Cardboard Applicator Nightmare

My worst nightmare came true. My period started at church and I didn’t have my menstrual cup with me. Fortunately, I had a bag full of organic, low waste, all-natural, whatever hippy dippy tampons I could find. I originally gathered them because some students were asking questions about them, so I thought it would be fun to explore options together (using my budget). Well, with the Covid-19 shut downs, they’ve been sitting in the DFG room at church untouched.

So I grabbed a tampon from a box that said: organic cotton, chlorine free, hypoallergenic, cardboard applicator, etc., and headed back to the bathroom. No one else was around so I didn’t have to bother putting it in a pocket or up my shirt sleeve for finding a way to hide it. Which means, it was pristine from the package when I got to the bathroom.

This is where things went very wrong.

On the first try, I noticed that the cardboard applicator didn’t have the grippy part I remembered from plastic applicators (its been almost 5 years). I gave it a try, and nothing moved. Took it back out, re-examined it, tried again. This time I thought it had worked but alas, only part of the applicator came back out, the rest was inserted with the tampon itself. I thought to myself this is the stuff of nightmares. So with my left hand I held the part of the applicator that came back out (I would call this the plunger but I have no idea of what its real name is) and with my right hand I removed the applicator/tampon. I removed the very dry tampon from the bloody applicator. There isn’t a little trash can in the stall so I had to hold the slimy applicator pieces in my left hand and insert the tampon with the right hand. I probably should have done this from the start, getting the tampon in without the applicator was easier. And, really, if the idea is less plastic waste, do we even need a cardboard applicator? I’m sure there are people who prefer it. I’m probably more comfortable using a tampon without an applicator since I usually use a menstrual cup. As I pulled up my pants carefully with one hand, trying not to get blood on them, I thought that maybe I should suggest the church get the little trash cans in the stalls. While I washed my hands I figured out that I could probably get away with one tampon and get home in time to switch over to my cup.

Thank God.

The tampon was comfortable enough, but I still noticed it’s presence way more than the menstrual cup. A few hours later I was home. My cup felt luxurious after a short time with a tampon.

A few observations:

  1. No one should be ashamed to carry menstrual products into the bathroom. That being said, I usually try to be a discreet as possible, partially because of long-held embarrassment, and partially because most people I work with have had enough awkward period conversations with me and perhaps I should spare them this one.
  2. All bathroom stalls should be equipped to deal with menstruation. That means adequate privacy, trash disposal, and space. This is especially important in gender neutral bathrooms and men’s rooms. As a woman, I wanted privacy, more convenient trash cans, and a little more elbow room. I can’t image being in a gender neutral bathroom or being a man who menstruates and really needing those things not just for privacy and convenience but for personal safety.
  3. As a teen, and even in my twenties, sexual pleasure (even masturbation) was wrapped up in the narrative of sin, which made me nervous about inserting a tampon especially without an applicator. Now that I use a cup it seems crazy to me, that there were times when I thought that there were parts of me that I shouldn’t touch, even in a nonsexual way. Seriously, how long is it going to take to undo the damage of high school Christianity? Why do some christians scare kids about their bodies and sex? Maybe it’s time to think about a healthier sexual ethic.

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