I have a lot of problems with The Daily Mail, but I do keep going back to their site. I enjoyed their recent piece on Prince Harry, mostly because Harry himself seems so nice and fun and normal. The Mail can be summed up in the observation that their article title announces that Harry says his mother would have been proud of Prince William; in the video footage that’s their source, Harry says he hopes his mother would have been proud. Considering that this is The Daily Mail, the discrepancy is almost negligible.
I went to a poetry reading tonight. I was supposed to go to a French-themed open-mic night at a cafe, afterwards, but I ended up going back to my dorm and getting into a pair of cozy sweatpants-style shorts and a tank-top. I was far too comfortable to contemplate getting dressed properly and going out again. It’s too bad, really, because things were shaping up to be quite staggeringly pretentious.
I also used a cardboard-applicator tampon, this afternoon, for the first time since I was eleven. I got my first period in January of 2002, just two months after I turned eleven. It was suitably horrible. I used pads until that summer, when my family went on vacation in Mexico.
Mexico was stunningly beautiful and hotter and more humid than anything I, a girl born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, had ever experienced. I was also on my period during the trip, with the worst menstrual cramps I have ever had. Until my mid-teens, I got dreadful cramps with my period every month. I still get cramps (I have them now!), but not so bad as they once were. While in Mexico, possibly exacerbated by the heat, I had the worst cramps of my life. There were hours when I could neither walk nor sit up straight.
As I mentioned, I had always used pads before (even during ballet). In preparation for the trip, I got contact lenses, so that I could swim and snorkel without my glasses. I also got a box of tampons.
At barely eleven, I had never had a sex-ed class, nor had anyone ever properly explained genitalia to me. I knew things academically, from books that I had read. Women have three holes down there: urethra, vagina, anus. The vagina is in the middle. Etc. When I was eleven, I had no idea how tiny the urethra is. I was terrified that I would stick the tampon in the wrong hole. My state-of-mind was, of course, muddled to begin with. I was ashamed of my body, depressed to have begun menarche so young, scared that someone would realize what I was going through, miserable that I was the only one of my friends to have begun menstruating already, worried that I would screw-up somehow, and well-aware that my cramps and general misery were keeping me from enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Looking back, I cannot remember how it happened. Perhaps my mother and I had not realized that I would be on my period during the trip, and had not brought tampons. Perhaps we had run out. Perhaps we were on a long day-trip and mine were all at the hotel.
The point is that my mother had to buy some tampons for me in Mexico. They proved to be fat, squat things with huge cardboard applicators. I dutifully trudged away to put one in. I had already found plastic-applicator tampons to be painful — even the strings chafed my vagina, through the hours I wore one. But I was completely unprepared for the pain of a cardboard-applicator tampon.
I could feel my body stretching to accommodate it, could feel a sharp pain when it hit… something… up there, inside me. And, once I pushed it out of the applicator, I could feel the dry cotton scrape its way slowly along.
I was miserable on the trip. I regret it still, though there was nothing to be done. After returning home, I had a personal boycott of tampons until I was about sixteen, and still used pads with far more regularity until I was seventeen or eighteen. And I have always, always used plastic-applicators.
Today, I awoke to discover that I was on my period. Always a charming discovery. I also discovered that my lovely box of Tampax Pearls was empty. I made do with an emergency tampon from my purse, then went to the campus convenience store to buy more. I got a box of ten, all they had to offer. This afternoon, when I needed one, I opened the box to discover that they were cardboard-applicators.
For the first time in almost ten years, I used a cardboard-applicator tampon. I was not expecting it to be very uncomfortable. Yes, they had hurt like the dickens, when I was younger, but surely not now. Then, I had had a child-sized vagina. Now, wouldn’t I have an adult-sized one?
Guess what? It still hurt. I could barely get the darn thing out of the applicator, which was indeed far too wide. Pushing it in, the end of the applicator painfully hit my cervix. Slowly sliding the tampon out of the applicator, it scratched dryly along the rest of its way.
So, that was my day.