Leah McFall: Confessions of a Kegels drop-out

McFall's regrets include her pelvic floor and her poor attitude that day in English class.
Illustration: Alistair Hughes

McFall's regrets include her pelvic floor and her poor attitude that day in English class.

It's my own fault, of course, because I never did my pelvic floor exercises. What do the Americans call them? Kegels.

I never did my Kegels, even though you're supposed to – discreetly, at the traffic lights – to return your cooch to trampoline-bounce tightness after having children. Clench! Release! Clench! Release! Now breathe. (Can I just call time on anyone who ever says, "Now breathe"? There's nothing more patronising than being told how to inhale and exhale. I include yoga teachers in this. Anyone who says "now breathe" without a trace of irony is right up there, in my opinion, with the people who lean just-popped slices of toast against each other in the shape of little tents, to help them cool more quickly.)

I suppose if I had any regrets, not doing my Kegels would be one of them because nobody in their right mind wants to play Russian roulette with their dignity every time they sneeze.

Doing Kegels makes me feel queasy. I don't know why; perhaps it's because I don't want to be reminded of my cervix while I'm in morning traffic. I'm not the only one who feels this way. Recently I was having a stand-up coffee in the kitchen with another mum-of-two.

* Leah McFall: No going back
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Leah McFall: Crush landing


"I can't do pelvic floor exercises," I told her, between sips. "They make me feel sick. Do they make you feel sick?"

"Gah! Ugh," she replied, indicating that they did. We drained our coffee, set down our cups and squelched off in opposite directions.

Regrets are very trendy now (not quite salad-in-an-Agee-jar trendy, but getting there). Not only are you supposed to have them but you're encouraged to tell everyone what they are, usually on the internet, which has become a confessional for 21st-century people who regularly trash the 10 Commandments but don't have time for church. 

There's the Twitter account @TrumpRegrets, where Americans who voted for him can openly admit he's as presidential as a sack of cats. Here's a genuine example: So sorry I voted for you. Please chill out. As a medical doctor I sincerely believe you need Ritalin or a psych evaluation.

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Then there's the trend for anonymous confessions online. There's a site where people post their secrets as dinky little postcards. Here's a genuine example: The neater your handwriting, the better care I take of your insurance policy.

Here's one of my regrets: I regret telling a relief teacher, in sixth form, that I wasn't enjoying Sons and Lovers. She was quite a severe, older lady, with no patience for mediocrity. Shame, then, that when she asked us how we were finding the novel I raised my hand and said, "It's boring."

"Only the boring get bored," she replied, briskly; and even though the book seemed to me just pages of burning coal, and depressing set-pieces about a miner's marriage, I felt dimly ashamed of myself.

Later – like, 25 years later – I discovered that teacher had been a world-renowned scholar of Shakespeare. If only I'd known! But I was a sulky teen in a hot classroom just at that moment, determined to learn nothing.

If we'd been reading Lady Chatterley's Lover it would have been a different story. She'd have had 25 teenage girls sitting brightly to attention, each of their books dog-eared, with questions in the margins. A forbidden affair between the lady of the manor and her rough gamekeeper, rolling about in the woods, pausing only to stuff wildflowers in each other's nethers? Sign me up!

Still, D H Lawrence persists in being annoying. For example Mellors, the gamekeeper, has the hammiest accent in the history of western art, and that's including Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. Plus, he nicknames his penis.

Can you imagine the squawking if Lady Chatterley made the school curriculum? All those worried parents, cramming into the hall to object to the board of trustees?

"Thank you for coming," says the portly board chair, calming the disquiet. "Thanks to the PTA for providing refreshments and also the Pippins, for the Girl Guide biscuits. We have plain ones, and chocolate ones.

"First, something of a surprising development; Mr Mellors has something to say."

A rugged-looking spunk enters the hall. He is cut like a Muay Thai instructor.

"How do, lassies," he says, to a collective murmur. "What's all this bloomin' foos aboot? It's but me old John Thomas, in a book." To demonstrate its harmlessness, he drops his long-johns. Awe ripples over the crowd. Towards the back, somebody's head blows off.

"Thank you, Mr Mellors; your point is well made," says the board chair. "Perhaps we should break now, for snacks."

She extends him a plate. "Pig-in-a-blanket?" 

 - Stuff.co.nz


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