Hi, I’m Mary, and this is my column no one asked for about things I like!
Most women have to deal with one very unpleasant occurrence every month. OK now that I think about it, most women have to deal with several very unpleasant occurrences every day, but there’s one particularly objectionable plague that strikes the majority of us on a monthly basis. I’ll stop beating around the bush and dive straight into the bush (haha): I’m talking about periods.
I’ve been getting my period for about 20 years now (I can’t believe I started getting it when I was five either!) but I still haven’t figured out how to deal with it. Every month, it comes on like a hurricane, bringing with it floods of both fluids and miseries. Some months, I find myself in a state of despair before my period, others inexplicably exhausted. Sometimes I don’t experience any unpleasantness before my period, but as soon as the first drop of blood hits my Gap cotton underwear I’m in agony. A couple of months ago, I lay awake three nights in a row with cramps so painful even a handful of Advil was powerless to stop them (though it was probably powerful enough to destroy my liver!).
You’d think that, after two decades of suffering, I’d know how to deal with this shit, but I’ve come to realize that almost all women are as baffled by their bodies’ menstrual cycles as I am. I may, however, be particularly ignorant since most of what I know about periods I learned from a book my mother gave me when I was 12-years-old. Rather than talk to me about the changes my body was about to experience, she gave a ridiculous piece of literature from her own childhood, the main concern of which was how to fasten a sanitary belt. The only other thing I remember from the book was that it insisted heavy foods make cramps worse and instructed girls to eat light when menstruating. If I’ve learned one thing about periods, it’s that the only thing guaranteed to help you survive them is fried, salty food and lots of chocolate.
I don’t mean to make my mother sound absent or careless because she wasn’t, she just didn’t know how to talk about anything related to sexuality because she learned sex-ed from a nun. Shipped off to Catholic boarding school at a young age after her own mother died, my mom learned most of what she knew about sex from a woman who (presumably) had never had it. My mom once told me that the poor woman would get so flustered talking about the reproductive system, she’d often bump into the trash can during class.
Though she didn’t quite know how to explain my anatomy to me, my mom was very hands-on. When I was in eighth grade, I decided I wanted to use tampons. Up until that point, I’d been using pads, which often resulted in humiliating stains on my Abercrombie cargos. I don’t mean to shade pads — I’m only slightly embarrassed to admit I still use them sometimes, but they weren’t an adequate line of defense against my 12-year-old flow. I was also so mortified to have my period that I’d line my cargo pockets with bulky pads lest anyone see me pull one out of my locker and confirm that I was, indeed, going to be a woman someday and I suspected tampons would be a little more discreet.
So one day, I decided to take one of my older sister’s tampons and use it to dam the flood. The problem was, I couldn’t find the hole. I, of course, knew there was a hole because two years earlier, I’d heard a rumor that the hottest guy in our sixth grade class tried to finger his girlfriend but couldn’t find the hole. I’d giggled along with the rest of my schoolmates but now found myself unable to find my very own hole.
Determined to stick a wad of cotton up my tight, young snatch, I went to my mother for help. She was in a bad mood that day, which was understandable because she was undergoing chemotherapy for a rare melanoma. She took me into her bathroom and handed me the goods, but when I was still unable to find the mythical hole, she lost patience, took the tampon from my hand and shoved it up there herself.
Thus began my tumultuous relationship with tampons. Back in those days, most tampons still came with cardboard applicators. That’s right — I’m old enough to have lived through the introduction of of the now-dominant plastic applicator, which I honestly don’t think works as well as cardboard but what do I know? (Not much, as I’ve already established!) For a long time, I stuck to Tampax tampons, but a few years ago I switched to Lola.
Most tampons are, to be blunt, fucked up. The majority of brands you can buy at your local drugstore refuse to list their ingredients, and often contain harsh chemicals and even bleach, which is why they can be so dangerous and cause Toxic Shock Syndrome (something I was absolutely terrified of as a teenager and frankly still kind of am!). Lola tampons, however, are 100% cotton with no additives. Plus, they offer a subscription service, which means you don’t even have to think about buying tampons. Once you sign up and design your very own box of in whichever combination of sizes you prefer, you’ll receive however many boxes of tampons you want in the mail every month. It’s also easy to skip months at no charge if you’re already stocked up.
Obviously I’m a huge Lola fan, but a few months ago, a couple of friends were talking about their Diva Cups, and it was fascinating. I’d thought about getting one before because I consider myself an environmentalist, and one of the fun things about being a woman is having to use tampons, then being made to feel guilty about littering the Earth with all those fucking tampons. So after that talk with my friends, I started to get serious about sticking a cup in my vagina.
Since I’m a modern woman with an Amazon account, I began to do some research. While the Diva Cup is the most famous menstrual cup, I quickly discovered there are tons of brands, all of which claim to be slightly different. Also, they all come in various sizes. Diva Cup recommends women under the age of 30 who’ve never had a baby use size 1, and women who’ve had babies or are over the age of 30 use size 2, which I find extremely rude. I’ve never had a baby but according to their guidelines, am a size 2 so you do the math.
I refused to believe I needed the larger size and continued to research. Eventually, I found an article comparing the different cups which claimed the most comfortable of them all is the Lena Cup. The company sizes their cups small and large (even ruder) but recommends all first time users buy a small, which is exactly what I wanted to hear. I ordered a size small in blue, because even when it comes to my anatomy I like to defy gender norms, and was surprised to see how big it is. If the small is that big, I can’t imagine the large fitting up my tiny little delicate vagina!
As soon as my period started, I sterilized the cup, folded it in half and shoved it up my hole (which I can now find very easily, not to brag). At first it was a little uncomfortable because I could feel the little stem hanging down, but within an hour the cup had suctioned to my cervix and I couldn’t feel a thing! When it came time to take it out, it was easier and much less messy than I expected, though I accidentally pulled too hard one morning and splattered my toilet (it looked very cool but I cleaned it up eventually). The only issue I had with my cup was on the second day of my period when, like most women, my flow is heaviest. I had to empty it much more frequently and had some leaking, but no more than I usually have with tampons on day 2 of my bloody agony.
As soon as I started using my Lena Cup, I realized my friends were right when they said there’s something very satisfying about seeing your own period blood. To get even more graphic, I think it’s kind of cool to see the other stuff that comes out of you and lands in the cup, especially toward the end of your period. I left my Lena Cup in an extra day (I spot towards the end of my period so I’m never quite sure when it’s over) and when I pulled it out, found a sock I’d lost in the dryer a few months ago. It was a little damp but I put it on anyway.
I know this piece is gross, but you know what else is gross? Periods! They’re gross and painful and terrible, but we’re stuck with them. I was so ashamed of menstruating in my youth, but now I revel in the disgust and will continue to do so for as long as I bleed. I’m going to stick that little silicone shot glass up my pussy, pull it out, examine the contents and use them for crafting. Imagine the period pottery! You’ve been warned: if I ever gift you a set of plates in a deep maroon, you may want to use them for display only, no matter how beautiful they are.
As always, I’d like to clarify that this is NOT a sponsored post. I received nothing for it and am pretty sure no one cares that I’ve got a cup in my pussy. Still, if anyone is reading and ever wants to give me literally anything for free, menstrual cup or not, I WILL TAKE IT!!!!!!
Anyway, I hope this was helpful. I’ll be back with more unsolicited recommendations soon!