I’m a late bloomer. I lost my first tooth in third grade, when I was 8, and had to have my last baby teeth pulled (they weren’t even loose) when I was 16.
In middle school my female friends would whisper about their periods as if they were part of some secret cult, another social clique I was excluded from. But that didn’t bother me. My mom scolded me for having Peter Pan syndrome when I refused to carry pads in my backpack for the first time I would require them, which ended up being during the summer.
You hear horror stories of period mishaps and unprepared first blood—my mom was at gym class and didn’t know what was happening (if I remember correctly)—but fortunately I was saved from this embarrassment, though going through puberty a little later than my peers. (The age ranges from 8 to 16, except in cases of precocious puberty, so I guess I’m pretty average.)
It was ten years ago this month, sometime after 6/6/06—I remember because that was when The Omen remake premiered and hysterics thought the apocalypse was upon us—and I was on summer break before freshman year of high school. We were visiting the Grand Canyon, and that’s probably the most memorable thing about this life-changing event. I guess I could have babies now and wear these absorbent vagina Band-Aids—cool.
And now I’m 120 periods later—more or less, with missed/late or blue moon periods (those rare and annoying twice-a-month ones). Many eggs have been unfertilized and uterine linings shed and I wonder how many gross diapers (a.k.a. pads), tampons, and wads of toilet paper were used to quell Aunt Flo. I like to minimize my carbon footprint in whatever way I can, recycling and using less plastic, etc., and I’m concerned about all these carcinogenic plastic things I’m putting into my body and then disposing. If the average woman throws out 250 to 300 pounds of feminine hygiene products in her lifetime, then how many dildos could I have already made with all the bloody plastic of shiny, opalescent applicators?
I’m ready to change this. I only use tampons—and I know some women can’t or don’t like using them—because I don’t like the feel of pads (I can’t stand a squeegee full of my innards resting between my butt cheeks). Compact tampons are awful; the applicator, though beautiful, is completely useless to me, so I bought a couple boxes of just the absorbent part this month. However, these are also trashed after use, require a shit-ton of energy to produce, and still are barely biodegradable—despite their claiming to be more environmentally friendly.
Not to mention, here’s a list of other negative effects they have on the environment:
- “Waste production. Essentially, energy and non-renewable fuels are used while carbon emissions are created at every step of the production process and transportation of tampons. For instance, the polyester used in the formation of plastic tampon applicators is made from petrochemical substances and also requires a large amount of freshwater for cooling.
- Harmful to wildlife. Similarly, the polyester lining and the plastic applicators from tampons on the North American market have been found to contain bisphenol A, an endocrine disruptor proven to have harmful effects on aquatic wildlife. Once disposed of in either waterways or landfills, this chemical leaches out into the environment and makes its way into the nearby ecosystems, carried by precipitation overflow (Davidson, 2012). …This creates a threat to marine ecosystems where the plastic waste collects (Sheavly and Register, 2007). The wildlife can confuse plastic tampon hulls for food, consuming them and then not being able to regurgitate the plastic.
- Water pollution from disposal. Female sanitary hygiene products, especially tampons, are the most significant product disposed of in toilets that cause problems for the water management routes. This is troublesome since “debris, and particularly debris composed of plastic, is one of the world’s most pervasive pollution problems affecting our oceans and inland waterways” (Sheavly and Register, 2007).”
In this “Meditations on Menstruation” series I’ll get up close and personal with the blood we’re conditioned to gross out about and keep out of sight. My periods need peace of abdomen and peace of mind, so I’ll try more reusable and eco-friendly options and explore issues related to menstruation around the world—from the pink tax to period taboos.
What do you use? Is there anything not on the below list that you would recommend?