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5 Things I’ve Learned About Tampons (In Relation To My Own Vagina) On The 20th Anniversary Of My Period

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This morning, as the dull ache of cramps woke me from my slumber, I realized something kind of momentous. I have had my period for exactly 20 years. I mean, almost exactly, because I don’t know the exact date or time that my Aunt Flow first came to visit, but I do know it was at the beginning of the school year, before I turned 13. I turn 33 in November, so, yep, that makes for 20 bloody years. That’s a lot of tampons. Over the years, I’ve learned a few things about myself specifically in relation to tampons and their usage. Let me share them with you.

1. That I am not my own applicator. For the first few years of having my period, I used pads, just like my mom. She was kind of a hippie and I think she was big on allowing the body do what it wanted which was shedding the uterine lining and tampons kind of held up that process. (She was also into using this weird crystal thing instead of deodorant at the time, just to give you some context.) Anyway, eventually I decided to start using tampons. They took some getting used to, obviously, as I was an untouched flower and had never been big on bike or horseback riding. (This is my delicate way of saying my hymen was fairly intact.) But one thing I have never been able to get used to? Tampons without an applicator, like the ones made by o.b. I simply cannot use them. I liken it to a person not being able to tickle themselves. I just do not have the ability to be my own applicator.

2. That I never have a tampon available when I need one. Last night, I got my period at 11 p.m. The box of tampons in my bathroom was empty. Fuck, I thought. I started rifling through desk drawers, the pockets of my bathrobe, and inside the suitcase I used on my last trip. Nada. By 11:30, I had a broken Swiffer handle in my hands and was using the end to reach purses stored on the top shelf of my closet, loose change and old receipts scattering on the floor as I brought each one down. Not a tampon to be found, likely because I did something similar last month. This is a low moment, I thought to myself. I very rarely have a tampon available when I need one, so — be warned, potential new female friends! — I am always borrowing or snagging them from other people. In fact, if Jessica checks her desk drawer, she may be surprised to discover her stash is somewhat depleted. Sorry, Jess!

3. Sometimes it is socially acceptable to borrow a tampon from a neighbor. Last night, as I made peace with the fact that I would have to go with Plan B — put on shoes and go to the corner deli to buy tampons from the guy who always hits on me somewhat inappropriately — I tweeted (that’s how much I was putting off going — I was actually tweeting about this), “I wish it was socially acceptable to knock on your neighbor’s door and borrow a tampon.” And then, like lightening, a neighbor who I’ve become friendly with, who happens to follow me on Twitter, tweeted me back! “It is!” she said. Because I know her first and last name, and would be delighted to return the favor, I took her up on her offer. I didn’t even have to put on regular pants.

4. That some tampons fit my vagina better than others. A few months ago, on one of those days where I didn’t have any tampons of my own, I borrowed from Ami instead of stealing from Jessica (or going to the store). Maybe this is TMI (this whole post is maybe TMI, but whatever), but when I put it in, it didn’t feel right. I’ve been putting in tampons forever, I thought. How the hell did I just do it wrong? It was in so … strangely … that I had to take it out. Dejected, head hanging in shame, I walked back to Ami’s desk. “Can I have another?” I asked. “Why, what happened?” she asked. “I don’t know,” I said. “I think I put it in weird. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll get this one right.” Back to the bathroom I went. And it happened again. This time, I decided it wasn’t me. It was the tampons, the kind Ami uses is not my brand of choice and, quite frankly, I don’t think they were made for my vagina’s special shape. I say “special” because “weird” sounds so negative.

5. That I do not need a bag, thank you very much. When I was a teenager, I was embarrassed about buying tampons and pads. I once was so terrified of being seen in the feminine care aisle that I darted in, grabbed the first box I saw, and headed straight to the cash register, hoping to get out of there before someone I knew saw me. If they see me, they’ll knowwwwww I am bleeding from between my legs and that would be so embarrassing, was my rationale. Well, when I arrived at the register and bravely looked up to pay however much I owed, I realized that I had grabbed a box of Depends instead. LESSON LEARNED. Not so long ago, I was picking up some necessities from the drugstore, including a box of Tampax, and the woman ringing me up put the tampons in a paper bag before adding them to the plastic bag with the rest of my stuff. You know, so that I could carry my girl corks discretely. “Ma’am, I don’t need the paper bag, thank you,” I said. If the same thing happens today, when I go to buy tampons so I don’t have to borrow from my neighbor again, I shall simply say, “Ma’am, I wrote about my period on the internet today. I definitely don’t need a paper bag.”

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