We all know we are privileged in the developed world. Scroll through the news for five seconds and that fact screams at you. Our lives are consumed with first-world problems.
I’ve come to view my period as one of those and here’s why.
For most of us during “that time of the month,” our vaginas are kept clean and our panties dry because we have access to buy, use, and discard with frequency practically any chosen form of catchment for our flow. Having a period for many of us ain’t fun, but for the most part, we can go about our lives barely missing a beat. Heck, we can even take a pill that gets rid of the whole issue altogether. For those of us who choose to menstruate, read on…
Maybe you’ve heard about chlorine and other toxins in disposable menstrual products and toxicity to the body. When I first learned about this, I considered it, then went about my normal habits, trying to ignore the nagging question of what it was doing to my body. Then there was the environmental factor. Throwing away my sanitary napkins and tampons didn’t phase me for years, but at some point I started to let these things bother me because I found out about another option. Funny how that works: something feels inherently wrong, but I ignore it till I’m presented with a viable other choice…
This piece won’t be about convincing anyone to switch her feminine hygiene method of choice, and it’s really not meant to gross anyone out. It’s to share how one person chose a path in this department and came to rejoice in having options.
I’ve been menstruating since I was ten and three quarters, and began using tampons shortly thereafter (hello, swim team!). My first visit from Aunt Flo was not exactly a welcome surprise and definitely not a celebratory occasion. It occurred on a family vacation with some friends (including two cute guys). The trip involved daily floating excursions in tubes down a river, me (butt in tube) with a soaking-wet pad (diaper) adhered inside a one-piece swimsuit, and a riverside motel room shared with my sleepwalking deadbolt-unlocking sister. But that’s another story…
This story is about curiosity. Fast forward twenty years. Reusable pads?!? You can put a sponge up there to soak it up? A cup? Why would you? Is that sanitary? WTH. How does this work? Instantly, I was online reading about the amazing (and hygienic) alternatives to what (I thought) 99% of women accept as the greatest advancement in feminine hygiene – the tampon.
[Surely this is a well-known fact, but just in case, since I didn’t know, tampons aren’t sterile.]
As an adolescent I listened, horrified, to my mom describe the massive belts they wore in the 1960s with pads attached, and what an advancement that was compared to the colonial practice of using rags (scraps of fabric?!?) during a woman’s period. As I passed through the doorway to the world of reusable products in the 21st century, I learned that many women and girls in our world today have very limited options, resorting to using sand, dirty rags, or dried leaves to absorb their menstruation. There are impacts on health, the economy, and adolescent girls’ education because of lack of access to clean, hygienic options for menstruation management. (There are ways to help this situation).
The other night I learned about period panties for the modern woman. And I thought, hell yeah. I mean, I might not be ready to drop $34 on a pair of undies with a built-in pad, but lots of women are (they’re backordered for a couple weeks), and hooray for options! We’re constantly innovating and improving on what to put there to catch that monthly fluid. And we’re talking about it. And there’s no shame.
So my curiosity story turned into taking action. I may have tried a few options before settling on the menstrual cup and reusable pantyliners. They’re not as gross as you think. (If you have tried them, this clearly isn’t news, and if you haven’t thought of them before, well… sorry. Or… you’re welcome.) For a how-to step-by-step, look for a later post. For now you can know my life is considerably more comfortable, secure, worry-free, and I may even have more money in my wallet as a result of these choices.
I go back to the question of why I was born in this age, living in this country, a privileged, white female who never wants for food, water, or shelter, rarely for comfort, and never for information. I feel grateful for these options, for knowledge at the touch of a screen, and the ability to teach my daughter about choices. For menstrual protection she can choose between single-use, reusable, cups, period panties, and _(whatever I’m forgetting or has yet to be)__. I have the resources to support her choices. She has learned the biology and the human anatomy and can choose to celebrate the arrival of her womanhood, because it’s another beautiful notch on the growth chart of life.
[Finally, if anyone reading this actually sews her own reusable pads, I want to personally high-five you and be added to your mentee waiting list.]