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What's New Pussy Cat? How Labiaplasty Surgery Helped Me Love My Vagina

As I've matured, I've become more confident in who I am as a person, which has helped me learn to respect all of my body, especially in sexual situations. My vagina's outer transformation was the cherry on top, a gift to myself that reflected my inner state of being.
09/10/2015 08:01pm ET | Updated December 6, 2017
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I was 14 when I discovered I had an asymmetrical vagina. It hadn't always been this way, but seemingly overnight, my dainty slit had transformed into a dark, brooding Georgia O'Keeffe painting. I remember pulling down my tankini bottom, congratulating myself for not peeing in the pool, when I noticed what I thought to be a strange growth or tumor. One lip hung down just a tad further than the other, its hue more purplish-grey than peachy pink. I knew what had happened. Despite my lack of medical degree, I'd made my diagnosis: Years of masturbatory friction had worn the poor thing out.

I couldn't let my doctor see my angry (quarter-or-so-of-an) inch -- surely she'd tell me I was hopelessly deformed. And as for sex, I decided then and there that I would never have it.

As I stared at myself in the mirror, the pesky sliver looked like a sinister slice of deli meat, tainting an adolescent body I had otherwise grown relatively pleased with.

In the years that followed, I was surprised and relieved that no guy ever mentioned the little flap. As long as I gave them access, they really did not care what it looked like. My gynecologist never commented on it either, and I was too embarrassed to ask for her professional opinion.

At 23, I moved from Boston to LA and was living on my own for the first time. With no company but my own reflection, I developed a nightly ritual of naked self-talk sessions with the sliding closet mirror doors. Stripping down like a modern-day Lady Godiva, I engaged in inspirational pep talks with my mirror self and came to love the creature gazing back at me. During these moments of autoerotic intimacy, I grew well-acquainted with my body's quirks and intricacies -- at times, obsessively so.

Some folks who choose the solitary lifestyle get a cat. I got a new pussy.

Labiaplasty, the medical term for "new pussy," is a surgical procedure to alter folds of skin around the vulva. Conveniently, I was mere driving distance from Beverly Hills, where this casual snip is pretty much status quo. Despite being the one procedure the late great Joan Rivers never underwent (I peeked . . . just kidding, she mentioned it in an interview), "vaginal rejuvenation" is the equivalent of getting one's hair trimmed in some parts of Southern California.

"So, you moved to LA and decided to get a labiaplasty?" asked the plastic surgeon, as he inspected my natural God-given vagina. Having experienced the mean, cold duck lips of gynaecologist visits past, this gentle look-see struck me as far less invasive -- more like an artist examining his clay.

"Yeah, you know, I figured my vag could use an upgrade," I answered. My flippant tone downplayed the fact that I'd been envisioning this moment for nearly 10 years -- ever since I first started agonizing over my vagina's appearance. Was I really that superficial? I didn't think so -- I attributed my fixation more to my being nit-picky and slightly OCD. For whatever reason, my body's tiny, innocent imperfection had become a point of irrational concern. I was annoyed with myself for caring so much, but it felt satisfying to finally embark upon this surprisingly simple and accessible solution.

"It doesn't have to be perfect," I told the surgeon. "I just want the lips evened out."

"We always strive for perfection," he replied.

I made a down payment of $1,000 and enrolled in a plan to pay off the remaining $2,000 over the next 18 months.

When the big day arrived, I woke up early for a clean shave (which seemed like the considerate thing to do) and took a taxi to the surgery center. I hadn't told anyone I was going under the knife -- besides my friend Steve, who had kindly agreed to pick me up afterwards, since I was instructed not to drive.

I emerged from my anesthetized slumber in a blissful state of euphoria, amazed the whole thing was already over. "Enjoy your new vagina!" said the doctor, handing me a lollipop and sending me on my way.

High on Percocet, I spent the afternoon watching Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? with a bag of frozen peas on my crotch, and felt chipper enough to attend improv class the next morning.

As I've Googled female anatomy, I've realized that vaginas come in a diverse array of configurations, vastly deviating from the unrealistic standards Barbies and porn stars present. My original was completely normal -- chances are, had I kept it the way it was, I would have gone through life without ever encountering the disgusted reactions I'd feared. But would I have ever truly made peace with it?

In a way, it can feel comforting to pin emotional discontent onto specific body parts; however, when corrective procedures exist to obliterate physical pet peeves, it's difficult to tell whether the deeper issue remains. The shame I once felt represented a larger insecurity, which, in my teenage years, had manifested as sexual promiscuity and recklessness. I was grateful when guys I slept with didn't say anything about my vagina, as though it were something I should apologize for. Worrying that they cared what it looked like distracted me from the reality that they probably didn't care about me, nor did I give them much reason to. I repeatedly put out, desperate for the validation I couldn't find within myself.

As I've matured, I've become more confident in who I am as a person, which has helped me learn to respect all of my body, especially in sexual situations. My vagina's outer transformation was the cherry on top, a gift to myself that reflected my inner state of being. Honoring and committing to my personal, autonomous decision to get a labiaplasty felt bold and empowering.

As the swelling decreased in the weeks after my surgery, I grew more and more infatuated with my new pussy, whom I named Gypsy Rose Lee. Since I had no significant other in the picture, it seemed greedy to keep her for my own naked mirror-talk pleasure, as though I was holding her back from attaining her true potential. It was time to show her to the world, to make her a star. She was finally ready for her close-up.

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This story by Sara-Kate Astrove first appeared at ravishly.com, an alternative news+culture women's website.

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