Some things in life challenge me. Buying tampons does not fall into this category. I’ve bared my breasts while nursing babies, my bush while birthing them, and my soul while raising them, so why would I be embarrassed by the arrival of that part of my cycle that empowers my body to have the babies in the first place? The answer is that I wouldn't be. Yet the woman behind the counter at the drug store is double bagging my tampons and pads, which incidentally have the combined weight capacity of a handful of feathers. Shhh— I’m going to get my period sometime in the next twenty-eight days, but as long as you don’t know what I have in this bag, you won’t suspect that I menstruate.
“It’s okay,” I say. “I don’t need two bags.” I’m already feeling like crap because I forgot my eco-friendly carry-all and have to use even the one plastic bag. “One is fine.”
“Are you sure?” Her arched brow tells me that she’d really like to keep that second bag on there. “Some people don’t like to...well, you know.”
“I understand. I’m okay with it, though. You can save the bag.” I’ve just stood in line for ten minutes, fumbling with boxes of maxis, minis, and an assortment of slender to super-sized tampons. Why be bashful now? Moving her eyes to the man behind me, and then back to me, the woman behind the counter slides the second bag off the first, seemingly happy to have the conversation end.
On my way out of the drug store, I imagine shedding my last sheath of protective cover and walking home with the box of pads balanced on my head and a slightly smaller box of tampons under each arm.
Should we start double bagging Band-Aids too, I wonder? How about tissues and toilet paper? Surely the Charmin comes into contact with all kinds of crap far less pure than menstrual blood. These are, of course, the things that I don’t say. After all, a woman shouldn’t be questioned if she wants to keep her pending period under wraps, nor should her double bagging ally behind the check out counter.
Odds are that if you are a woman, you might at some time in your life have felt the inclination to be discrete about your period (at least publicly). Maybe you were never told so explicitly, but you were able to sniff out that the world at large is discomfited by the way in which a woman’s body reveals that it is not pregnant, and maybe that discomfort gave rise to some of your own. Apparently, even a sealed box of cotton fibers is so suggestive that it too should be censured.
Though I no longer feel embarrassed by the imminent arrival of my period, I’m sure at fourteen I was not as forward thinking as the teen-age girls today, designing tampon based video games and demystify the period with their YouTube period talk. “Go get em,’ girls!”
Approaching my doorstep, my boxes are still in the single plastic bag, and I’m stewing in my own thoughts (some of which are undoubtedly fueled by my burgeoning PMS). Are the people on this planet who don’t have a uterus still made so squeamish at the mere suggestion of a woman’s evolutionary rite that a woman should feel compelled to hide it behind extra plastic and toxic bags? We’re women. We bleed. It’s a fact, not a misdemeanor. Perhaps we should just ring a curtain around the entire feminine accessory aisle, or wear pretty eye masks as we enter and exit our neighborhood drugstore. Maybe the legislature can provide us with a “Don’t ask, don’t show” policy, you know, just so we can have some uniform guidelines on the issue.
I don’t actually want to run through the streets waving my tampons in the air. Anyone close enough to me surely knows where in my cycle I am, but this ass backwards phenomenon has me feeling as if someone has hit eighty-eight on my menstruation. Perhaps I’ll bypass my house and head down to the malt shop for a burger and a shake, and see what my mother was up to in 1955. Who knows, maybe things will be different by the time I get back to the future.
Sigh. So glad I stocked up.
Image via Rupi Kaur
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Gail Silver, JD, E-Ryt, RCYT is a co-creator of The PMS Relief Project at www.thepmshotel.com, author of the acclaimed Anh’s Anger children’s book trilogy, and the director of Philadelphia’s Yoga Child, Inc. For seven years and no longer counting, Gail and her equally hormonal writing partner and friend, have been laughing, crying and writing their way through their forthcoming novel about PMS, due out sometime prior to the duo’s hitting menopause. For musings on PMS and news about the book, visit www.thepmshotel.com, and follow The PMS Hotel on Facebook and on Twitter. For all things unrelated to PMS and periods, you can find Gail on Twitter, Facebook, www.gailsilverbooks.com and www.yogachild.net.