The o.b. shortage is coming to an end with supplies of non-applicator plugs re-upping in stores around the country. For me, the panic that drove women to buy boxes of overpriced tampons on eBay was solace for a shameful secret: I was 29 years old and had never gone to a store and bought menstrual products.
I should have been able to march up to any drug store counter and proclaim my status as a fertile female. A lifelong feminist with a minor in Women’s Studies, I was raised Catholic but had long been able to buy condoms and Plan B without shame. Phobias don’t care about your politics.
Growing up with an older sister, I never had to ask for period products. They appeared in our shared bathroom and were replenished mysteriously every few months. My mom and I never had a “talk” — I heard all about it from Roseanne Barr and Phylicia Rashad on TV. The college women’s center had a supply of organic alternatives free for the taking. After I graduated and moved to New York, I would “forget” until it was too late and have to borrow from friends; then Fresh Direct came into my life and I had them delivered along with my other groceries. I had a deal with my last roommate that she would buy all the feminine supplies in exchange for me cleaning the bathroom.
There came a point when I needed to take a stand. To say it loud: “I bleed and I’m proud.” I was almost 30 and I had yet to purchase my own tampons. Recently at Trader Joe’s I made a snap decision. Spying a box of organic cotton tampons on sale, I tucked them into my basket among the multi-vitamins and the free-range chicken. I am a grownup, I told myself. There is nothing to be afraid of.
Warning! When an item doesn’t scan correctly at Trader Joe’s, the cashier yells and waves down a manager. Just thought I’d let you know. Of everything I’d put in my shopping cart, only the tampons came up without a price.
I rolled my eyes at the young guy with hipster glasses ringing me up. “I knew this would happen,” I muttered, flushing red.
He shrugged, un-phased. “It’s okay. I have two sisters.”
His familiarity with the female reproductive system was not making me feel better. The manager was nowhere to be found and I was holding up the line. Could the disgruntled shoppers behind me see that box of tampons was to blame?
“If you’d like, you can go check the price yourself,” the cashier suggested, sensing my discomfort.
Grateful, I ran to the aisle to confirm my box of absorbent cotton was $3.99. We laughed it off together, but my face was still red.
So I’ve got a new plan. I think I’m going to order myself a Luna Cup. If I need to translate my embarrassment to an environmental stance, so be it.