On Tampons and Universal Truths

“Up to 70% Off” proclaimed the sign. “Store Closing!”

I couldn’t help but notice the banners plastered all over the supermarket in my ex-husband’s neighborhood. I rarely go to that part of town, except when I’m dropping my daughter off every other weekend.

“Ooooh, I’m going to go there after I drop you off!” I exclaimed.

She told me it was a mess in there, with everything piled up in the middle of the store. “The workers aren’t even putting things away!”

I may have been salivating as I pulled into the parking lot.

I gathered the reusable bags from my trunk and grabbed one of the small grocery carts (because there are limits) and entered the store.

First stop: the bulk bins where the remaining few items were 50% off. I emptied all of them into plastic bags… Italian AND Mexican seasoning…Chai Tea…cider vinegar almonds (whatever those are)…. but not the wasabi peas. I sampled one and it was just.too.hot.

Slowly scrutinizing the rest of the natural foods section, I scored a stack of gourmet chocolate bars and high-end hair products. Yes!

All the Chocolate
Chocolate! 50% off!

Then I ventured into the, well, I guess, unnatural part of the store.

The books were not on clearance, and you had to buy 6 bottles of wine before getting a discount, and I didn’t find a single item at 70% off…

But I struck gold in the feminine hygiene products aisle

Recalling that a certain someone in my household had recently requested super tampons, I began my hunt. The display had been picked over, shuffled, and randomized. Boxes had been opened. Packages bore little relationship to the price tags on the shelves. It would take some concentration to find what I sought.

I became aware of another–younger–woman staring at the shelves, with a similarly wrinkled brow, when she began talking to me.

“The Diva Cups are all gone,” she lamented.

“Oh! I didn’t know they sold Diva Cups! They’re so great. I need a new one actually.”

“Yeah, I really like mine. They’re $40 though.”

“I know!” I sympathized. “But that’s really economical after a few months. Tampons are so expensive.”

I was loving this. She was just like me! Talking to random strangers about the most intimate of things…

“Soft Cups are good too,” she suggested.

“Yeah…” I agreed, not wanting to say too much. Keep it vague, my inner voice warned.

 Lifting her hand to the side of her mouth, she lowered her voice to an exaggerated whisper, and confided, “You can wear them during sex!”

“Oh, I know,” I shrugged. “That’s exactly why I have them,” I smiled. I may have winked.

Huh,” she nodded, really looking at me for the first time. Then she wandered off, in search of more deals.

I threw a couple boxes into the bottom rack of my mini-cart and walked down the aisle, too, thinking how lovely it is that women, perfect strangers, can relate to each other because of our common experiences of biology. I remember experiencing this for the first time back in the wilds of the high school bathroom, where girls from different cliques who might otherwise never speak, asked each other for tampons or pads. It’s something that binds us, roots us to our humanity, creates a level playing field and automatic sisterhood.

And it’s something we should all get more comfortable talking about.

I’m sad that in some countries, menstrual supplies are not so readily available, which is a major reason girls are unable to attend school.

In India, it’s the reason 20% of girls drop out.

And an intervention study in Uganda found that giving out pads reduced drop out rates significantly. That’s a big deal.

As Gloria says, the personal really is political. And you can help! Bustle has a list of ten organizations that are helping girls manage their periods and succeed in school.

As for me, I remembered that I don’t even need to get a new cup because I’m going to get surgery soon that will put an end to the whole bloody mess. Thanks to my cup, I’ve been able to gather data showing I lose about four times as much as is normal.

No wonder I need so much dark chocolate. Fair trade, of course.


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Part of the solution since 1973.

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