Objects: # 2—Tampons
by Andrew Tibbetts
Tampons are girls’ things. I feel shame writing about them. “No,” a deep part me of says, “no! Don’t write about this object!”
I first saw tampons looking through my mother’s chest of drawers when I was in grade two or three. Was I looking for change? Candy? What was I doing in there? I don’t know. Anyway, I found these cardboard tubes. Cool! A smaller tube slid inside a larger one. And inside the tubes was a tube-shaped wad of cotton-batten on a string. Cool! I couldn’t think what they could possibly be for, but I had all kinds of ideas. I thought I would bring some to art class. They could dip into paint like tea bags into hot water.
I can’t remember the denouement of this story. Can you believe it? Did my mother find them and have a fit? Did I show them to my teacher Ms. Glynne? Did she have a fit? Did my entire grade two or three art class make tampon paintings before any grown-ups intervened? I can’t remember. I can’t believe I can’t remember. You’d think the end of that story would have been something quite traumatic. Maybe I’ve blocked it.
Other times I’ve seen tampons: once I opened a (platonic) girlfriend’s travelling toothbrush container only to find it wasn’t; sometimes I’ve seen them lying on the ground like dead white mice beside dumpsters; just a minute ago when I googled up a photo to go with this blog. Those are the only other times. Tampons are kept well out of the public eye because society still can’t handle female reality.
Being a gay male, most of my friends are straight women and some lesbians. I know more about ‘female’ things than most men, I bet. But still, I don’t see many tampons. Tampons are not things that people like to display or look at. You will see a stack of toilet paper front and centre in the grocery store, but not tampons. You will see a cute cuddly little boy bear pulling toilet paper off a dispenser attached to a tree in a TV commercial cartoon—his father will tell him not to use too much. However, you will never see a cute cuddly little girl bear pulling a tampon out of a box—her mother instructing her on hygienic disposal methods. If men menstruated, tampons would be tax-free and there would be giant statues of them in civic squares. Men would exaggerate about how many they needed each month and how big they were.
As it is, men are nervous to buy their girlfriends, wives or daughters products for them if they are sent to the store with a list. Fathers leave the room when feminine hygiene commercials come on TV. Even though it would be difficult to tell what is actually being sold, since the visuals for these ads involve frolicking through meadows. (Perhaps a vestige of the ancient custom to send women back into nature away from the tribe during their periods? Or is that folklore?)
I remember reading Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman when I was in high school (I think it was that book—didn’t the heroine work for an ad agency at one point, doing surveys or something?) and there was a hilarious section about pads. I wondered if men would be able to stand reading it. “Good for Peggy!” I thought. “About time! Maybe one day I will be able to mention anything about this topic in public.” It’s a pretty stupid taboo.
And here that day is. Thank you for listening, public. And because it’s a blog, if I’m blushing you won’t know.