So. How many readers out there are women? Most of you? If you're not a woman, do you know any? Yeah, we're kind of hard to avoid. Women are everywhere. How many women do you know who are between the ages of 12-50? A lot? Most of the women you know, probably? Yeah, well, nearly all of them menstruate every 21-45 days for about 2-7 days at a time. That's a sh*t ton of tampons and maxi pads, pantyliners and applicators. And you can't really flush tampons, even if it says that on the box. Of course, some tampons are better for the environment than others but there is still a lot of waste associated with them. OB brand might not have an applicator to have to toss out, but the cotton plug still gets wrapped around and around with toilet paper before it gets tossed in the trash. I don't even want to get into the whole bleached cotton aspect and its health impact on our bodies and the environment. That's not what the focus of this blog is about. And what about pads? Maxi, mini, overnight, thong! So many kinds and they are all made up of plastic and cotton that get thrown away in the silver mail box in public bathroom stalls. You wouldn't want other women to know that you're menstruating by having to walk out of the stall with your carefully wrapped bloody feminine care product! So many issues...but again, this blog is about trash reduction, not our "lady shame."
I've been menstruating for 25 years. 25 YEARS! And it's not over yet, oh no, I've got at least another 12 or so years to go. So let's see - that is approximately 1500 days of my life so far that I've bled out of my vagina. Horrifying, isn't it? 1500 days that I've thrown away adult lady diapers and cotton corks. How many women did you say you know, again? I think it's time we put a stop to this mess.
I started out my young womanhood using only pads. Why? Because that's what Mom used. I wanted to go swimming, but I couldn't. I wanted to wear clothes that fit, but I was afraid someone would see the pad through my clothes. There were no 'wings' back then (remember the first commercials - "The darn thing's got wings!") and sometimes there was uncomfortable bunching. It was not long before I demanded Mother buy me some tampons. (I wasn't going to buy them myself! Someone might see me and know that I had flowered! Oh, the shame.) These tampon things were tricky. First of all -- where the hell did they go? My body did not look like the line drawing in the instructions and I guess a photo of a real vagina in the packaging would somehow end up in the hands of boys to be used as porn. My mother offered to help. Um, no thanks. I'll figure it out.
Reading the instructions I discovered that I needed to change these tampops every 4-6 hours or else I would get the terrifying TOXIC SHOCK SYNDROME. If I went swimming, change it. Don't fall asleep with one in unless you only sleep four hours at a time. And have you heard the rumor? I know this girl who knows another girl and her friend wasn't feeling well and she went to the doctor and she had lost a tampon inside of her, or was it that she put two in on accident?
The first tampons I used were Tampax brand. They were long and skinny back then and came with a cardboard applicator. Oftentimes, they would elongate when they got wet instead of expanding wider and they would start to come out of my body in a very annoying way, sometimes they would just fall out when I would use the toilet. Really annoying.
I moved on to OB. They claimed to be better for the environment because there was no applicator to toss out. OB had a different shape, too. They were shorter and expanded sideways as they absorbed so they stayed in and were much more comfortable. The difficulty was actually getting them in without the applicator. You kind of have to be a contortionist and they are a bit dry on those 'light' days. Ouch. And the string! I hate the string - it's a wick! The string is just always wet and dirty and in the way. Nasty.
And you know what? It sucked, every minute of it, but I dealt with it and accepted it because I didn't know of any other way to live. What are you going to do? This was my lot in life because I was born female. I had been on the pill for 10 years and that helped, my period was only two-three days instead of the off-pill seven, and the bleeding was lighter so there was less waste, but I began to feel weird about chemically altering my body unnecessarily. I was getting older and knew there were risks of blood clots. It saved us money. Plus, I was getting kind of fat. That's a terrible reason to go off the pill maybe, but there it is.
So here I am today. Turning 39 years old one month from today. Trying to examine my habits and change my approach to the trash I create. Writing a blog about it. The feminine hygiene products are staring me in the face, mocking me. What do I do? I talk to my friends, of course. FRIENDS! They are an amazing resource of knowledge and will tell you openly about their completely-different-from-yours life experiences. I learned about the DivaCup. What? You haven't heard of it? Well neither had I! Don't feel bad, I'm here to share it with you, and it will change your period forever.
-comfortable, can't feel it
-can leave it for 12 hours
-no gross string
-doesn't get wet when swimming
-doesn't leak if you insert it properly
-silicone is pretty slippery for easy insertion
-easy to remove
-you need access to a sink when you remove it
-private bathroom with a lock on the door is a must because it takes a little time and agility to deal with it
-gotta angle it right, but after a little practice, no problem (I recommend using a panty liner with it until you're confident it is right)
-silicone starts to break down eventually so you will have to replace it after about a year or so (Oh, well.) I found this insightful; http://plasticisrubbish.wordpress.com/2012/05/17/what-is-silicone/
Now, let's talk about the pads. They suck, everybody knows it, but they have their time and place. Ha. Did I just make a period joke? No? Oh well, nevermind.
The answer is Lunapads. This company is awesome. For every Lunapad you buy, they donate to One4Her - a company in Uganda that employs women to make washable menstrual pads for girls in Africa. The young women in a lot of developing countries don't have access to feminine products and have to stay home from school during their periods. All these missed school days often leads to dropping out because they can't keep up with their school work. Lack of education leads to... everything bad.
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read this post. Please share this blog with your friends if you found it helpful, amusing, disturbing or empowering. We're all on this planet together and I hope we can help each other make it not only a better place, but an easier place to live in. Life is really hard but sometimes you find a thing that lifts you up and for me, the DivaCup and Lunapads did that. Pass it on. Thanks!