Photo courtesy of Catherine Toyooka
Tampons have served us well over the years, the decades, haven't they ladies? There's no questioning the convenience, the ease of use. I had a major breakthrough at 14 when I finally got up the guts to use one--I had to, since the next day I'd be performing a liturgical dance at my high school wearing nothing but a purple leotard. I was so elated I wrote in my journal that day in huge caps across an entire page, "I did it!"
Yes, I was a huge fucking nerd. Moving on. Point is, I felt I'd become a woman on some level. And in a very basic way, I had, since until then let's say it was an as-yet unused corridor. (Don't laugh--plenty of girls thought if they used one they wouldn't be considered a virgin anymore. I didn't agree that counted--nor did many other things, which allowed me to make flexible use of the term virgin for years to come.)
To be free of maxi pads, no longer having to ride the cotton pony for days, no longer fearing that the head or tail was making itself known while I trotted along through the late 80s in my stirrup leggings. Those pads. Jesus. I thought wings were a breakthrough, which they were, but my God--doing a changeover was like mailing a Fed Ex package.
Why Did We Stop There?
So we evolved from diapers to cotton plugs, but then we just stopped there. Why? Why are so many women, the majority perhaps, so complacent with this cotton-plug solution (which has obvious drawbacks) and unwilling to try any other options? And not just to go green--I get it. That's not usually enough reason to change such an intimate routine. But there are plenty of other reasons, including expense.
Oh no, I can hear you saying, not the Diva cup! It's an option--and one I have used. For the uninitiated, the Diva cup is a reusable silicone cup that fits into your vagina and can be worn for to 12 hours. I used it for a long time--but found it was a bit tricky to position--sometimes I got it right and other times I didn't, not securing the suction correctly. Still I loved the idea: No more worries about bleeding through or forgetting to change your tampon, and so on.
However, when I started to talking to people about it (as I'll pretty much talk about anything, clearly), I was surprised at the visceral reactions of my coworkers and friends. "Eeew! That's so gross!" Wait--what's gross. Is your body gross? Is your blood gross? Why did perfectly mature women turn into squirming 12 year-olds at the prospect of handling their own bodily functions in a more efficient way? I can see how you don't want to wash out a filled-to-the-brim rubber cup in a public bathroom--but since you can wear it all day, you never have to do this.
As far as the touching-yourself part, I used to feel that way. There was one girl I went to high school with who used o.b.'s exclusively and I just thought, eh, why bother with the no-applicator thing. And I still don't get o.b.'s--if I'm going to put my hand up there, I only want to do it once a day. So it took up less room in your purse--so what? Not enough to convince me. Especially now that I don't have to carry anything with me.
What I Recommend--Hands Down
Let me tell you what I'm a big fan of now, and let me preface this by saying I have no personal interest in this brand, no relationship with them, etc. It's the SoftCup by Instead. Rather than a rubber cup, it's got a flexible rubber rim, with a thin plastic film that connects to it. It slides up over the ridge behind your public bone, and there is stays.
It's a winner for me hands down. Here's why:
- I change it once a day.
- I don't feel it.
- There's no little tail protruding as with the Diva Cup.
- No leaking or spilling, and no odors, so you feel clean.
- You don't have to wash it out--you just toss it (though they do have a reusable one which I'm going to try next, and that you do wash out. No biggie)
- You can have sex with it in.
I'm sorry--did you miss that last one? You can have sex with it in.
I have and do. Before you start squirming about having sex on your period, let me tell you this: NO ONE KNOWS YOU HAVE YOUR PERIOD. I even forget. Now that's a solution I can get behind.
I wasn't always a fan of SoftCup. When I tried it the first time, I wasn't as used to heading in there myself and for whatever reason, couldn't grab the edge of the cup that first time. So there I was, squatting over the toilet, and started to see stars and hear a faint ringing. Not good. That nas never happened since. Now it's zero problem. Trust me. You figure it out.
How Many Tampons You'll Use in a Lifetime
Want to do the math? Me neither. That's why I was glad I found this on Catherine Toyooka's blog (Catherine Coaches). She writes:
Since I'm supposed to change my tampon every 4-6 hours, I'll probably use about 6 per day. If my cycle is 5 days, that's 30 tampons. If I menstruate from the age of 11 to the age of 51 every 28 days; that means that I will have 521 cycles over the course of my menstruating life. Oer the course of my lifetime, I will need 15,360 tampons.
And this from the Diva Cup folks (granted, they have reason to point out the waste and it is a commercial, not a research, site, but just to give you an idea):
Women, on average, experience a lifetime menstruation span of 41 years (11-52). From use of disposable feminine hygiene, an estimated 12 billion sanitary pads and 7 billion tampons are dumped into the North American environment each year (1998). More than 170,000 tampon applicators were collected along U.S. coastal areas between 1998 and 1999.
I'm all about making greener choices, but you bet your ass I'm not about to start washing out reusable pads in my sink or soaking them in jars around my apartment. But cutting down on tampon use or cutting them out completely is where my lifestyle needs and the needs of the environment nicely align.
How Is a Tampon Better for Your Lifestyle? Wha?
What I don't get is when people say that using a reusable cup-style solution doesn't fit their lifestyle.
Because if everyone by default used a cup, and someone tried to sell you on this cotton on a stick with a string idea, wouldn't you be like, "Um, wait--but then I have to run and change it every few hours? And if I don't, I just bleed all over the place? And it can make you feel dry inside and could risk infection if not removed often enough? And it costs a lot of money month while creating all this waste? And there's this little string that pokes out and you have to worry when you're wearing a bathing suit? And you can't have sex with it in? Sorry. Doesn't suit my lifestyle."
Terri Trespicio is a writer, expert, speaker, and coach. Visit her at bestdecisionallday.com and trespicio.com