If I Lived In Manitoba I'd Make Red River Jokes

Dealing With "That Time of The Month" in Cheaper and Greener Ways

Being a queer and gender-fluid woman, I like to try to write and speak inclusively. Despite the fact that I still can't seem to get a grip on alternative pronouns, if you were born a dude but you're actually a chick, or don't accept/fit the gender binary, that's totally cool with me (we should hang out sometime). This being said:


Everybody else, get cozy. Today's post is personal.

Ladies, gentlemen, persons, we're all familiar with That Time of The Month. Aunt Flo. Shark Week. The Monthly Gift. Whatever other stupidly quaint names some goof thought up to make our periods easier to explain during the equally quaintly-named "The Talk". 99.9% of us detest the inconvenience, mess, pain, and awkward moments where we have to politely convey why we can't have sex with our significant others or go swimming with our prepubescent best friends. The other .1% are lying.

Periods mess a person up. Folks experiencing "that time of the month" pop ibuprofen like it's candy, wear the most ugly, slouchy sweatpants in public, eat comfort foods with complete disregard for their health, and explode into tears at otherwise relaxed disagreements. They carry bags filled with an arsenal of "napkins" and wear them with a pride comparable to that of an adult in diapers.

Then there are the commercials. Even outside Shark Week their cheerfulness is agitating. Who wears white bikinis during their period? What stagnant vampire of a woman bleeds blue? How come there's never a hazard alert on the ad, like with American drug commercials? "WARNING: sanitary napkins come wrapped in plastic that crinkles with a deafening sound comparable a forbidden midnight snack Cheetos bag and may be as obnoxiously coloured as a windbreaker from the 1980's. Do not store in small pockets or purses unless you wish to alert everyone who walks behind you of your condition. May cause discomfort, irritability, embarrassment, and possibly shame. Use as directed."

In a sense it's kind of cool - we can sync up with the moon and each other and have a Shark Week Team Marathon. Ancient cultures had goddesses and special prayers and ceremonies for when their young women had their first period. For a whole week (and sometimes a week before and after) you can eat whatever you want with reckless abandon and receive pity instead of judgement. You can... umm...

The cons outweigh the pros, obviously. 

One of the worst parts is "cleaning up the mess", so to speak. Tampons are tricky to master, impossible to get out, and leave room for mortifying "There is a string coming out of your bathing suit in this photo," moments (and let's not forget the bread mold story). Pads are about as close to Pampers as a teenager wants to get; they're bulky, smelly, and prone to leaks, plus they keep you from being certain kinds of physically active and can make it sound like you're carrying a garbage bag between your legs. 

Then there's the waste. Twenty billion pads, tampons, and applicators are sent to the landfill each year in North America alone. A single person will throw out, give or take, sixteen-thousand eight hundred menstrual products in their lifetime. Even if you were the most hippie hippie to ever hippie but still used conventional pads/liners/tampons, you'd be a huge hand in the destruction of the planet's resources. That's fun to think about.

Now the good news! I'm going to introduce you to two products that have saved me close to $200CND since this time last year and completely spared me the crinkling, leaking, and embarrassing photo ops of the two most common options, and they are the Divacup and cloth pads. (I sound like a bad internet scam. Sorry.)
The Divacup* is a little bell-shaped piece of silicone that admittedly is a little intimidating at first glance ("Will this even fit in me?"), but it is the single best thing I have ever invested $40 in. Like a tampon, it scoots up inside your vagina and vacuum-seals itself in place to catch all the blood. You pull it out with your fingers and empty the contents into a toilet every few hours, then you rinse/wash it and pop it back inside. That's it. No crinkles or applicators or risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome. It doesn't contain any weird PVC, plastic, BPA, or latex. While the website recommends you change your cup every year or so, these things can actually last up to ten years. On a low-flow day, it can stay inside you for up to twelve hours. All sports are accessible (although I've heard that advanced yoga poses can undo the vacuum seal). It is, by far, the most comfortable thing I've ever used for Aunt Flo's visit. I've actually forgotten it's in there multiple times. You can run around naked if you want, and nobody's able to tell you're on your monthly (though I really don't suggest you run around in the nude, at least not in public).

The only downside I've experienced thus far is that the little thing tends to be uncomfortable when you've got super bad cramps. There's just not enough space for all those Kegals plus a rubber cup. 

That's where the pads come in. In the same way that cloth diapers are suddenly in style, so should be cloth pads. You can get fancy organic name-brand versions like Lunapads, but there are cheaper ones sold in stores like Venus Envy and tons of people sell them on Etsy, too. If you're really gutsy or can't afford to buy them, you can make them yourself. There are tutorials and patterns all over the internet. I put in a weak attempt once using fleece, but didn't have the drive to try until I succeeded in something that wasn't bulky, so I just saved up and bought mine from a lady in the States who uses the money for her son's college fund.

Cloth pads are super cute, can be made to custom sizes, are washable, and breathe better than any regular pad. They can be folded up to look like a cloth wallet or something instead of sitting in your bag as a big obvious neon square. They're generally soft (kind of like wearing comfy crotch pajamas) and are free of weird chemical absorbing agents. They work just as well as the conventional kind, and if you've ever gotten super itchy down below during your period, they're 90% likely to fix that. Cloth pads too can last for ten years or longer, depending on how well you take care of them.
The adorable cloth pads and liners I got in the mail!

Both of these items look like big expenses up front, and for someone living paycheck-to-paycheck, they are. But in the long run these initial $40 and $70 investments can save you thousands of dollars and tons of waste. I highly, highly suggest you pick up a Divacup or equivalent menstrual cup and some cloth pad liners/pads. They have totally changed how I and my shark brain-shaped ovaries (I bet you were wondering where "Shark Week" came from) see each other.

On the other hand, there are people who just can't deal with a cup of their own blood or washing pads. That's okay. There are still cleaner options for those of you who were affected by the "hippiest hippie" comment. Organic, chemical-free, and unbleached tampons and disposable pads exist - take a look around! You'll be saving precious resources and sparing yourself crotch-exposure to really unhealthy irritants.

Just think:

1) A $40 menstrual cup or $70 set of cloth pads can save you an average of almost $200 a year (estimating $10/month for pads and $6/month for liners)!

2) Cloth diapers make for less diaper rash in babies. Cloth pads... well, you get the idea. 



*There are actually many different brands of menstrual cups, and they range in price and time period of usefulness. Some are only good for one shot (what's the point?), while others are made to last for years. I suggest the Divacup because it's the only one I've tried and it's the most widely available. You can order it online or buy it in local stores. Venus Envy and Pete's Frootique both carry them.

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