Louise O’Neill: I looked back through my own diaries from the age of 12 to 18

MANY people ask me how I managed to evoke such a vivid sense of what it’s like to be a teenage girl in both of my novels. It’s easy.

Even though I’m essentially incredibly immature, I still felt it was important that I conduct extensive research into the mindset of this sensitive time.

I looked back through my own diaries from the age of 12 to 18 but since I didn’t want my heroine to come across as a self-obsessed, whiney Fury, I decided it might be best to look elsewhere for inspiration.

I befriended a teenage girl – not as creepy as it sounds, promise — and we had the chats, just like two gal pals hanging out.

That’s what it felt like to me anyway, passing strangers probably assumed I was her mother.

My new friend pretty much reiterated my own teenage experiences.

At one point I actually thought she might have got hold of my diary to read it out verbatim to me as a performance art stunt for her Junior Cert. (The kids today. So cruel.)

But then she became quite emotional and told me that the previous Saturday this guy she was with had made some rather disparaging remarks about the fact that she was in possession of pubic hair.

Apparently boys have become so accustomed to seeing girls in porn who are completely bare that they have made the grave error of assuming that all of us women naturally suffer from alopecia from the waist down.

After I recovered from my abject rage that this bloody idiot of a boy was making my new best friend feel like shit — does he not know she has her mother to do that to her already? — I told her that in future, if any guy ever dares to make any similar comments, she should express her disappointment that he doesn’t have a 25cm porn-sized penis.

It’s interesting how rapidly bikini waxing has been integrated fully into our society.

Pubic hair was never depicted in Renaissance and Post-Renaissance painting and sculpture because it was associated with power and sexuality, two qualities not readily attributed to women during this period.

As recently as 1970 it was actually considered normal to have a more, um, bountiful bush with Germaine Greer writing in The Female Eunuch, that: ‘In extreme cases, women shave or pluck their pubic area, so as to seem even more sexless and infantile.’

And I agree, there is something a bit strange about a grown man wanting a woman to resemble a pre-pubescent girl-child.

The Brazilian waxing trend really came to the fore when featured on Sex and the City.

The show also promoted a fascination with cupcakes, sex toys with bunny faces and the portrayal of deeply narcissistic behaviour as somehow endearing: ‘Oh yeah you’re engaged/ had a baby/ are dying of cancer, that’s nice, but let’s get back to what’s really important — my commitment-phobic boyfriend and expensive shoes!’

To be fair, I’m probably not the best person to talk to about waxing.

I decided to try a full Hollywood wax on my first attempt, ignoring the advice of the beautician who said that I might try ‘easing’ myself in to it. I told her to knock herself out, I’d just read my magazine.

“I’ve a very high pain threshold, Tanya, knock yourself out babes.”

Twenty seconds later I was nearly passing out from the pain and begging her to stop. She said she couldn’t.

“Listen, love,” she told me, wax strips in hand, barely suppressing a smirk, “I can’t stop now. You’re a bit lopsided.”

I threatened to make her face ‘a bit lopsided’ if she didn’t back the f**k up.

Right now.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with waxing, weirdly enough though, I don’t actually care all that much about what you do with your own body hair.

However, I do happen to believe that it is a travesty that a teenage girl feels that there is something wrong with her just because she doesn’t look like a porn star.

It’s abhorrent to me that yet another pressure has been added to the beauty myth.

Women must be clever, gorgeous and above all, thin, and you’d better do it waxed within an inch of your life. Wonderful.

Yay for women’s rights!

It’s really working out great for us.

PS: I also don’t understand vajazzling. It’s just stupid. IT’S A VAGINA, not a Swarovski crystal window display.

As you were.

Aida Austin returns next week


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