Tag Archives: tampons

What Do You Want an Afghan for?

When I was in high school, a bunch of friends and I were sitting around and one quietly asked, a little embarrassed, “Does anyone have a napkin?” and we’re not talking about something to wipe food from your mouth. Mishearing the request, another friend answered loudly, “What do you want an afghan for?”

As is the rule with all quality longitudinal friendships, we still joke about that moment. It’s a girl thing, getting surprised by your period, which has unceremoniously snuck up on you. Some of us can studiously count the days all we want and mark our calendars, and our periods laugh at us, sitting at the bar, eyeing us on the overhead TV. And the minute it would be most inconvenient, say, while you’re at a fancy restaurant with white fabric chairs, or giving a presentation at work to mostly men, or in the car on a long trip and miles away from the next exit and any supplies, she laughs evilly while sliding off her stool to come for you. She never comes at home when you are within easy reach of your supplies, or at your friend’s house who would also have supplies, and maybe wine. Oh, no. What fun would that be?


So at some point in your life, as a menstruating woman, you will find yourself asking a friend, coworker, or mere acquaintance if you’re desperate enough, “Do you have a napkin/tampon/pad?”

I can’t remember if I read this on a blog or as part of a novel, but I love this story. The woman is in her late 30s, maybe early 40s and has kids. She carries around tampons in her purse, and at one point they spill out in front of a younger, female coworker, whose eyes get big at the sight of the “super” tampons. You know, because kids, later in life flow. The little girly “light days” ain’t gonna cut it. It’s been so long, that the woman has forgotten there are other types of tampons, and only realizes it though the younger woman’s big eyes.

I can relate. At 53, yes, I still need tampons. Don’t get me started, and yes, I know when — if — this damn thing ever stops, I have other troubles ahead. Maybe whatever those troubles are they don’t cost a small fortune and require a shelf of space. I suppose I can be considered “lucky.” My period no longer plays hide and seek with me; however, she prefers to slide off her bar stool every 24 days like clockwork, which she never seemed to have the time for before.


I’m 53, this is supposed to be getting slower, maybe even skip a month here and there. Ha, ha, ha, she says. What is inconsistent is what happens at day 24, however. Any or all of these things can happen, and it rotates randomly. Leg cramps, backache, migraines; fast, heavy, slow flows, sometimes in the same day; it’s all part of the fun. As a result, both at work and home I have a drawer full/shelf full of 3 kinds of tampons and 2 kinds of pads, and more ibuprofen than a CVS. This has been my life for years now, and like the poor hapless lady in the story, I’ve completely forgotten that periods can present in any other way. That once upon a time, before electricity, I had light, irregular flows, and even skipped a period now and then. I maybe went through a box of one size tampons every 3-4 months.

Until my younger coworker asked apologetically if I had a tampon. Like she might take my last one. “Sure!” I answered enthusiastically as I opened my bottom desk drawer, which as you can see from the picture is chock full. “Oh wow!” she said, eyes big.


And I saw it through her eyes — like that women in the story. Crap. I already know it’s ridiculous to have my period at my age, but you don’t have to put a fine point on it or remind me nobody has a drawer full of tampons at their desk.

Then she got overwhelmed by the different sizes, “I don’t even know what these all are,” she said, slightly panicked. I thought how could you not know? In the tampon isle there are boxes with all sizes, marketed to us by color and names like “regular,” “super,” “super plus,” and that one grand day they were test marketing “ultra.” I was so happy and excited I bought a box and I never found them again after that. I have a bone to pick with the ever-changing, yet declining helpfulness of the color packaging, but that truly is another blog.

Maybe if your period has a little more civility, you get to have just your one box of one size, tucked away discretely among your note pads and pens and sticky notes.

She grabbed one, I believe is was a super, and ran off. And I was left staring at my drawer. Resupplying it can sometimes feel like musical chairs. Every time I restock, I think maybe it will stop, and then what will I do with all this? (Answer: donate to a woman’s shelter). But she’s sitting on the bar stool laughing at me. She’s not going to pull that trick on me for a long time — Miss every 24 days.

Oh, no, not me. I got my full drawer at work and my full shelf at home. My coworker did come again a few month later, asking for a tampon. She seemed less shocked this time, so that was good.

If my period ever does stop I was thinking I could fill the space with yarn. I make a mean afghan.

Dedicated to my dear friend Ruthy. You know why.




The Mother of All Aches and Pains

We all have aches and pains from time to time, except maybe people in their 20s who spend a lot of time drinking and ignoring their bodies without consequence, and we all hate them for it, except when we remember we pissed off people the same way in our 20s. It’s the circle of life coming to bite us in the ass.

