Live Through This

Everybody Farts

Terrifying secrets of the human body!

Illustration by Cynthia

Here’s a story for you: Not so very long ago, I was a teenager, and read magazines. I know! I know! It was exciting for me, too! But the thing is, these magazines were often not so great for my self-esteem. Because here is what I remember about those magazines: 9,000 articles by girls about why their bodies were disgusting. Sometimes, there was a whole section: readers would contribute “stories” along the lines of “One time I dropped a tampon in front of a boy and I was soooo embarrassed,” or “One time a boy found out that my bra was padded and I was soooo embarrassed,” or “This one time, I found out that I have a body, and I’m not just a cloud of pure consciousness, and that means that I have to eat and sleep and stuff. I was soooooooooo embarrassed!”

My theory at the time was that if these apparently normal girls were embarrassed by their bodies, I clearly needed to be super embarrassed. Because I was convinced that my human body was the worst human body. Theirs were in magazines, after all; mine was just the ever-evolving deal I had to confront in the shower. And, in this attitude, I was just like every other girl I knew. The fact that (a) I thought my body was the worst, and (b) I spent a lot of time reading magazines about how to make my body less hideous and which terrible things might happen if I didn’t… Well. I never really connected the dots.

But here’s the good news: I grew up. And I found out that my theory was bs. It’s true: bodies are goofy, and never do exactly what you’d like. But the idea that you have to be embarrassed about your own bodily functions? That idea exists solely to make you less confident, so that no one has to encounter you at your full, natural level of awesomeness. Also, it exists because for some reason people think certain facts about the human body are unspeakable. Even though you are going to find out most of those things sooner or later. Preferably sooner! Because I will now share with you several TERRIFYING SECRETS of the HUMAN BODY, such as:

Your period is going to come whenever it wants.

When I was young, I could not wait to get my first period. My older cousins were always talking about theirs, and trading war stories—One time I puked! One time I fainted! One time I puked and fainted, while pooping!—and it sounded so grown-up that I envied them intensely. Why I wanted to experience something that made someone defecate whilst vomiting and passing out, I’ll never understand. But I did. So, when my period hadn’t shown up by my 13th birthday, I did what anyone would do: I lied. For several months, I faked my own period.

I faked it so well, in fact, that I forgot I might actually get one. Imagine my surprise, then, when it showed up. One fine summer evening, after I’d been jumping around on a trampoline and flirting with a boy, someone pointed out to me that I had, indeed, finally gotten my period. I had Become a Woman after all, without even knowing.

Unfortunately, everyone else did know. Because I Became a Woman in skin-tight white cotton leggings. That I had borrowed. From my cousin. In front of whom, a week earlier, I had faked my period.

If you have a uterus, eat well, and are reasonably healthy, you are going to get your first period eventually. But that doesn’t make you a woman. It doesn’t make you anything but a risky candidate for borrowing tight white pants. So you don’t need to obsess. Also, the first few times it does show up, it’s going to be messy. You have to learn to expect it, and deal with it in the way that works best for you. But as long as you have a period, there will be spills, overflows, and stains; none of this is a reason to be humiliated, or even especially surprised. Some jerks might laugh, but guess what? Jerks laugh about things. That is what makes them jerks. They do this so that they can convince the world that the things that happen to everyone have never happened to them, which is blatantly untrue, and also keeps them from ever getting any sympathy when bad stuff happens. So just imagine them writhing in their lonely insecurity every time something unfortunate happens to them, planning how they are going to make so much fun of everyone else it’s ever happened to. What powerful, fulfilling lives these people lead! Oh, and by the way:

Dudes already know what tampons are.

It’s true! Even the most clueless dudes have sources of uterus-related knowledge, such as their sisters, their moms, or health class. Or television, where there are always pretty ladies between the daytime programs talking about how they just love to wear sexy outfits to the club, except “sometimes,” when they feel “not so confident,” but now, thanks to WINGS and RESERVOIRS, they can basically go to the club naked. No matter how oblivious this guy is, he’s probably figured out that they’re not talking about the Hoover Dam.

So, if a guy has female relatives, a health class, or sick days, he knows that uteruses shed their linings, and that various devices such as pads and tampons are used to catch the wave. Unfortunately, he—like you—has also received the message that these things are icky and forbidden, and that he must freak out every time he sees or hears about them. Because if he didn’t, he’d be giving the message that he’s comfortable with his own body, and the bodies of various others. And that’s not going to help him, right? Too many dudes think they’re supposed to go through life horrified by their own and other people’s crotches.

Don’t help to maintain this silliness. If you get embarrassed every time you drop a pad or tampon—and it will happen—or every time a dude looks through your bag for a pen and finds one of these items instead, he gets to pretend that he is ignorant and that you are yucky for one more day. And that’s a day none of us can afford. Sooner or later, he’s going to be 53, and in Congress, and saying that he just doesn’t understand why people NEED birth control, all because no one had the decency to sit him down and tell him to stop pretending he doesn’t know about vaginas.

So: If a dude freaks out about your tampons, do him a favor. Ask him if he would prefer that you didn’t use them. Describe for him what the consequences of that decision might be.

Now that we’ve covered the downstairs furniture, it might be time to mention that:

Your breasts are normal.

I was a skinny kid. I took a lot of dance classes, rode my bike everywhere, and did a lot of swimming; I also went from being the shortest girl in my class to one of the most medium-size, almost overnight. So, I was bony. I was fine with this; “skinny,” after all, was what the world taught me girls should be. But one aspect of my body made me deeply insecure. I complained; I cried; I was sure that no one would ever love me. All because I could not figure out why I, a person with no visible body fat, did not have big breasts. The skinny girls in magazines did! The girls on TV did! The girls in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition definitely did—that was the whole point of that issue. Why not me? WHY WAS I SO UGLY?

To be honest, if you have breasts, the odds are high that your breasts are normal. But the odds are also high that you haven’t seen a normal, unretouched human breast since you were nursing from one. So, when you grow some, they’ll look unfamiliar. Here, therefore, is a short questionnaire to help you determine whether you have normal breasts.

Are you a skinny person with small breasts? Congratulations, they’re proportional to your body; they are normal breasts. Do you have bigger breasts than most of your classmates? Maybe they’re behind you hormonewise, maybe you have more body fat to work with, maybe it’s genetics: in any case, you have normal breasts! Large nipples, small nipples, light nipples, dark nipples, bumpy nipples, smooth nipples, inverted nipples, hair around nipples, bald nipples: all of these are regular features on normal breasts. Is one of your breasts larger than the other? Also very common, for breasts. Also normal. In fact, all of these states are perfectly normal and attractive; none are shameful or ugly. If someone tells you otherwise, tell this person that (a) they don’t know jack, and (b) their opportunity to learn has ended, because they are clearly not worthy of your breasts.

Take care of your breasts. Be nice to them. Buy them pleasing little bra outfits, in the correct size. Do not berate them for their ways. Check in with them! Check them for lumps, to make sure they are staying healthy! Your breasts will thank you, for your appreciation and support. They are some of the most politicized, criticized, fixated-upon, and misunderstood parts of the human body; breasts are really the Hilary Clintons of anatomy. Would you yell at the Secretary of State if you had to carry her around everywhere? Will you ever forgive me for this mental image? Odds are, in both cases, no! So be good to your breasts, before I have to make awkward metaphors about them again. They are just trying to be themselves, after all.

Being transgender is also normal.

When you’re born, people usually take a quick look at the shape of your genitalia, slap an “F” for vagina or “M” for penis on your birth certificate, and expect that one letter to define you for the rest of your life. Astonishingly, despite this super-advanced scientific process, lots of people grow up to realize that their M or F designations don’t fit how they feel inside.

If you get an F label, and actually grow up to feel like a girl, you’re cisgender. Cis means “on the same side”—your body and your gender match. If you’re labeled F, but grow up to realize that you’re in every other way a guy, you are transgender. Trans means “on the opposite side”—your body is “on the opposite side” of your gender. There are trans boys and trans girls, and there are trans people who don’t identify as either boys or girls. All of that is common, normal, and awesome.

But when you grow up with a body that doesn’t match your gender, body insecurity can suck on a whole new level. You might be a guy born with a uterus, who gets periods and breasts despite the fact that he doesn’t want or need them. You might be a girl born with a penis, who has to deal with all the embarrassing or just plain unnatural-feeling effects of that. Either way, getting your body to match your gender will take time, and often medical assistance. Since I’m cis and haven’t experienced this, I asked my friend Queen Emily of the blog Questioning Transphobia about it.

“I think that the main thing is that ‘your body is fine’ doesn’t mean that you should never mindfully change it, as a trans teen,” she said. “Cis society often holds out the idea that if you just had more self-esteem and felt better about your body, then you wouldn’t be trans. That being trans is the worst thing in the world, that hormones will ruin your body—you’ll be ruined, disgusting, mutilated. But being trans isn’t about low self-esteem, it’s about a persistent sense of wrongness about your sexed body and social role, it’s about knowing that you should be something other than what everybody sees … that you are something else. So ‘your body is fine’ to me means, fundamentally, it is fine to be trans. It is fine to go on blockers or hormones. You are fine, and you will be fine.”

See? You’re fine. The smart lady said so. Which is good, because whether you are cis or trans, you are still going to have to learn our next horrifying fact, which is:

Vaginas make noises and so do butts and that’s how things are.

Sorry. Take a big breath, hold it in your mouth by puffing out your cheeks, then try to expel it without opening your mouth. You hear that noise? Yep. Other parts of your body make that noise, too, under similar circumstances. Sex, for the record, can cause similar circumstances. (Also it can cause terrible diseases, so use condoms! And/or other protection appropriate to your personal shenanigans. But back to the main topic.) Yes, it’s true: sex has fart noises in it sometimes. So do gymnastics routines, yoga classes, and Taco Tuesdays in the cafeteria. It’s gross, it’s weird, and it’s how things are. So take a breath, maybe laugh if it seems awkward, then go on with your day. Because sometimes, your body really is embarrassing. Just like the bodies of everybody else, everywhere, forever until the end of time. ♦

47 Comments

  • Sphinx October 10th, 2011 7:19 PM

    Not all guys know what tampons are. Hell, not all guys not what a period is! I was in a pseudo sex ed. class and the guy next to me was like “what? you need to wear that? why? can’t you just hold it in?”
    It was so ridiculous it was actually funny, but when you think about it, it’s just sad.

    • pobody October 21st, 2011 4:38 PM

      In seventh grade I was talking to a guy friend and asked, “but they’re there for a month – don’t the girls get their periods??” and he said “not if they’re virgins.”

  • Marguerite October 10th, 2011 7:22 PM

    Wow – that gushing blood picture is hilarious! – and thank you for putting the image of Hilary Clinton stuck to my chest in my head :D

  • MissGorgeous October 10th, 2011 7:30 PM

    Hello to everyone at RookieMag,
    I wanted to thank you for all of your wonderful, informative, and downright hilarious articles! :) I come everyday to your site, and it always makes my day. To return the favor to you, I’m going to send out a mass e-mail (and Facebook note) to spread the “Rookie-tastic” love. I hope my support makes your day! <3
    Love,
    MissGorgeous

    • Anaheed October 10th, 2011 7:38 PM

      It does! Thank you, MissGorg!!!

  • marineo October 10th, 2011 7:33 PM

    “Take care of your breasts. Be nice to them. Buy them pleasing little bra outfits, in the correct size. Do not berate them for their ways.”
    :D
    this article is fantastic…
    But seriously in seventh grade we asked our male friend if he knew what periods were he said “it’s when your butt bleeds.”
    indeed.

    • Anaheed October 10th, 2011 7:38 PM

      This is sad and yet it made me laugh so hard, oh my god.

  • pineapple October 10th, 2011 7:37 PM

    A couple years ago my brother found a pad I’d left stuck to the wall on accident (some of you might say eww but whatever). According to my mom, he ran out of the bathroom with a terrified face and asked “why is there a bloody diaper on the wall?”

  • Cosmo Beatrix October 10th, 2011 7:42 PM

    vaginas make fart noises when you have sex?
    well thats put a downer on the fantasy sexiness

  • ana October 10th, 2011 7:43 PM

    i cannot describe how awesome this magazine is! loved the article :)

  • asleeptillnoon October 10th, 2011 7:46 PM

    Now, if only everyone on the planet knew this information! Lol

  • junebuglove October 10th, 2011 7:56 PM

    A very true and hilarious article! Loved the shining gif I laughed out loud. I think body hair should be in the article too- according to the entire student body at my school, not shaving your legs is like so totally gross!

    • Pashupati October 10th, 2011 8:15 PM

      Same here. Laughed out loud, would like to read about body hairs… :D

  • M October 10th, 2011 7:59 PM

    I so needed this today. Thank you.

  • Pashupati October 10th, 2011 8:12 PM

    Re: trans.
    I actually thought I was cisgendered and there was just “something else” that “quite didn’t stick”, that I was perturbed by having breasts because of something linked to social phobia, thinking they seemed superfluous because of social views on them (well, but it’s also about that too, the way society sees breasted people). I thought that because I liked things coded as female in the society (fashion, mainly, puppies), a penis would have bothered me as much as breasts most of the time, didn’t occured to me that a guy liking fashion just wouldn’t make him a gal.
    Then after somebody told/teached me my views on gender were wrong somewhere, I actually did more research, and currently I identify as genderneutral.
    Also, I remembered how when I was a toddler I just wanted to be considered not a girl, and not a boy either.
    But it’s quite difficult to understand, and somehow now that I understand what I am personally, I feel more contrived in my society assigned gender role; before it was just something that quite didn’t stick, now I’d like to be able to tell it and not be automatically gendered a girl/woman by random people.
    But I like wearing bras, and somehow it would be better if my chest was totally flat than to wear these? (I’m not talking of bound flatness)
    I don’t feel neutral everyday, too, rarely I’m more f, and sometimes I’m more m, sometimes I feel androgynous, but most times I’m neutral, if only my body would change dependingly.

  • madelaine October 10th, 2011 8:41 PM

    Wow. I was so impressed reading this. This is something every young woman and man should be made to read.
    Thanks
    x

  • Llamalu October 10th, 2011 10:07 PM

    What a beautifully written article! Congrats on the wonderful blog…keep it up!

  • Jamie October 10th, 2011 10:37 PM

    my nipples are the same color as my bewbs and they are also inverted so i basically don’t have nipples. seeing my boobs is like a free comedy show. by the time someone is already seeing them it is TOO LATE FOR THEM TO TURN BACK.

    also this article ruled.

  • Jamie October 10th, 2011 10:37 PM

    the purpose of the previous comment was for everyone to feel more comfortable about their weird boobs, not for everyone to get a mental picture of me naked. sorry about that.

  • hm20 October 10th, 2011 10:40 PM

    HEY ROOKIE PEOPLE I HOPE YOU GO TO SLEEP AT NIGHT KNOWING YOU’RE MAKING THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE!

  • sobrina October 10th, 2011 10:51 PM

    One time my brother was helping me look for something, and he picked up a tampon (unused, in the wrapper) on accident and FREAKED OUT.

    He’s 27.

    So, sometimes people just don’t get the message that having a body that does stuff is acceptable.

  • girlhero October 10th, 2011 10:57 PM

    does rookie read my mind? … I’m not even kidding, I’m, like, having personal drama over queefing during sex three days ago. GOD, YOU’RE LIKE MY BEST FRIEND.

  • fullmetalguitar October 10th, 2011 11:12 PM

    @sobrina: I think it is a perfectly natural thing for all male relatives to be completely freaked about about their female relatives having working sexual bits. I always find it charming and funny!

    Also everything in this article is totally spot-on, especially the bit about someone not being worth your time (or boobs) if they try to make you feel bad or gross. Personally my boyfriend is really great about the whole vaginas making noises during sex thing, which I always feel more awkward about than he does. I just can’t get over how weird it feels. But it only bothers me for a second because he’s so relaxed about it! Despite the comfort level, we still prefer to look away when one of us is blowing our nose / cleaning up after sexual shenanigans, we do like some privacy! XD

  • blahlauren October 10th, 2011 11:21 PM

    Ahh thanks for this! Made me feel a lot more comfortable with how my body’s functioning as of late :)

  • Dahlia October 10th, 2011 11:21 PM

    we need more articles on how bodies are normal, like about thighs or body hair or noses or something. :)

  • GeometryStudent October 10th, 2011 11:27 PM

    I don’t baby guys who don’t know why I suddenly start carrying a purse for a week every month. If they ask, they are suddenly aware that the reason they can’t look in my purse is because all it contains are tampons. This is why I don’t have many guy friends.

  • Liz October 11th, 2011 1:06 AM

    i wish something like this existed when i was younger, but hey – i love it even now!

    thanks so much for this article. it made my laugh in a really good way.

  • besty October 11th, 2011 8:21 AM

    airbourne toxic events! is the more polite term

  • M. Kitka October 11th, 2011 8:45 AM

    I shouted out loud “I LOVE THIS SO MUCH!” Must share with my sister now so she can understand why she needs to love RookieMag too!
    BTW: This is my gold standard of awesome. If I shout out loud about something and startle the cat that is the most awesome thing. :-)

  • ahferrfloeck October 11th, 2011 10:04 AM

    Why was there no Rookie when I had those problems.
    Honestly, you’re doing a great job.

  • Lifeguard of Love October 11th, 2011 11:34 AM

    Just wanted to throw it out there that my periods have been messy for 16 years now, not just the first few, haha.

