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You talk a little bit about how gross girls can be (peeing everywhere, smearing period blood, etc.), which is, I think, liberating because you don't deny the fact that while vaginas and girls' bodies are nothing to be afraid of, they are also, potentially, kind of disgusting. What do you think it means though that girls, who are generally supposed to be "cleaner" than boys, can get super dirty in private spheres (like bathrooms) although they would never do so in public?
I think it's got a lot to do with how we're conditioned socially and culturally. Girls are supposed to be soft and pretty, seen and not heard, while men can be uncouth and brutish at will, and without shame. The amount of times I've heard people say stupid crap like "Girls don't poop" makes me crazy. Of course we poop. We do big hard ones, bigger than any penis I've ever seen; we do splattery yellowish water ones; we do horrible, post-booze slimy stinky ones. We do all the kinds of poops there are, but as far as polite society is concerned, none of this actually happens. Instead, some little poop gnomes, under the over of night, sneak into out rooms while we're sleeping, our shiny hair splayed delicately over floral cushions, and very quietly and cleanly expunge our bowels using gnome magic. I remember in high school a boy would fart loudly in class, and all the other boys would hoot and holler and pound him on the back in congratulations. If a girl did the same, she'd be excommunicated. So I guess when we're alone we want to do all the nasty shit we've been watching men do in front of our faces all day. My thing is picking: pimples, in grown hairs, nose. Picking is fun.
Ultimately, this book is about the journey that many women take in learning to accept, and, hopefully, even love their bodies. Do you think this is a lifelong process? What have been some of the most important things that have happened to you in your adult life that have made you get closer to being, well, happy with yourself?
I'd love to say it ends one day. I'd love to say one day you wake up and you feel the way Helen Mirren feels; and maybe you do. I'm not there yet! The way I see it, a woman's body is constantly morphing, and it continues to morph right up to menopause. Men's bodies grow and change, sure, but I feel like the various child-birth related changes that happen to a woman's body are far more apparent, and definitely take their toll, more than chest hair and a deep voice do on men. Women have to be so in tune with their bodies. You have to listen to it, and cultivate it, and take it to get a pap smear all the time. I don't know that men have the same worries about uteruses and babies that we do—maybe a second hand worry, but their bodies aren't little homes for children, and I think that makes a difference in person to body relationships that we're often too PC about gender equality to address. On top of all the cervix, boob, egg etc health that women have to deal with, we're also flooded by the media and people around us telling us what a female body should look like and what it should be able to do.
Since I've been an adult, which sometimes I sincerely can't say has been for more than 5 minutes, I've learned to be OK with the way my body looks. The thing is, I'd love to be skinnier and toner and tanner and taller. All the good "T" things. But I'm not, and what's more is that eating a whole bag of salt and vinegar Kettle chips is way more important to me than being any of those things. It honestly is. So I guess rather than there being a defining moment, it's more of a slow realization that I am happy in my life—I like the things that I have and the things that I do—and I am not interested in changing my life in order to have a flatter belly. When I'm old, I figure that the memory of being out with friends, drinking beers and gorging on tacos all summer is going to be more magical than only being able to remember a taut tummy, or the subtle feeling of constant hunger.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen