Did I tell you about the day I forgot to insert my tampon? I didn’t. Well here it goes.
It's as if I'd regressed to my 14-year-old self. Except even my 14-year-old self was incapable of such grand and gross acts of stupidity. Fast-forward a decade later and I’m not quite living the life I had dreamed of. In fact my life resembles everything I thought it wouldn’t. After spending years proclaiming that the point of life was to live boldly on the spot where your passion and purpose intersect, I was doing the opposite. I’d drifted completely off purpose.
It was one of those mornings when I was trying to get everything done despite mentally wanting to do nothing at all.
Because nothing makes you feel like you’re going to have a productive day like a workout, I ran at an absurdly early hour. I remembered to tong my hair, put on my war paint so I looked semi-human and said a curt good morning to our neighbor’s cat as a peace gesture (the evil elitist thing kept strategically crapping in our front yard).
I managed to do everything I usually forget to do in the morning. Except I forget I'm bleeding, need to stuff cotton up there to act as a stopper and preserve the little dignity a woman has when she’s running (hobbling) in heels to catch her train.
There I was, sitting on the train, wearing a red dress (clearly the fashion gods were in on the joke the universe played on me that day) when suddenly I remembered. “YOU DIDN’T PUT IN YOUR TAMPON!” Instinctively I gripped my throat and glanced from left to right. I don’t know why I did this because gripping your neck and rotating it during times of turmoil doesn’t change a single thing.
I was kind of on probation at work (and when I say "kind of" I mean I was), ergo getting off the train and being late wasn’t an option. Attempting to find a toilet on a London train during rush hour is a Sisyphean quest. The only thing I could do was sit and pray.
Except I didn’t sit, I tilted. Discretely lifting my left bum cheek towards the sky as it seemed like the most probable way to diminish the chances of complete embarrassment. As the train lurched, each movement meant another prayer was sent up to Jesus.
When I eventually got to my stop, I slowly rose out of my seat and discreetly checked my dress. And when I say slowly, I mean I literally rose by the millimetre.
The great thing about busy trains is that no one wants to stay on them. By the time I eventually stood up the only person left on the train to witness my impending embarrassment was an old man who looked as if he'd immediately forget seeing something if he saw anything at all. But I was still terrified, holding my breath and hoping for the best. When I twisted around and looked down I finally exhaled. There was no public display of forgetfulness.
Why am I (over) sharing all of this? Well the incident taught me two things. The first lesson is not to forget to insert your tampon. Although for most of you reading this that’s an absolutely useless lesson because you’re smart enough to already know that.
The second lesson is this. I realized something about our so-called embarrassing moments. We only perceive them as being embarrassing because we’re hardwired to feel shame for public displays of imperfection. We’re all supposed to have it together. Trained from childhood to present a flawless public façade. Those that deviate from the norm are deemed “weird” or “unladylike”, which is for a lack of a better word--stupid.
We’re all flawed. And flawed people do flawed things. Like forget to insert their tampons. Spend their rent on a handbag and as a consequence have to use elaborate devices to avoid their landlord. We let friends down. We procrastinate. Pretend like everything is ok when they’re in desperate need of help. Push those they love the most the furthest away. Unfortunately we’re taught that these things should be a source of embarrassment, when really they’re part of our stories and we should always own our story.
I concluded long after the events of that awkward day, that being embarrassed is overrated. That instead of being embarrassed, I’d share the things that are supposed to be a source of shame. After all, the part of me that’s an optimist believes embarrassing momemts are part of a sequence of events that will eventually lead to a beautiful ending.
Have I forgotten to insert my tampon since? Absolutely bloody not. But if I ever did again I would take it in stride.