  • Demmy October 11th, 2011 12:00 PM

    This post is very true and it actually makes me love myself more :)

  • natasha October 11th, 2011 5:46 PM

    Lol, I remember everyone always thought I was lying about my period, when I wasn’t!
    I didn’t get my period until I was 16 and I never was embarrassed about not having it for so long or anything, but people thought I must be too embarrassed to admit that I had my period, because OBVIOUSLY every girl starts their period at age 12. Yup.

  • RiceKrysspies October 11th, 2011 5:58 PM

    This is amazingly funny and truthful. I wish this was around when I was younger!

    I would also like to add two things:

    Do not be afraid if you get your period when you are young! I was 11 and I thought my world was ending until my lovely medically trained Mum explained that sometimes, that’s just the way it is. Also, your friends will probably totally think you’re cool because you are Grown Up.

    If someone bothers you, TELL THEM OFF. Do not hesitate to let people know that they are behaving inappropriately. But say it, do not hit. I hit a kid once for looking down my shirt. I was only lucky that it wasn’t on school grounds..

  • renata October 11th, 2011 6:15 PM

    This article is like that one American Girl book our moms all bought us at 11 because they felt like they had to/didn’t want to deal with it–BUT BETTER.

    Also, this makes me feel less weird about actually being okay with my body. I can admit my boobs are of the hefty lefty/slighty righty variety, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to shake them in the shower and watch them do their little synchronized rave dance.

  • anastasia October 12th, 2011 1:03 AM

    I love this article.

    Also: do I think it’s funny when boys freak out re:menstruation & related things? Yes. Do I wish they wouldn’t then look at me like I was some sort of freak for having to menstruate in the first place? Uh, yeah.

    I also wish they would stop making that stupid “I don’t trust anything that bleeds for more than three days without dying” joke. UGH.

  • Lily October 12th, 2011 3:03 AM

    hahah this article made me laugh so much! thanks all you guys at rookie, your hilarious and i love reading this website!

  • M. Kitka October 12th, 2011 6:53 AM

    @ Anastasia:
    That is a truly wretched “joke” (in that it made me wretch).
    Here’s a good come-back though:
    “Yeah, well I don’t trust anything so weak that it dies after bleeding for only 3 days…” And if you’re feeling extra nasty you can give him a withering look and say “Shall I try it on you?”
    Ooooh. I’m feeling wicked today! :-)

  • Sunshine October 12th, 2011 8:29 AM

    BEST. ARTICLE. EVER. Truly, if this article was a boy, I would marry that boy and have twelve children. :] (TRUE STORY)

  • cancercowboy October 12th, 2011 1:55 PM

    this article is bottled truth

  • Pauli October 12th, 2011 2:55 PM

    ¡Hola!
    Soy de Chile, América del Sur.
    Me encanta tu sitio web y lo leo siempre. Aveces
    es un poco difícil porque solamente se un poco de ingles pero lo que no se lo traduzco :)

    Ame este artitulo es muy divertido y verdadero.

    Saludos :)

  • aliaras October 12th, 2011 9:38 PM

    Oh man, I discovered vagina fart noises *entirely* on accident in about sixth grade. And used them to win cred with boys for being able to fart on command.

    I’m not sure if anyone else knew what I was doing — I certainly didn’t, and didn’t expect I would rediscover them during sex. But it was a fun time.

  • Milla October 13th, 2011 4:56 PM

    i’m in love!!!every single article is just…. life! love it!! hugs!

  • PosedbyModels October 14th, 2011 9:02 AM

    For all of you who are hearing about the vagina noises for the first time: yes. It’s real. And I totally did not know that was a thing until it happened (during sexy times! with another person!) and I was like WHAT THE EVER LOVING DKJFASLKDFJA; WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME.

    Luckily I didn’t actually yell that, which would really have sent the “omg awkward” meter through the roof, but anyway. Now you know. It’s better this way.

  • septemberme October 22nd, 2011 1:15 PM

    Such an honest and funny article. Genuinely made me have a proper chuckle to myself throughout. Thankyou xxxxxx

  • oriana April 1st, 2013 12:25 PM

    Love it. I wish that when I was younger somebody told me that ‘having a body’ was normal. I was part of the population who felt like I was weird for having a heavy period sometimes, or that growing hips and getting stretch marks meant that something was wrong with me. (Needless to say, I read too much Teen Vogue and Seventeen). My mom thought she was being helpful by just buying me magazines instead of talking to me. When I have daughters I’m going to make sure that they know they are normal and beautiful and human and nothing is wrong with their bodies <3