How, you might ask yourself, can a thirty-year-old woman with reasonably regular menstrual cycles be caught completely off-guard by bleeding? I have no real answer. I just kind of forgot.
I started to think I might be in trouble when I realized that in terms of menstrual supplies, I had exactly one tampon sitting in the back of my medicine cabinet. Let us be clear: I hate tampons, but my Keeper is impossible for me on the first day. Too crampy. A brief digression, here; what the hell is wrong with the people who write copy for pads, tampons, etc.? I am thankful to be living in an age when none of the products I'm expected to use involve a belt, but there is no way in hell my period is ever going to turn me into the breezy shopaholic they seem to be targeting. For example, what's with the ad that shows a pantyliner shaped like a deck chair? Much as I might wish it were so, I do not get to spend several days a month lying around eating chocolate while someone brings me margaritas. I get to spend them doing all the normal stuff people have to do--going to work, changing the cat litter, setting the vcr--all the while feeling that there's someone new at the controls in my brain. Someone possibly not cut out for this kind of work. I walk into things. I listen in dismay as every other sentence comes out of my mouth addled. I feel generally crabby worrying that I'm reinforcing all the stereotypes of hormonally incompetent women. I try not to fall down the stairs. All the while I'm forced to listen to oozy voice-overs about comfort and convenience while someone uses what appears to be antifreeze to demonstrate the absorbency of their overpriced, overpackaged, dioxin-filled "hygiene products."
Some of this was what was running through my mind as I made my first trip in years to the lady aisle of the drugstore. The aisle heading listed "feminine paper" as one of the products I might find there. I don't even know what that means. There was no enlightenment to be had in the softly-coloured boxes lining the shelves, either. I stared in growing horror at my options. Everything bleached, of course. Plastic applicators. Lavender-scented pantyliners!? (I think they were pantyliners anyway. I pray to god they're not scenting anything that's supposed to go inside you, but hey, some of the other things they've suggested to women are so spectacularly bad that I wouldn't be surprised.) Just when I thought I was going to freak out completely, I spotted a box of Instead cups in the forlorn bottom corner of the display. I grabbed them and fled.
In case there's anyone who doesn't know, Instead is a flexible cup that sits just under your cervix and catches your blood. If you're squeamish about such things, this might seem pretty gross, but consider: you can leave 'em in longer than tampons without worrying that you'll die of Toxic Shock Syndrome. There is no horrible cotton string. They're painless going in and coming out, at least for me. And they have never once leaked in my experience. Their only drawback is that they're disposable, and that's a whole other post, which I'm not going to get into here.
By ten o'clock, which is when I finished work, I was very very sorry about the policy which prevents my employer from giving me painkillers. "Take a bath," Suzanne said. (One of the things about working with other women is that I get sympathy and good advice.) Because our bathtub takes, no joke, half an hour to fill, I called home to spook and asked him to start running it for me. "Put in Epsom salts!" Suzanne said over my shoulder into the phone.
I should say here that spook has spent most of this week on the verge of a freakout of his very own. This coming Sunday is Canzine, and he was very late this year in starting the latest issue of misfit toy. Between printing tshirts, making sure his back issues are in order, making more copies of his beautiful but extremely finicky memory zine sepia and trying to put together an entire cut-and-paste masterpiece in a week, he's been a little stressed. Did I mention he also hasn't been feeling that well? I want you to bear this in mind when I tell you that I arrived home to discover that he had cleared the bathtub of all its usual flotsam (empty shampoo bottles, cleaning sponge, soap dish), filled the bath with water that was exactly the temperature I wanted, and set along the windowsill and the edge of the sink what appeared to be every tealight in the apartment. It was beautiful in the flickery glow of all those candles, and I think it was maybe magic because it made my cramps go away.
spook said once that he doesn't like to talk about our relationship in public because it's like showing people naked pictures of his heart. Reader, I take the liberty of showing this one to you because I am frankly baffled by the depth of his kindness, by all the things that one act says to me about what I've got here. I hope that ten years from now when I'm grousing about some petty issue, someone will remind me about that bath. I hope to feel a little small and a whole lot lucky.