SCENE: It's Thursday night at your local dive. You're standing at the bar, trying not to groove too obviously to the T. Swift piping over the speakers and chuckling fondly at your friend across the room. As you stand on tiptoes to get the bartender's attention, you knock elbows with someone doing the same thing.
Turning to apologize, you stop. Gulp. Your mouth is suddenly dry. He's got wide shoulders, his nose crinkles when he laughs, he's wearing a "Club Sandwiches Not Seals" T-shirt that's just a little ragged around the collar, and he's smiling at you like you're the only thing on his mind, baby. You wince. You grin. You chat. You laugh. Two hours later, you're going back to his place.
He turns the lights down low, the dim sounds of Kevin Devine filtering over his fancy speakers. He leans in to kiss you, stubble scraping across your mouth, then stops. Exhales. Says, "Baby, I have a confession."
STD? No condoms? Girlfriend? You bite your lip, waiting. He glances away, then looks back at you with those big, soulful eyes. "I," he starts, then huffs a laugh. "I have wrinkly balls."
Your heart stops. "What?" you demand. "No. But you're -- you're beautiful."
He covers his face with one broad hand, tugging down the waistband of his boxer-briefs with the other. Lord a'mighty, it's true. That sac looks like a pair of figs on a sidewalk in July.
"Do you think you could love me anyway?" he murmurs. "Love me, despite my -- condition?"
You look at him. Those high cheekbones, that thriving career in animal shelter architecture. Maybe, someday, somehow -- but no.
"I wish I were a better girl," you say, and his well-muscled shoulders slump. "But I'm just not strong enough for that kind of heartache." You gather your things and make for the door. Behind you, he sits, sadly tugging at the loose, saggy skin of his testicles.
"I knew I should've listened to George Clooney," you think you hear him say, before the door shuts behind you forever.
I'll give you a five-minute break to dry your tears. Heartbreaker, I know.
Back? OK, great. Hi. Sorry about that. I just wanted to take some time to maybe get into the heads of the dudes who have apparently been inspired by George Clooney to pay hundreds of dollars to have their ballsacks "ironed."
According to celebrity beautician Nurse Jamie, the thin skin of the scrotum is susceptible to unsightly crows' feet, as well as skin tags, ingrown hair discoloration, and general deflatedness. Her solution, which she calls "Tightening the Tackle," lasts about a month and is guaranteed to make your nads as tight and firm as plums. Plus, Nurse Jamie says it's not just celebs who come in looking for a ball-buff -- CEOs and bankers pay on average $900 to maintain the illusion that their family jewels still glitter with all the luster of a twenty-something's.
I just have one question, really. How the fuck can you tell what "attractive" balls are supposed to look like? Balls are horrifying.
Actually, let's expand that. All genitals are horrifying.
Don't get me wrong. I am pleasantly surprised that it's cis dudes for once that are being held to some bizarre, unattainable aesthetic ideal, after all that nonsense with the labiaplasty and the vagina lightening cream and countless other beauty "treatments" that capitalize on the idea that every part of a woman's body is up for commodification. I don't want dudes to be insecure, but if anybody's gotta take a turn on the Irrational Body Self-Hatred Wheel, might as well be cis men for a change, right? (Sorry, guys.)
And I'm all for those feel-good albums and books and galleries showing what vaginas and clit hoods look like on a variety of bodies. People with vaginas in particular seem to be taught from an early age that they're not our own to examine or to take pleasure in, which leaves a lot of us with the idea that our genitals are somehow "abnormal" for being asymmetrical or interestingly colored or, yes, wrinkly. The more opportunity people have to see that there's no such thing as a "perfect" bathing-suit bit, the better.
I don't understand, though, why those movements always have to be cached in these weird "Your genitalia is beautiful" narratives. Because, frankly, I don't think that's true. For anyone.
Let's face it, y'all. Genitals are fucking weird looking. I don't care what you've got going in your pants; I am always going to think your bits look like some sort of sad sea creature from Planet Doom.
The first time I looked at my vagina with a hand mirror, Eve Ensler-style, I screamed a little bit. Henceforth, I affectionately referred to it as my Crotch-Kraken. I still got my hand up in there all the time, and I've never been shy about flashing it around to people. I even got a little decoration for it a few years ago. I do not, however, labor under any illusions that I am harboring a tiny Cy Twombly painting between my thighs. That is fine with me.
It all goes back to this idea that people have to be good-looking to hold value. "Your body is beautiful" is held up to be this ultimate compliment, like it doesn't matter what function it holds so long as somebody thinks it's hot, even if that somebody is you.
It's not enough that we're carrying around these amazing instruments of reproduction and pleasure and excrement; we have to marvel at their beauty, too.
In my opinion, this actually kind of feeds into the whole unrealistic idealization of genitalia trend that's driving labia surgery and Tackle Tightening and all the rest of that nonsense. Because if having beautiful genitalia is the ultimate goal, then having ugly genitalia is something to be reviled and fixed, sometimes by any means necessary. Meanwhile, celebrity beauticians like Nurse Jamie can put another down payment on their Testicle Palace.
If you truly believe that your vagina or dick or whatever is gorgeous and that makes you happy, then own it. More power to you. But I personally think it's way more fun to just revel in how unique and awesome and interesting and disgusting everyone's genitals are rather than trying to elevate them to some magical source of aesthetic wonder.
It doesn't mean I don't like 'em or (more importantly) think the people hauling them around aren't worthy of value and respect.
Balls are ugly. Dicks are ugly. Vaginas and labia and clits and taints and buttholes are ugly. I mean, they're hunks of slightly damp loose skin, people, not the Andes. And that's OK.
Kate has an ugly vagina and an even uglier Twitter account: @katchatters.