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Lucy Mangan: “Our grandmas had corsets – we have vajazzling”

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When I first heard the word ‘vajazzle’, it was a hallucinatory moment. Jennifer Love Hewitt had announced that after she broke up with her boyfriend, her best girlfriend came over and “Swarovski-crystalled my precious lady and it shone like a disco ball. Women should vajazzle their va-jay-jays!” I goggled. Well, first I Googled, and learned much. Then I goggled. Then I marvelled – at the expense, skill and devotion that must have been required to bring such a literally brilliant idea to fanny-based fruition. I wondered – indeed, I sent out inquiring emails on the subject – whether any of my coterie would do likewise for me. “I’d pin a poppy on your lapel,” replied one. “But that’s it.” So much for friendship.

Once the first delirium had passed, however, what preoccupied me most of all was the chafing. I am a practical soul, and it didn’t seem to me that this could end well for any of the delicate membranes either directly involved or immediately adjacent. And so, new research from the good doctors of the University of California, San Francisco, has proved.

According to their statistics, the number of women admitted to hospital with injuries to their hoo-has and surrounding areas increased fivefold between 2002 and 2008, due to the growing number of Brazilian waxes and vajazzles being performed. Such stats cleared my mind as effectively as a wax strip clears the thigh of straggling tundra, and made me consider anew the lengths we go to and increasingly the abuse we will mete out to our poor bodies in the name of beauty.

Of course, I’m not talking about basic grooming. Or am I? The phrase has an almost infinitely elastic definition. After all, 300 years ago, pinching your cheeks and shaking the lice from your body was enough to catapult you to the top of the courtesan league and into the king’s bed. A century on, having all your own teeth and no rickets made you the Edwardian Angelina Jolie. Our grandmothers got by with corsets and a good scrubbing with carbolic once a week but our mothers had to start eyelining, lipsticking, shaving and being slim. Even within my own experience, the baseline has changed. Online porn has normalised major waxings, buffings and implantings. I remember my shock, about five or six years ago, at the rise and rise of cosmetic surgical procedures that could be carried out in a lunchtime. It began with Botox and collagen injections and now includes facelifts, liposuction and even breast enlargement. I don’t know who in her right mind would choose her surgeon on the basis of the speed with which they can perform bodyaltering procedures, let alone forgo a chocolate croissant to do so.

A full set of teeth made you an Edwardian Angelina Jolie

Cosmetic surgery is increasingly treated as if it were not proper surgery at all. Botox is a poison but you rarely hear it said. My friends talk about having ‘a spot’ of liposuction done in the future, or planning facelifts when they hit 45 (“Get it done early and no-one can tell. You just carry on looking great while everyone else ages past you,” one recently explained to me.) But liposuction is a giant hollow needle being violently rammed into your flesh to break up solid fat. Best-case scenario it damages blood vessels and bruises you so severely it takes six months to recover completely. Worst-case scenario – well, you die, like footballer Colin Hendry’s 43-year-old wife Denise did (after seven years of agony following the botched operation). A facelift means cutting, lifting, stretching and stitching your face back into place. A breast augmentation means boring holes deep into your chest and stuffing bags of potential toxins in there with all the force you can muster.

Infected cuts and scrapes on your nether regions are perhaps trivial in themselves. But they remind us that a line exists between grooming and self-inflicted injury and it is drawn much closer to us than we think. Anyway, I must go. In the course of my research I have come across the word “vajacial” and I fear for future labia. Onward, my friends, and downward.”

Picture credit: Rex Features

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