Let’s be honest: periods are terrifying. At least, when you’re 12 and it’s New Year’s Day and you were pretty sure yours was going to be a light trickle of blood rain and not…well, this. And by “this,” I mean “feeling like you’re going to die while you bleed for 10 to 12 days every month.” My period is awful and I hate it, except when it’s late, and then I’m suddenly happier to see it than I would be to get a box full of kittens holding candy canes. All that said, I both love and hate tampons.
I learned about tampons through all those sweet illustrated books that were published in the late 90s about puberty. (As a side note — and I swear, this is not an exaggeration just because I work with them nowadays — our sister site gURL created a book way back in 1999 called Deal with It! A Whole New Approach to Your Body, Brain, and Life as a gURL, and it was the first one of those books that actually told me shit about my life and body.) I looked at all the illustrations and would practice in my head over and over, awaiting the day I would need to perform the dreaded deed.
I wound up getting my period on, as I mentioned above, New Year’s Day 2002. I was 12. I specifically remember wearing purple underwear and being confused regarding whether or not I had simply peed myself. Then I realized there was blood all over me. Like, all over. Like I’d been fucking destroyed from the inside out by an alien. To be fair, I had recently seen Alien, so there were reasons for this fear. And as it would turn out, this wasn’t exactly far from the truth. My period lasts well over a week, my cycle is short, and it’s a miserable experience for at least four of those days each time. Aside from all the actual physical pain, the “flow” part of this literal mess is, for lack of a better term, obnoxious. Obnoxious like a stranger’s incessant tapping. Obnoxious like perfume in an elevator. Obnoxious like that friend you’ve hung out with once but opted to invite to a party without realizing she’s the kind of person who hates both dancing and drinking. I realized that pads, which essentially feel like adult diapers, were simply not enough. Plus, I was 12, and when you’re 12, you do not want to feel any more like a child than you already do, because it is so clear to you that you know everything once you hit middle school.
I wound up searching through my books, picking the largest tampon size I had, and — sorry, TMI — simply shoving it in. It did not feel good, but I assumed that this was a necessary evil of adulthood and that the best thing I could do was to just get used to feeling like I’d stuck an entire hand towel up my crotch.
After a couple hours of cottonvag, I suddenly remembered reading something about Toxic Shock Syndrome and, being an easily influenceable stress machine, I got hysterical thinking that I had it. I felt feverish, anxious, sick to my stomach, full of cramps, sweaty — all of it, which naturally led me to believe I truly had TSS. I contemplating telling my parents, but all I could imagine was the sheer humiliation I would face should the firefighters or EMTs need to put my gross, period-engulfed body on a gurney, or should the police come to take away my lifeless corpse from the room (these are the types of things crazy people who watch too many horror movies like myself imagined as children).
Of course, I did not have TSS. I just had cramps and was a scared young girl, as one may have guessed. I still use tampons, but I also still get that pang of fear when I realize it’s been longer than the recommended amount of time (hey, sometimes you’re working/on vacation/drunk and it slips your brain). They’re still great little items, in my opinion, though I am debating trying the Diva Cup or a similar device, so should you have any advice on that, let me know!
Now, how did the rest of you find out about tampons and how to use them? Tell your stories in the comments! Here are some of the hilarious stories my fellow staff members from The Gloss, Crushable, Gurl and others experienced these small cotton friends…
I had a phase where I would take my mom’s tampons out of the wrapper and inspect them (out of horror and fascination). Instead of disposing of the hygienically compromised tampons, I would hide them in the house like a weirdo. Obviously my mom found the tampons and applicators in and knew I was the culprit because my sister was already menstruating and knew how to use tampons and my step dad wasn’t a curious 10 year old girl too ashamed to dispose of tampon specimens in the trash.
I learned about them from that American Girl puberty book called The Care And The Keeping Of You or something like that. I mean…it was helpful, actually. Too bad I was so embarrassed about owning a book that had cute illustrations of multi-ethnic girls using menstrual products and growing boobs that I regularly threw it to the back of my closet. It came out a few times and was definitely useful, however. So thanks, American Girl, for showing me how to (eventually) stick a wad of cotton up my vag!
I’m assuming my mom told me because my Catholic school would never. I vaguely remember being horrified by the thought of them and swearing I would never use them but I obviously went back on that.
I learned about tampons at camp. But I learned how to put one in all by myself! It was my first period and I had a tubing birthday party on a boat that weekend. And we all know that one does not miss a tubing birthday party in 8th grade! So I sat on the bathroom floor with a mirror and proceeded to poke myself over and over again until it finally went in. Sadly tubing was still not a success. I fell off the tube and my bikini bottom came off.
I have older sisters, so they kind of pressured me to use them when I was still afraid of them. Me and a friend went into the bathroom at camp and agreed that we wouldn’t come out until we’d both put a tampon in. ~*Glamorous*~
I learned about tampons in sex ed in fifth grade, except it wasn’t actually sex ed. It was basically our first health class. They split our class up by gender and took us on a field trip to this health museum where we watched a film about periods, which was as traumatizing as you could imagine.
When I got whatever body book my mom gave me, it had a section on tampons that might about as helpful as a dad trying to explain them. I didn’t really know how to use one so my first go was pretty horrendous. I didn’t get my period until I was almost 15 and no one ever taught me how to use one. I had to figure it out in the bathroom at school before cheerleading practice. GOOD TIMES.
I read the insert inside the box to put them in and even asked my mom to help me (SO EMBARRASSING) but no dice, because I had hymen of steel. I asked my friends, too. When I could finally use them I was so happy! I could swim! etc!!!!
I felt like pads were gross and weird and I still do, which is why I used tampons up until about last December, when I started using a menstrual cup. I’ll never go back to tampons now because menstrual cup = WAYYYY cheaper and very comfortable.
So, tell us your own stories! We’d love to hear them, as always.