The Mysterious Ailment of ‘Cotton Crotch’

One drawback to having a ‘thing’ that your mom has is that you look back on your life and try to remember all the ‘things’ you’ve heard your mom complain about, especially when she complained about them with her sisters, so that you can prepare for the eventuality that you will get that ‘thing’ as well.

But once, when I was young and eavesdropping, I hear them discussing a mysterious ailment they all suffered from occasionally–cotton crotch. This ailment was decidedly unpleasant. It was caused specifically by wearing constricting clothing, in general, or underpants to bed, which is why my one aunt had to stop doing that immediately. And, if you got a case? a bout? of cotton crotch, you just had to wait for your period to clear it up, because nothing else worked.

I couldn’t ask my mom about cotton crotch because then she’d have known I was eavesdropping. And then I just assumed that, since I slept wearing underpants to bed, someday it would happen to me and then I’d know.

But it never has. And now my mom is an old woman. And I still don’t know.

I tried looking it up on Urban Dictionary, but the only entry they had for cotton crotch was as a phenomenon that happens when your tampon is too absorbent–which would seem not to be the case with my family’s cotton crotch, since theirs only comes around when you’re not menstruating. I know your mind (unless you know my mom) has immediately jumped to some sex thing, like my mom and her sisters are sitting around talking about what happens when you just can’t get wet with your husband. But remember, my mom only married into the Phillipses. She’s not uncouth. And my mom and her sisters are pretty earnest. If they were having issues with sex, it’s unlikely they’d be talking in metaphor about it. (It’s also highly unlikely that my one aunt, especially, wouldn’t have checked for children before sex talk.)

So, I feel fairly confident that it must be, in its own way, something straightforward and not something they’d be mortified to be discovered talking about. But I am still a chicken about calling my mom and asking her.

I could be, as a person familiar with pot, leaping to the conclusion that cotton crotch, like cottonmouth, has to do with unbearable dryness. I suppose it could not be the case. But I’m then having a hard time coming up with other things it might be. Something common? Something unpleasant? Something dealing with your crotchal area? Seems like maybe a yeast infection, but I know for a fact I’ve also heard them talking about having yeast infections, so I am confident that’s not it. Like I said, they’re earnest. And they don’t have cutsy names they use to cover up things–I had a vulva and a vagina my whole life. She never used other terms for them. So, I don’t think she’d not straight up call a yeast infection a yeast infection, if that’s what it was. Especially not around my aunt, who’s a nurse.

So, no, it must be some condition that doesn’t quite have a medical equivalent, I think. But what?

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7 thoughts on “The Mysterious Ailment of ‘Cotton Crotch’

  1. This is going to bother me until either I figure it out or they tell you and you tell us. My guess would have been falsely attributed yeast infections, but you seem to have ruled that out. Hmmm. And I’ve *never* heard the term before.

  2. Okay, so I called her and admitted I’d been eavesdropping on her when I was little and asked her and she got completely flustered and said “I don’t know.” And I said, “Like you don’t remember what it is?” And she was like “Oh, I know what it is, I just don’t know if I can bring myself to tell you!” And then she told me she’d call me back when she could ditch my dad!

    I am dying!

  3. Now she’s claiming that cotton crotch is just a yeast infection. But why she had to take seven hours to come up with that story, I’m not sure. She said I could ask my aunts. I think she’s calling my bluff.

  4. I’ll throw my midwestern 2 cents in here and say that it was bluntly explained to me as a child to be–judging from the terminology used–swelling and numbness of the vulva and clitoris. What’s basically “vaginitis”; it tends to be worse during the latter half of the cycle because the inflammatory hormones are higher. Unlike yeast infections or BV it doesn’t necessarily have abnormal discharge. The period clears it up because–just like breast tenderness–the hormones shift. (I was told it was called cotton crotch not because of cotton underwear but because the numb vulva feels “cottony”)

  5. Maybe it’s “cotton” in the same way as a cottonmouth snake? I know it’s gross, but you’ve got your hand mirror, you look in and see white discharge. Voila–cottoncrotch.

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