Let’s talk about the day that I realized I hate tampons.
To set the scene, I am somewhere in my sophomore year of high school, attempting to use tampons for the second time in my life after a disastrous incident at a water park. This time, everything seems to be going smoothly… until I attempt to take it out a few hours later.
After struggling in the bathroom for half an hour, I put my pants on and realize there’s no other recourse than to ask my mom for advice.
“Mom, my tampon’s stuck.”
“Relax your muscles,” she said, which only made me panic more. I had been on the late-90s internet long enough not only to learn about but regularly practice Kegels (don’t ask), but no matter how much I “relaxed my pelvic floor,” the damn thing was stuck. I went back into the bathroom and tried pulling harder, but was stymied because it seemed more likely that the tampon would rip in half before it would come unglued from my cervix.
It wasn’t until I took a bath later, trying to “relax”, that the tampon absorbed enough water to unstick itself. My mom, who had steadfastly maintained that I had no control over my interior muscles no matter how much I explained to the contrary, sputtered to a halt when I explained that the tampon end has been wispy where little bits of cotton had been torn free.*
And then the next time I had a period, it happened again.
As a result, I’ve used disposable pads up until this year (how I finally began using tampons again is another long story). I also have absolutely no patience for people talking about pads being “unsexy” or “like sitting in a pool of blood” (that’s when you need to change it, fool!).
I still vividly remember a high-school locker room conversation where a girl related how she’d sat on a cute boy’s lap while wearing a pad, only to have him ask her right out if she was wearing a diaper. Fresh from my second tampon ordeal, I gave this story a hard side-eye.** The mild grossness a boy might feel upon realizing I had a monthly bodily function was nothing compared to the horror I would feel at having a tampon super glue itself to the inside of my body forever.
Of course, pads aren’t a perfect solution either. Pads annoy me for the same reason that they do people who only use tampons: they bunch and leak and come unstuck. Sometimes, even the overnight ones aren’t enough to contain all the blood that collects while I’m sleeping, and I’ve ruined almost every mattress pad I’ve ever slept on. (The one that did make it was saved because I’d sleep on a towel every night during my period).
Today, frustrated by all other options, I use tampons so I can do basic human things like swim or not get blood all over my bed. But I’m writing this article because I want the world to know that I do it under extreme duress.
And no, I don’t want to hear about your Diva Cup. That “solution” would just have me putting a roll of silicone right where the wad of cotton would be. While other women are cheerfully able to forget their tampons are in until they get toxic shock syndrome, my vagina continuously feels every millimeter of the stupid thing, even after I’ve switched to different brands or sizes. This doesn’t give me much hope for being able to forget having an entire cup unfurl in there.
(Not to mention the fact that I know my own limits when it comes to something I’d have to regularly sterilize it. There’s a reason why I don’t own any items of clothing that would require hand washing.)
What people don’t understand is that I really want is some kind of failure-proof design that doesn’t require me putting something into my vagina at all. And something that is also disposable, so I wouldn’t ever have to clean my menstrual blood off of anything ever again.
Sometimes, I dream about such products. Like a huge, soft blanket made of absorbent cotton, with a plastic backing, that I could sit on completely naked in order to bleed and blog in comfort. (Scantily-clad slaveboys to bring me grapes and tea are optional.) Perhaps there could be a similarly created fitted sheet/blanket set so I could sleep on it in comfort, then wad up the whole mess and toss it the next day?
(What could we call this product-- Sleep Free? The commercials alone would be worth it, with voiceovers of things like “WHY PUT UP WITH IRRITATING SANITARY PRODUCTS WHEN YOU CAN SLEEP ON A GIANT PAD?” A woman dressed in a pastel suit and pearls would mount a ladder while holding a bucket of bright blue fluid, exclaiming: “SLEEP FREE’S PATENTED WICKING TECHNOLOGY HELPS YOU STAY DRY ALL NIGHT LONG” before dumping it on the bed beneath her.)
Other times, I think more practically about what would go into creating a better kind of sanitary napkin. I imagine some kind of underwear that would have absorbent cotton all over the inside instead of just in the crotch, so I could sleep on my stomach without problems. It would also have to have elasticated leg holes to prevent leaks, and be capable of absorbing more blood than the average sanitary pad. And it could even be disposable…!
Wait. I think those might already exist.
That's right. I’m bringing sexy adult diapers back.
* Her exact words were “I’ve never heard of that happening before”, and I’ve NEVER HEARD OF ANYONE ELSE HAVING THIS PROBLEM. Please tell me in the comments that I’m not alone.
** The proper answer to any “diaper” remarks is “I’m not incontinent, you idiot, I’m on my period, and you better get used to it because it happens every month.”
Erica complains about sci-fi on Twitter.