“Gross, so you’re just sitting in your blood all day?”
“Doesn’t it feel like you’re wearing a diaper?”
“Can you swim on your period?”
No, no, and see below.
It was a scorching hot and disgustingly humid summer day in Montauk. The captain stopped the boat and insisted that everyone jump into the water to cool down. He insisted that he’s been doing this for as long as we’ve been alive and this kind of heat could kill us. Everyone jumped in but me. He assumed I didn’t know how to swim and tossed me a life jacket and a rope. We bickered for a bit until I screamed that I can swim but I was wearing a pad designed for a heavy menstruation flow not the choppy Atlantic Ocean currents.
Life would probably be so much easier if I used tampons.
I tried once. I was 14-years-old and my friend drew me a diagram of how to insert one inside my vagina on the girls’ bathroom wall. I went in the stall, held the piece of plastic in my hand, and put it somewhere that didn’t feel right. It felt like I had a foreign object launched inside of me. It was, for lack of better analogies, trying to put a square peg in a round hole. Flash forward to 14 years later and I use the same type of pads my Grandma and Mother used, 14 years later and I’m still here trying to explain to everyone why I’m 29 years old, and I’ve never used a tampon.
I started using pads because I was influenced by the women around me, namely my mother, aunts, and cousins. It was all they knew and all they taught me.
I grew up an extremely shy only child, so any exposure to sex or any type of body-related topic was limited to late night Cinemax. I recently tried to dig deeper into my much-ostracized decision and asked my mom why she never used tampons. She responded, “I wasn’t introduced to them. The thought of something being stuck inside me felt strange and, well, toxic shock syndrome.”
My mom grew up with four female siblings and, no, her four sisters don’t use tampons either. My mom was systemically a pad user. I never bothered telling my mother that tampons won’t stay stuck inside of her for days or how toxic shock syndrome is preventable. I couldn’t lose a good one to the tampon team. I started using pads because I was influenced by the women around me, namely my mother, aunts, and cousins. It was all they knew and all they taught me.
My relationship with pads started long before I got my period. It was a destiny decided by the generations before me. Why haven’t I made my life easier and started using tampons like everyone else? I believe it’s a combination of comfort, commitment, and storytelling. They bring the comfort of nostalgia and consistency. They played a pivotal role in my first time. I’ve realized I’m in a committed relationship with my pads. I’m a creature of habit and a small part of me refuses to conform so maybe pride is in that combination as well. Storytelling is the most primitive and powerful medium in the world. The story I’ll always remember will be of my mother and aunts handing me some big bright yellow pads and telling me everything will be okay.