Friday, November 6, 2009

Periods: A Punctuating Event

Okay, this post isn't actually about periods, per se, but I thought that would be a cute title. This post is actually about . . . ahem . . . feminine products.

So, before I go any further, again, this post is about FEMININE PRODUCTS. Various associated words and possible graphic descriptions will be mentioned, so if you're squeamish about this sort of thing, now's your chance to take a hike.

Further disclaimer: this isn't a product review. It's just plain old commentary.

Last chance . . .

Still here? Okay.

So, I'm thumbing through my latest issue of People magazine and I come across this ad:

First I laughed. Like, really laughed out loud. I mean, the whole magician's theme and all. And Always's tagline, "Have a Happy Period . . . Always." Who are they kidding? Is there such a thing as a happy period? Well, maybe for the woman who finds herself heaving a huge sigh a relief that her little indiscretion didn't lead to the making of el bambino - maybe that would be a happy period. But in general? Yeah, happy period, my ass. Even with the very best, state of the art feminine products, I'm still going to be crabby. Clean and tidy, maybe, but crabby all the same.

Anyhoo, this ad is touting yet another revolutionary sanitary product for that time of the month. And it struck me how vast is the landscape of feminine products these days, and how far it's all come.

In the olden days (think Laura Ingalls, not the olden days when I was a kid, like my kids think), I believe women just used old rags stuffed into their undergarments. Which, of course, had to be washed out and re-used. Yuck.

Eventually, the disposable sanitary napkin was invented. It had to be worn with a cumbersome belt. I'm sure this seemed very modern at the time. Can you imagine? This is what was available when my mother was growing up.

It was years before someone came up with the brilliant idea of creating a pad with sticky stuff on the back to hold it in place instead of that awful belt.

I got my first period a week before my thirteenth birthday. I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was honestly thrilled. I knew all about what it was (to my mother's credit, she had informed me well in advance so it wouldn't be a frightening shock). I remember my older brother somehow finding out and going around for days chanting, "Lisa's on the rag . . . Lisa's on the rag . . . Lisa's on the rag . . ." Nice. I also remember my mother having me sit down to tell my father the news! I shit you not. God. What was she thinking? Like any 13-year-old girl wants to tell her dad that!

But I digress. What I especially remember was the mondo maxi-pads my mother provided me with. There was nothing subtle about those puppies. (And they were, roughly, the size of labrador retriever puppies.) They were about a foot long, a couple inches thick, and they had plastic backing which made them crinkle when you moved. So even if you could hide them by wearing a dress, there was always that telltale sound to give you away.

Pads have come a looooong way, baby. Now they're ultra-thin, super absorbent, and come in all shapes and sizes. Some have wings, some don't.

There are pads for daytime, and pads for nighttime.

There are the standard issue hospital grade postpartum sanitary pads which is a nice way of saying "adult diaper." And lemme tell you, there's nothing sanitary about these. Mess-ssy. But at least in the hospital you have nurses cleaning up after you.

Now this magazine ad informs me that they have magic pads that make the . . . errr, mess . . . disappear! Wow.

And for the crunchy woman, there are cloth, reusable pads. Just like in the olden days! Aren't they cute?

Who knew.

(I'm all for cloth diapers, for the record . . . but cloth menstrual pads? Uh, no thanks.)

Then there are panty liners (or is it pantiliners?). Which are for super light days. I guess. Or, in the case of a woman who has borne, say . . . six babies, for occasional (okay, frequent) bladder control issues. Not that I would know about this personally.

These, too, come in a variety of . . . varieties. Personally, when the thong panty liner was introduced a few years back, I was one of many who shouted, "It's about time!"

Now, Always has introduced a new panty liner to fit everyone's needs.

Sometimes you just gotta say, wow.

It's funny - I have found, among my women friends, that most women are either pad women or tampon women (yes, we really do discuss these things). Personally, I think tampons are one of the greatest inventions of all time. When I was a teenager, my mother would not allow me to use tampons. Now, on some level, I understand not wanting the goods to become damaged, but we're talking quality of life here. Tampons = freedom, period. (Haaah!) My step-sister, who was a year and a half younger than me but about ten times more wordly than I was, taught me how to use a tampon when I was 15, and it changed my life.

Tampons, too, come in a vast array. There are cardboard applicators:

Plastic applicators:

(Not sure what the diff is . . . I suspect it's touted as a matter of comfort? If that's the case, I call bullshit; like ribbed condoms, it's nothing but a gimmick.)

And no applicators.

Hmmm. Not sure what the point of that is.

And there's the tampon with the little braid in the string for extra protection! Huh! Seriously, who do they think they're kidding? Like that little braid is going to hold back the horror flick that someone of my childbearing caliber experiences?

And then, again for my granola sisters, there is the Diva Cup. It's, uhhhh, insertable. And reusable. Never tried it, never had a hankering to, but I know several women who swear by it.

Really, though, I have found that this is the best protection for any kind of period:

Guaranteed to make everyone's life a little easier during those times.


Leigh Anne said...

great commentary Lisa. i recall a similar post by myself. but you know...i LOVE those always infiniti pads!

Angie said...

LMAO... thanks for the reminising Lisa :)

Kristin said...

After being pregnant and nursing for so long lately I have lost track of all the new improvements. Gotta try the thong panty liners.

ashamom said...

ROFL!!! Too funny and educational!
You know, I might try a tampon in the future, if I ever get a period.
I like your in-depth approach!

Anna Alexandrova said...

Great post, Lisa! I have some stories about what women used in Soviet Union where I grew up, but I am too embarrassed to share... Thanks for educating me about the belt! At first I thought it was a chastity belt!

Molly said...

Tampons are magical. I'm so glad my mom had no qualms about me using them

I know someone whose mom put their tampon in for them the first time. I was kind of like "umm what?"

Also, panty liners are amazing.. but not as amazing as the pill is. I had such bad cramps for SO long. Id miss school each month.

Chrystal said...

Great job, Lisa!

I, too, am an Infinity Lova. Those things rawk.

I remember reading Are You There, God? It's Me, Maragret when I was about 9 and wondering what the heck she was talking about with that whole belt thing. Ha!

Heidi said...

you are a hoot!

i'm a diva cup diva myself.


Anonymous said...

The belts. Who knew? The difference methinks between the cardboard applicator and the plastic ones is that the plastic ones are easier to insert.

Larry said...

Totally cracking me up wit this post! I too remember the horror I had in reading Are You there God...about the belts - I was thinking "really - I have to wear something like that??!!!" And I forgot about the crinkle while walking - too funny! I also think the tampon is one of the best inventions EVER - I clearly recall learning to wear one in the bathroom in Yosemite my sophomore year of HS - was there with a friend for a week and wanted to raft on the river but got my period so I got the tutorial in the campground bathroom - very embarrassing but hey I got to raft! :) L