Progress happens when all the factors that make for it are ready, and then it is inevitable.
I have never claimed to have my finger on the pulse of popular culture. I probably had my best shot of zoning into the zeitgeist during the years I spent living within walking distance of all my favourite music venues and theatres in central London. But even then I think my tastes were a bit too obscure to really get what was going on. And in the last four years, living sans TV first in Israel and then in hippest Switzerland… Yep, you’re right. Not a bloody chance. If you want to know what’s hip, ask a hipster.
Often I have to rely on the freelance subtitling work I do to haul me kicking and screaming into the modern day. And I have to admit that sometimes, when I’m hauled here, I want to block my ears and screw my eyes up and shout, “La, la, la, la, la!” until someone makes it go away and lets me crawl back to my happy place. Because in that happy place, I’ve never heard of The Only Way Is Essex, and nobody expects me to know how to spell the word vajazzle…
Yes, in the last few weeks, when I’ve not been scaling mountains, entertaining lovely friends or writing this blog, I’ve been sitting at my desk working on yet another “reality” TV show that’s given reality a very bad name. I’ve subtitled conversations in which people didn’t know where in London they might find a place called “North London”. I’ve endured about a gazillion monosyllabic exchanges between two sub-humans called Mark and Lauren, who are too moronic to realise that their matching idiocy means they’re obviously made for each other. And to my horror I’ve learned that a vajazzle (and this is a word that even I, in my cultural no-man’s land, have heard floating about in the last number of years) is a Swarovski crystal vaginal decoration. To use a good TOWIE expression… What the actual fuck?
But I have to admit that (shockingly) I have learned something as a result of hearing this word. (I’m afraid that the rest of you, you know, the ones who haven’t been living on planet Gen-Jerusalem for the last four years, will already know this, but for me it’s news so bear with me…)
In the same way that I’d heard the word vajazzle and failed to know its meaning or origins, I’d also been aware of the word vajayjay and failed to know anything about that.
But in being shaken down from my happy Sound of Music hilltop, I’ve learned that vajayjay was first popularised by an episode of Grey’s Anatomy and has since become pretty much mainstream. And I think, weirdly, that I’m kind of comfortable with that (and not just because it apparently has Queen Oprah’s official stamp of approval.)
Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, is right when she says that “what we don’t say becomes a secret, and secrets often create shame and fear and myths.” And that’s a powerful argument for calling a vagina a vagina. But the fact is that like it or not (and just for the record, I don’t like it), we are still squeamish and oversensitive about a wonderful thing that’s in the possession of 50% of the world’s population. Vajayjay seems to me to be a fairly acceptable transition word. If we can go from silence to vayjayjay to vagina before, say, 2015, then I’ll be forced to admit that the people at broadcast standards and practices, whose puritanism inadvertently brought the word vajayjay into popular use, have accidently done us all a favour.
But hey, since I’m so far behind the zeitgeist, perhaps I’ve missed the fact that people have already become comfortable with the word vagina… Hooray! Hey, Eve Ensler, apparently your work here is done!