Jaci Stephen: 'If you can slice it, snip it, or lop it off, there's someone to help you'

Way Out West
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The Independent Online

When a TV crew films you undergoing colonic irrigation, it's hard to be embarrassed by anything ever again. So, having endured this some years ago, I am unlike most Brits in that I have no compunction discussing my bodily functions and fluids with a complete stranger at the Tesco pharmacy counter, if it means quick symptomatic relief.

In this, I am very at home in LA, where no one shares the British reticence for keeping private matters private. If you can slice it, snip it, de-odorise it, or lop it off, there is someone or something to help you reach your goal. I have had women whip out their nipples in bars to show me their surgeons' handiwork (I used to do the same at Cardiff Blues Rugby Club, but for entirely different reasons); men will chat openly about Botox, liposuction and penis enlargements.

Even more impressive than the cosmetic surgery industry is that dedicated to feminine hygiene products. Ye gods! They take up a whole aisle in my local Rite Aid pharmacy. I was in there for three hours on my first visit: it was like furnishing a small house (albeit a small house in Beverly Hills 90210).

This, however, is just one aspect of the American obsession with BWH (Below the Waist Hygiene). Already, the Changing Rooms makeover of my internal condo has attracted a lot of attention from British women, whose complaints about their shortcomings in the downstairs flora and fauna department have been met with dumbfounded astonishment by Britain's National Health Service.

If you don't have an infection and all your tests come back negative, the NHS basically doesn't know what to do with you, short of offering you a peg to place on your nose every time you go to the bathroom. Now, thanks to Rite-Aid, I am receiving emails from my friends in the UK, asking for advice, and I have become a sort of one-woman show for feminine hygiene. I might even take it to Edinburgh.

As with cosmetic surgery, it's not just women who benefit from the BWH obsession. This week, in my gym, there I was happily watching Las Vegas on the TV as I hit my fourth mile (Tom Selleck has taken over the casino, by the way; he smokes fat cigars and has yet to get his kit off), when a commercial caught my attention and instantly usurped problems of the feminine kind for one of a more general nature: the over-active bladder. I just can't wait to discuss it with the guys.

Overactivebladder.com was really the wrong ad for me to be watching, as I have to leave the treadmill every half-mile to relieve myself of the tea I drink before leaving for the gym in the morning. Having always claimed to suffer from a "weak bladder" and constantly been told that, no, I just have a small one, maybe this problem, like so many others, was also about to be miraculously solved by my moving continents (or incontinents, however you liked to look at it).

I learned from the website that people with OAB rush to the bathroom a lot (yes, that's me), and get up to go to the bathroom in the night (me again). When I was drinking alcohol, I never used to get up in the night, as I was generally comatose five minutes after arriving home; if I did get up, it was only to check out the other side of the bed to assess what monstrosity I had managed to pick up en route. These days, though, I do get up, but that is generally because for every glass of wine I used to drink, I now have three mugs of tea before going to bed.

I took the test on overactivebladder.com (something tells me that title is never going to make a movie), and, apart from my having to leave the treadmill and Tom Selleck every seven minutes, don't think I have the condition. Something that did interest me, though, was the news that, in terms of discomfort, men scored six and women scored eight, meaning that men have a higher threshold for BW bother. Really? Go to a rugby international, stand behind the beer tents and see how high their bother threshold is there.

But at least my excellent test results assured me that there are some products I won't have to buy from Rite-Aid; and that, in my continued pursuit of the American Dream, it isn't necessarily going to be a wet one.

Read more of Jaci Stephen's blog, LA Not So Confidential, at lanotsoconfidential.blogspot.com