A Girl’s Guide to Personal Hygiene: reminds us about all the things about being a girl we are trained not to acknowledge

A Girl's Guide to Personal Hygiene book review

What is this about?: This is a collection of stories — of those secrets, and habits girls would never mention in public in all their graphic glory, covering everything from periods to boogers.

What else is this about?: With this book comes the knowledge that you’re not alone in having those deep dark secrets and habits that you would never talk about to anyone. Ever.

Blurb

A Girl’s Guide to Personal Hygiene is everything I never knew I wanted: a disgusting, hilarious, and honest book that pays tribute to the female body and all of its habits and suppurations. It is delightfully and uncomfortably relatable and I love it with my whole self—heart, sweat, bowels, and all.”—Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties

We sniff our knickers; we bite our own toenails; we laboriously dig out ingrown hairs: Women aren’t as ladylike as people would like to imagine. Using anecdotes collected from hundreds of anonymous sources, this gleefully disgusting illustrated book rewrites our definition of femininity.

One day, the artist Tallulah Pomeroy overhead a conversation between two girls about another friend of theirs they knew in college. Apparently, when this friend had been on tour with the rugby team, she’d drunkenly ‘done a shit in the sink.’ ‘She’s not a girl if she did that,’ said one to the other. ‘She may have a vagina, but she’s not a girl.’

This exchange made Tallulah laugh, but it also made her think. How many things had her friends done that meant they ‘weren’t girls?’ She made a Facebook group and asked people to submit stories about their ‘unladylike’ behaviors. The page was soon flooded with more stories than she could have ever imagined: about ear wax and trapped wind, gray pubes and bloody pajamas. It became a community of honest, funny, and supportive women, who, by admitting to things they’d thought were shameful, no longer had to feel ashamed.

For A Girl’s Guide to Personal Hygiene, Tallulah made original illustrations to accompany a selection of those Facebook posts—plus dozens more from an expanded call for submissions—to create an exuberant and galvanizing handbook for all the nasty women of the world.

I’ve been trying to muster up the intention to go to my local beauty place to get my eyebrows and upper lip threaded. At least part of my morning ritual has been staring intently at the mirror, trying to figure out just how much longer I can go before I have to get things plucked and threaded.

Which makes A Girl’s Guide to Personal Hygiene all the more relevant. Apt. Hilarious.

Up there in the blurb is how this book began, and the Facebook in which share stories about their unladylike behaviours.

The book divides them into categories like Hair, Picking and Squeezing, Periods and Toilet Training — and let me just say, that these stories are epic. I might’ve cringed just a wee bit at the story of a tampon “lost” for two weeks after a period had ended, but enjoyed a  handy hint on how to save your sheets if you tend to have leaks on your periods overnight.

One of the best things about these shared secrets is that every one is shared with fascination, joy and pleasure in the female body and what it does.

When I first finished the book (it’s quite short), I have to admit, I wasn’t entirely comfortable knowing about these nameless women who knew how to fart without making a sound in a public loo, or peed in their bathwater, or bit (and ate) their toenails. But then I got up one morning and started staring at my eyebrows and wondering about threading, and thought that somewhere out there is a woman thinking the same thing, and a woman not bothered about it, and a woman who finds it therapeutic to do it herself.

And last, the art — is wonderful, giving readers an image for every habit, and even handy hint.

In a nutshell, women are fabulous because they have poo issues, period issues and have rice stuck in their belly buttons for how long, they don’t know. The book is a celebration of women in all their messy glory — and a reminder than women are messy and glorious.

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