo about my yahoo, and Bing about my minge on every topic under the sun (literally).
But my googling prowess was finally called into question when I found myself typing in the query:
"WILL MY VAGINA EXPLODE?"
Since last December, I have been battling antibiotic resistant and chronic bacterial vaginosis, which I have since learned is hard to treat and woefully understudied, but also overwhelmingly discussed on women's health forums online. Of course, once you start down the…er… rabbit hole, it's easy to get lost, with each search string leading you down a dozen or so branching inquiries. "How to cure BV with yogurt" soon begets "How to make yogurt suppositories," which soon begets "How to clean yogurt off carpet," and so on. Like many chronic BV sufferers, I have tried one homemade remedy too many. This became clearly evident after I had inserted a suppository of boric acid at bedtime followed up with a hydrogen peroxide douche the following day only to discover the rat poison had not yet dissolved in the old catcher's mitt when a white thick discharge leaked onto my inner thigh, bleaching the skin. After I went all Silkwood in the shower, the resulting Google searches soon became increasingly frantic: "Boric acid combined with hydrogen peroxide creates what substance?" begat "Will my vagina explode?" begat "Am I doing to die?"
(Good news is: I didn’t, but I did force myself to lay off the internet searches for a good while).
As someone avidly interested in the use of Big Data, it does give me some small comfort of the possibility that our collective vaginal search strings might be teased out of the internet archive like an info-rich tampon for the good of humanity in the future to eradicate bacterial vaginosis once-and-for-all. Since the voice over in the trailer for The Net once ominously forewarned society: "Everything about us is encoded somewhere on a complex network of information," I have now realized: Yes, Google does know far too much about my lady glove. But now, of course, you do too.
Carrie Cutforth is a foul-mouthed saucy minx, a salty dog, and a shifty-eyed transmedia grifter. Her kids call her mumsy.