Throughout our life, our period’s aches and pains change, but mostly they are variations on theme: sometimes you get more cramps than usual or less (ha ha, I’m just messing’ with ya, that never happens). Maybe you get a new headache or your mood swings around a little more like a drunken boxer in a ring, rather than a 1940s swing coat, but mostly it’s just a new pattern settling in. You complain to your friends for a few months, and then forget it was any different until the next shift.

All that goes on for 35 years, give or take. I heard about perimenopause, but I thought it was more of the same variations. But let me tell you, 12 years into perimenopause, I can safely say that experience does diddly to prepare you for the slow creep and then onslaught of bizarre symptoms of perimenopause. I mean this shit is wacky. Sure there are the symptoms everyone talks about and make it into the one-woman Broadway shows. Things like hot flashes that feel like Satan has decided to start a fire inside you, and I’m not talking about fiery passion. More like the fires of hell that don’t give a damn that you might be in a work meeting or on a date, or just generally trying to be a normal person.

Mood swings are also a popular topic people like to parody. I’d like to be able to say that our mood swings are directly related to all the other weird hormonal shit that’s happening to us, but the truth is, it’s random. I wanted to rip a woman to shreds with my bare hands simply because she was wearing a coat with an unusual geometric pattern. I think it was what sharks feel when they taste blood. Lucky for her and me I’d been having these bouts for a while, so when I saw her and wanted to pummel her to the ground, I understood it was only perimenopause. I shrugged my shoulders, let her be, and regaled my coworkers with my humorous insanity and we laughed about it.

But all of you who make fun of us should know that’s the tip of the iceberg of what we’re dealing with. If feels like our hormones are running amuck like drunken teenagers without a curfew, and that shit gets old really, really fast. Here are bunch of other lesser known symptoms:

Every once in a while my heart feels like it beats inward instead of out. It’s just a few beats but it’s annoyingly weird. My friend gets random tingling in her arm, and, no, she isn’t having a heart attack. She checked the first time it happened. I’ve gotten a weird thing in my hip socket where one day I’m perfectly fine, then the next day if I turn sharply right while I’m walking, my leg suddenly collapses. That’s super fun, let me tell you. I only fell once, and then I learned to catch myself before it happened. After a few days it disappears. And that’s the really annoying part. Most of these things come and go, and with each new thing, you get super worried because it always seem to resemble a serious illness. If you freak out, and get an urgent appointment with  your doctor, you soon realize you’re not dying. You’re not even close. Your doctor will ask you questions that describe a serious illness, and you hear words like “uncontrollable bleeding,”  “incapacitating pain,” and “excessive or no bowel movements.” You sit there with your perplexing, yet comparatively harmless afflictions, and sound like a big symptom loser.

“Well, doc, when I make a sharp turn to the right, my right leg tends to give out, but I can walk fine if I’m careful, and then it goes away after a few days.” And then she looks at me with raised eyebrows as if to say, “Are we done here? I need to attend to people with real medical issues.” At that point, I start to wish I did have full-on symptoms so she would be sympathetic and give me something. Of course anyone having the full on symptoms, say sitting in a pool of sweat at work, will want to pummel me as if I were wearing a stupid coat, which I’m not. I’m just wearing stupid.

Other symptoms include getting a nice ax-embedded-in-the-side-of-my-head kind of migraine. For a while it was a sign that my period would come the next day, so that was actually kind of useful, until peri realized she was getting too predictable, and I started to get a headache during and after my period. Thanks, bitch.

Don’t get me started with my periods. They have gotten longer and always show up early, unless they come late. I’ve yet to even get to the point where I skip some months (usually the sign that you are getting close to the finish line), and  I’m 51 for fuck’s sake.

Also don’t talk to me about how much I spend on supplies–it’s obscene. I was with a group of four women, all the same age–two of us still had our periods and two didn’t. The two who finished had, of course, just stocked up on tampons and napkins. We thought we could start a charity that could take the supplies of women who finally finish and re-distribute them among those of us who are still going strong. I know I could really use that tampon money for my kid’s college tuition.

And did I mention I’m 51? I should be done with this stuff by now–is it any wonder I want to pummel people? But maybe I shouldn’t be so eager to quit. I recently saw my two older sisters. One finally stopped, but then she gained 10 pounds doing nothing differently. My other sister is sputtering and was telling me about her thinning hair. Her period comes anywhere from every three days to every three weeks. What fresh hell is this??

So go ahead, make fun of us and have a good laugh. But do so at your peril. I may not like the coat you’re wearing.