It’s about time I admitted something: I am 46-years-old, and I still get embarrassed when I have to buy tampons.
There. I said it.
I know, I know. Periods happen to almost all women and they’re a natural part of life and blah blah blah. But I just can’t help it. I reach for that box of tampons, and immediately I’m fourteen-years-old again, sitting next to the cutest guy at school while my uterus is staging a coup.
And inevitably, whenever I’m trying to decide between Kotex and Tampax, every fucking guy in the store suddenly needs something in the same aisle as the feminine hygiene products. I feel like I’m wearing an enormous sign that says, “LOOK AT MY BABY CANNON! IT’S SHOOTING RED BLANKS! ”
I have given birth three times, with all the delicacy and modesty that implies. Which means that three times I’ve been in the position of having every member of the hospital staff, except for the woman working the gift shop, peer into my hoo-ha like it was a pair of 25-cent binoculars on the viewing deck of the Empire State Building. And yet I still can’t buy tampons without cringing with embarrassment.
Apparently there’s nothing that will desensitize me to the experience. And God help me if the checker is a man. Even with a pile of diversion products that scream, “NOTHING TO SEE HERE,” I’ve been known to abandon my cart and go to a completely different store just to avoid being rung up by a guy.
I was in New England earlier this year when A Need Arose. I was running an errand anyway—OK, fine, I was going to the liquor store—so I figured I’d pop in someplace and pick up a box of tampons. I looked for a CVS or similar pharmacy chain, but when I came up short, I was forced to seek out a convenience store for the task.
I knew I would be annoyed with the selection of feminine hygiene products a convenience store would have on offer. Most likely, the only size tampon available would be “Regular.” I’m going to go full TMI on you poor folks today and share that I’m more of a “Super Plus” kinda gal. We’ll leave it at that.
I eventually stumbled across a convenience store but, sure enough—male checker. Well, fuck that. Next.
As I drove back towards the hotel where my family and I were staying, I remembered that there was a gas station with an attached convenience store along the way. I was running out of options, so this was it. I supposed I’d rather die of embarrassment from purchasing tampons than from looking like I’d slaughtered a hog in my pants.
Guess what? There was not a male checker. There were two goddamned male checkers. And a male customer who stuck his head around the point-of-sale display to look for a different flavor of Trident just as I was discretely placing my intended purchase down on the counter.
I would love to be able to tell you that my embarrassment stems from some trauma I’ve experienced while buying tampons. That a male checker has in any way indicated that he knew or cared that I a.) was bleeding from my nether regions, or b.) would soon be bleeding from my nether regions. That at even one point have I gotten a wink, a sidelong glance, or a gaze of disgust. But none of these things have ever happened, and it didn’t happen in this case either. So I suppose you could say this story has a happy ending—if you consider me slinking away in humiliation with my tampons to be “happy” rather than “humiliating” (to add insult to injury, they did turn out to be “Regular,” just as I’d predicted).
It’s clear that, like my dislike of eggplant, this embarrassment over the purchase of feminine hygiene products is not something I’m going to just “get over” when I get older. I suspect that the only thing that will enable me to get over it is actual menopause. I’ve probably done enough oversharing here, although I will say that my GYN has recommended an IUD to reduce or eliminate my flow. And no more period means no more tampons. And no more tampons means no more crippling embarrassment.
I’ll take an econo-sized box of that . . . cleverly disguised by some gum, a bag of Sour Patch Kids, some razor blades, and a magazine.
This article was sponsored by Change the Cycle. One in five women suffer from heavy periods. If you’re done having children, and you’re experiencing heavy periods that negatively impact your quality of life, visit Change the Cycle’s website or Facebook page to learn about hormone-free treatment options that may be right for you.
Revised and reprinted with permission by Tracy DeBlois In the Powder Room, a division of Hold My Purse Productions, LLC. Featured image ©depositphotos.com/everett225.