Monday, May 10, 2004

The Little White Bullet.

Seventh Grade. Health class. We talked about the dangers of sex, drugs, and strangers. No class like this is complete without an anonymous question box. We could ask embarrassing questions we didn't want to ask in front of the group. Though the boys and the girls were separated, we were all still embarrassed to be there, embarrassed to be talked to, and embarrassed to express anything but embarrassment.

One fateful week, we talked about the Menstrual Cycle (M.C., P.M.S.). This was to clear up any childhood confusion, rumors that circulated in backyards. My up-the-street neighbor had told me that as a woman, I would "bleed and bleed and bleed between [my] legs and that there's no stopping it." Not far from the truth. The week's lesson culminated in a tampon demonstration, for which Ms. Gay was famous. We watched her take the tampon from its wrapper and hold it under the sink in the science lab. The cotton fluffed and the crowd was awed. That is, those of us who didn't have our periods yet.

For the boys, this was close to magic. We could hear them the following hour, cheering for more blown-up tampons. The tampon trick quickly became leverage for Ms. Gay: if the boys were good, she'd do the tampon thing at the end of class.

I shouldn't have been surprised, then, last night when Matthieu didn't recognize the O.B. tampon that fell out of my bag.

"What's this? It looks like a white bullet."
"It's a tampon."
"What?! But there's no... thingy."
"You mean there's no applicator?"
"Yes, ewwww. What do you like... go in with it?"
"Ewwwwww. It's so small."
"It gets big. ...Want to see it blow up?"

So we grabbed Rob's Nalgene bottle and set to work. Like a fine tea, the OB tampon was soon steeping. Matthieu spent some time marvelling at the new and great size of the white bullet.

This was refreshing. I went to a women's college. Let me confirm the stereotype. Women read the book "Cunt: A Declaration of Independence." They are empowered. They are quick to correct you on your usage of the word "mankind." They don't gather around or clap for inflated tampons.

In fact, they take menstration, or, womanstration, to a whole new level. Some of my friends use The Keeper. Some swear by the Rag, or Sea sponges. Etc. If you squirm at the lack of applicators, these other methods are hard core. Check them out and be grossed-out by tampons no more.


At 5:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Matthieu,

My name is Susan, and I attended both seventh grade health and a women's college. I too was amazed by the power of the expanding tampon as a 12-year-old, mostly because I was amazed that something would become so large inside my teeny tiny pre-teen body. My particular male friends (not having had the privilege of private school education, like some people we know) were not satisfied with soaking tampons in the sink. Instead, they dipped naked tampons into gasoline and, yes, lit them on fire. Flaming, expanded tampon torches.

At the aforementioned women's college, my fellow charming students went about destroying tampons in their own way. Instead of actively trying to make them grow larger and more intrusive, they forced the tampon into a product regression. Each year of my "education" presented a new advancement in the field of stopping and containing the menstrual flow. First, former Tampax users gravitated towards O.B. (the "white bullet") - an applicatorless tampon, minimizing waste and minimizing environmental conscience (but maximizing risk of impossible to clean fingernails. I know. Disgusting.). Sophomore year, we began to hear more about more radical forms of uterine lining control -more specifically, the Keeper.

Oh, the Keeper. Just the very name sends a nostalgic shudder down my spine. The Keeper, gentle Matthieu, is a rubber device inserted into the vagina, much like a more conical diaphragm, which seals itself ("seals itself") around the cervix, containing the menstrual flow and protecting the environment at the same time, since essentially, there is no waste. That's right, the Keeper is reusable. The keystone to the Keeper's success, therefore, is a high degree of hygiene, something typical users of the Keeper do not possess in abundance. The idea of a "dirty Keeper" is so foul and so revoltingly possible (and probable) that after its brief day in the sun (or, ahem, out of the sun), the Keeper dropped from women's college parlance.

Since then, various environmental, crotch-exploring, braless, odoriferous, sweaty, and I'm sure very nice women's college students have experimented with other options to stop that period once and for all! Such marvels include the homemade and reusable sanitary napkin (frequently made in workshops of smock-wearers), the sponge, and, of course, pregnancy.

Let me tell you, Matthieu, it is really difficult to keep a straight face at a women's college. Especially when your friends proudly display their Keepers on cue. But at least little Emily never really got past that first tier of blood-preserving frenzy. For me, I find no reason to switch from my tried and true Tampax. I will hold that applicator high and still call myself a woman. I will ignore the rumors of bleach and asbestos and horse tranquillizer woven directly into the cotton. I will stick up for applicator users everywhere. You turn your nose up at us, and we turn our nose up at you. But mostly because we want you to take a shower.

Until next time,

At 5:13 PM, Blogger susan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 3:32 PM, Blogger Dani said...

Right on, Susan! When I was 15 and in my radical eco-feminist phase (read "Our Bodies, Ourselves" cover to cover) I would have probably tried something like DIY maxi-pads. Now at age 38 with a husband and four kids to nurture, I'm all about convenience and expediency.


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