Cast your mind back, if you will, to the Sex and the City episode about SSB (secret single behaviour) – the self-care you indulge in when you're by yourself and have no partner to answer to. The most shameful SSB the writers could pull out of their hat back in 2002 was that Charlotte, when she was really and truly alone, liked to stare at her pores in the mirror for an hour every night.
Just stare. Not even squeeze.
In real life, women are much grosser than that. Women fart and have discharge and pop pimples and leave tampons in for too long – not that you'd know from what they're willing to admit outside their close friendship groups. Although things are changing, for a long time, men just did not want to know about women's bodily functions, which made women ashamed to talk about the so-called 'grosser' aspects of their bodies. At university, I was friends with a group of boys who loved their poo so much, they kept a blog where they rated pictures of each other's faeces. Really. However, when it came to their girlfriends' bodily functions, they were very much of the lalala-girls-don't-poo-fingers-in-the-ears mindset. Don't even get me started on what their 19-year-old boy brains thought about periods.
Illustrator Tallulah Pomeroy finds this contradiction immensely frustrating, especially after reading the no-holds-barred Wetlands by Charlotte Roche (read it), and started a closed Facebook group for women to share their most 'shameful' hygiene admissions. She got so many varied responses that she started to draw them. She put them in a 'zine, which then became a book: A Girl's Guide To Personal Hygiene.
"It wasn't nosiness," she says of her motivation to set up the Facebook group in the first place. "I thought if we could admit that we are pretty gross, then maybe we could relax a little."
She admits that, as the group grew and evolved into a place where women would ask deeply personal "PLEASE IS IT JUST ME" questions, she wavered a little. "I almost wished I could close the lid again," she says. "I'd been made uncomfortable in my new position as a receptacle for other people's dirty stories but it was exactly that sense of shame I wanted to combat."
The way the women were sharing spurred her on. "They gave me confidence, and I didn't want to let them down."
Tallulah has shared a few illustrations and confessions from A Girl's Guide... and they make for a hilarious read. Click through to see a few of our favourites, then why not join the group and share a few confessions of your own?
A Girl's Guide To Personal Hygiene: True Stories, Illustrated, by Tallulah Pomeroy, is out now on Scribe. Catch Tallulah in person at The Hoxton, Shoreditch for An Evening With Tallulah Pomeroy on February 12th, 2019.