I’ve been thinking of getting a tattoo. Right now, the only thing I’ve officially decided on is where it is going to go: on my left ring finger, on the soft skin beneath the knuckle, on the side where it meets my middle finger. The tattoo itself will either be a small neuron – a reminder of my purpose, origins, and composition – or a daisy. While I love (and study, and am going to make a career out of studying) the brain, part of me feels that a daisy would be more meaningful. For one, daisies are beautiful in ways that neurons are not. Basic aesthetic pleasure is important in selecting an image to go on your body forever, as it turns out. Daisies also serve to remind me to be kind to myself. Self-kindness has always been difficult for me, and a daisy would be a visual aid in my quest to treat myself like I treat my close friends or lovers. In the end, no one should be buying me flowers but myself – though, of course, I wouldn’t deny them from someone else. The only person you can rely on is yourself, so be reliable. Be good to yourself. Buy yourself daisies.
In another step on my journey towards self-acceptance and forgiveness, I decided that I would try using a tampon for the first time. I am 21 years old, and I haven’t used one. Now before you get any ideas about why that is, I’ll get right into the explanation. It’s not that I have any convoluted ideas about virginity (bitch, please), or that I wasn’t “allowed” to use them – in fact, my mom begged me to try one for my entire adolescence. No matter how often she told me how much better and cleaner they were than pads, I didn’t budge, and she gave up on it. Truth is, I have struggled my whole life with some pretty fucked up ideas about my body. My vagina and I aren’t exactly friends. The idea of putting a tampon in, much less masturbating, used to viscerally disturb me so much that talking about it just a few years ago would fuck me up. Like, I would need to take a break mid-conversation to go to the bathroom and breathe, or risk full-fledged breakdown in front of my cool new college friends.
The point being: my vagina terrifies and disgusts me. The idea of putting a tube up there gives me the SUPER creeps.
But here I am at twenty-one, wearing diapers every time I get my period, essentially. Like it or not, my vagina is a part of my body. It’s not going anywhere. So it’s time for me to begin to deal with it.
So now what? I guess it’s time for me to use a tampon. Mind you, this involves a few things:
- Inserting something into my vagina. Manually.
- Dealing with the fact that I have to touch my vagina to do this.
- Dealing with the fact that I have to touch my vagina mid-menstruation to do this.
- Obtaining a tampon (or a few) from my roommate and fumbling through an explanation about why I need a demo for how to use it, and why I won’t just buy one for myself (why waste the money if I don’t know how this is going to go?).
- Living for a few hours with a paper wad inside my cooter and trying not to fuckin’ flip out about it.
- Inserting something into my vagina. Manually. Are you getting this?
So, intrepid explorer that I am, I take a box of tampons into my bathroom (shared with only one other person, thank god). The first attempt involves dealing with the sensation of shoving something dry up there. Like, dry. I think it is important to tell you all here that I was given tampons of the cardboard variety. For those of you who are novices like me (or people who have never menstruated), cardboard tampons are supposedly hand-crafted by Satan himself. Women who use tampons with plastic applicators swear by them. So here I am, trying to put cardboard up my vagina, realizing how awful it feels, and how much I want to die, and yelling through the bathroom door for verbal guidance from my poor, poor housemate (seriously, thank you – you know who you are).
My roommate informs me that there are three steps to putting a tampon in. These steps are as follows:
- Insert the tampon. The whole fucking thing. Do not half-ass this, or you will regret it later.
- Push the applicator in until it slides into a shorter form. Tampons are engineered so that you don’t have to straight-up shove the cotton all the way in with, like, two fingers. Instead, you push it in with the applicator, which then folds into itself for easy removal.
- Remove the applicator. Again, some engineering shit allows you to do this with ease upon proper completion of step two.
- (Optional) Dangle that tampon string out of your vag like a G. Do a lil wobbly dance.
Take one of my first tampon insertion does not go according to plan. The cardboard applicator is “sticky,” as my roommate has patiently explained, which means that the second step of the three-step process is tough to pull off. Instead of pushing the applicator up, I sort of nudge it a little bit, and then accidentally remove the whole tampon instead of just the applicator.
At this point, I’m in my bra and underwear in my bathroom, with an audience behind the door, and I’m feeling a little frazzled. Okay, time to try again.
My second attempt is slightly more successful. I get the thing all the way up there, locked and loaded. But when it comes to pushing the applicator up, I’m stuck again. The idea of applying pressure to this tampon makes me want to jump out of the window. What if this shit punctures my fallopian tubes, or whatever, and I bleed to death? I’ve had nightmares about it.
Now it’s time to call in the big guns. I remove the tampon that I have up there and graciously thank my roommate for her service. Then I go to my room, get my cellphone, and call my mom. She can’t tell I’m frazzled when she first picks up, but the tone of voice I use to tell her that “Yes, mom, I am squatting,” effectively communicates the seriousness of the situation.
“Okay,” she says. “Now really get it in there, and then keep pushing on it. Otherwise, you’re going to feel the hurt the whole time it’s in there. Oy vey, cardboard, really? Terrible. Anyway, are you pushing on it?”
With the guidance of my mother and spiritual coach, I push until I think I feel the applicator give. To be sure, I feel around a little bit on the inside to make sure the cardboard portion is shorter than I remember it was originally. I do this without passing out or crying, so this is a huge victory for me. Slowly but surely, I remove the applicator, and I’m left with a motherfucking goddamn tampon in me. IN me. Words cannot communicate what I am feeling at this moment, but imagine that I am shouting and also shaking my hands like I have two shake-weights. I am RATTLED.
Floored, I tell my mom that I have to go, and I take a seat on the bathroom floor. I feel like I am going to throw up from pure anxiety. Also, like I am going to pass out. Also, like I am going to cry. I do not throw up or pass out but I definitely cry a little, and then my roommate asks if she can shower, and I hobble back to my bedroom, where I sit on my bed and listen to music to distract myself.
Holy shit, there is a wad of cotton up my vagina. It’s absorbing some shit, doing its job, just chillin’. It’s not bothering anyone, you know? And yet the idea of it being there is really throwing me off.
I did it. I put a tampon in. I used a tampon. Will I ever use another one? That remains to be seen. It may be a while. But I did it. I did it for me, and I learned that it’s not so bad (if you get the hookup with a plastic applicator, anyway). I’m proud of myself. And I think my vagina’s pretty proud of me, too. Go girl!