Sunday, August 9, 2009

Squeezing the Pencil

I was paging through a magazine the other day, when I came across this ad for multi-size feminine "leak protection." The headline explained the reason why I might need variety in leak protection: "Because one style doesn't fit all."

This struck me as hysterically funny and petrifying at the same time. Having been officially menopausal for the past two years, I've been enjoying the freedom from the "pad" that plagued me for more than three decades. And I’m not talking about flimsy little pantyliners that are basically over-sized bandaids. Between fibroids and what seemed like the Amazon River of menstrual flows, I was a mega-absorbant slave. Try pads made for hippos. So to say I was ecstatic when my periods came to a total and complete end is a huge understatement. I wanted to break out the champagne. Dance on table tops. Wail: "I'm free!" from TOMMY, until my neighbors complained. You don't understand, I'd say. I never have to buy a box of Kotex again in my life. Ever, ever!

And then I come across this ad. Ironically, all the people shown in the ad were women. This says to me that, one way or the other, the feminine protection industry refuses to give up its lucrative stake in our uncontrollable body fluids. Think about it: if most women start menstruating around age 13 and menopause sets in between 52 and 54 on the average, that’s around 40 years of tampons, pads, and liners, not to mention all the peripheral products we have to buy because of our hormonal condition. Like Midol. For a good part of my life—and I’m sure yours--I was mainlining Midol. I even took it between periods as a post-hangover treatment, mood-lifter for general crankiness, and a caffeine substitute. Next to chocolate, Midol, I believe, is responsible for less women being incarcerated as serial killers. (That’s a joke…don’t go off thinking I believe hormones make women into criminals. There are times, though, that we’ve all wanted to claw something in a fit of cramps.)

Now, blissfully free of all the products designed to manage my monthly gift from Mother Nature, I’m resistant to any suggestion that I’ll need to return to the pad. It makes my teeth hurt just thinking about it. Do manufacturer’s really understand women’s revulsion to disposable protection products? Yes, we thank God we no longer have to hide in huts with other “taboo” women or shred up old dishrags—which, when you think about it, really were a “greener” option. But that doesn’t mean we enjoy feeling like pre-potty-trained toddlers. No matter how sleek the design, the idea is that we can’t control ourselves. Our short-lived independence from the pad disappears with the first sign of bladder dysfunction. The first, “Oops!”

I don’t know what the alternative is. I’m not in Research and Development. There is, at least, work being done in the pharmaceutical industry to calm over-active bladders to lower your chances of urinary accidents. Again, kind of ironic. They get us with Midol in the first half of our lives, then keep us hooked on anti-urgency meds in the second half. It may not be a conspiracy, but it sure is opportunistic.

I don’t know about you, but I’m practicing my Kegels like mad. Sqeeze the pencil. Squeeze the pencil. Maybe it will buy me a decade or two.