Skepticism

Behind the scenes at Skepchick HQ: The mysterious dissappearing tampons

One of the best things about being a writer for this blog is the back-channel email distribution list where we toss out ideas, drunken emails and interesting links and comment on them. From time to time, I’ll be posting a segment of these so you guys can share some of the random hilarity.

Last week, our discussion was around the mysterious disappearing OB tampons reported here.

The conversation went something like this:

Elyse:

WTF?!? People don’t work this hard to get heroin.

Tracy:

“this is like taking my right to breathe”

Hello whut. Because buying a particular brand of tampon is a basic human right, apparently.

Elyse:

You know that time in high school when you got your period early and didn’t have any o.b. in your purse so you spent the day stuffing paper towels in your pants?

Now you know what Darfur is like.

A:

No, Tracy with no e, not a basic human right … A BIOLOGICAL IMPERATIVE.

Strangely, I use o.b. tampons, and have not noticed the disappearance. I assume this is due to my need to have what my family calls “the Cold War Stash” of supplies under the bathroom sink. Does it qualify as hoarding if it’s less than 10 of each item?

Elyse:

I also use(d?) ob. But I didn’t notice because if you have a baby you don’t get a period until god declares you pure again. So the last time I bought a box of huge ass absorbency obs, it was almost two years ago.

And I still find those fuckers everywhere I go. Like goddamn Legos and Lite Brite bulbs. They live in the crevices of my floorboards. In my car. In my pockets. I think I even gave 40 to Amy last year. AND THEY’RE STILL EVERYWHERE!

In fact I just found 12 that were actually in my vagina. In their wrapper.

Amy:

Hahahahah! It’s true! I keep finding the ones you gave me and I have even moved!

Tracy:

I don’t like non-applicator tampons, but I get cross by Tampax Pearl, which has a super-smooth plastic applicator “like pearls”. Ridiculous waste of resources. That said, I got a free one with a regular pack
and it did slide in like a lubed cucumber.

Not that I’ve ever lubed a cucumber, you understand.

Maria:

Didn’t I have a behind the scenes at skepchick feature at one point? Where I posted emails? Can I post this? I am dying here.

Tracy:

But then everyone will know I don’t lube my cucumber!!

Amanda:

Is that supposed to be news, Tracy?

If I still needed tampons, I’d cut a bitch to get some OBs during a shortage. Those little bastards are the only ones that didn’t feel like dry cotton finger of Satan.

Tracy:

Heheh Satan is a huge evil red leathery dude with slim white cotton fingers.

HEY WAIT WHADDYA MEAN NEWS?

*mutter grumble vagina complain*

Elyse:

Edward Tampon Hands

Elyse:

And the tampons are also scissors

Masala Skeptic

Maria Walters (a.k.a. Masala Skeptic) has spent a lot of time in ‘furrin parts,’ including Hong Kong, Trinidad, and Pittsburgh. Although her passport is from India, she’s spent most of her adult life in the United States. She currently lives in Atlanta and has an unhealthy affection for science fiction, Neil Gaiman and all things Muppet.

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47 Comments

  1. Oh, dear, oh, dear.

    So funny, and yet slightly disconcerting at the same time.

    Maria, please continue the BTS segments. I remember you telling me about the email thread in response to my sending Jill baked goods. Which turned out to be the first example of my divine powers.

    #IBelieveInDerek #ChurchofDerek

    ;-)

  2. This is hilarious, but I need to get serious for a moment (I’m only marginally sorry). The disappearance of ultra sized tampons is a huge issue for me. Maybe y’all haven’t gone through this yet, but when you get older, you probably will. Maybe you’ll be lucky and you won’t, but who knows…

    (Guys, you might want to stop reading now but I’m not going to pull any punches, if you get sick to your wussy little tummies, not my problem, you were warned)

    When I was in my late 30s I started having incredibly heavy periods. These are the sorts of periods you can’t imagine when you’re younger, it’s like the stuff of nightmares, or some horrific scene from a David Cronenberg movie.

    I started passing chunks. LARGE chunks. I’m talking chunks of tissue that were larger than a fifty cent coin.

    At the time I was using “The Keeper” which is a vaginal cup you insert to catch your flow. It had a two ounce capacity. I was filling it up in less than forty five minutes with flow and chunks. That meant I was putting out over sixty ounces of fluid and tissue a day, for at least five days in a row. Then my periods started lasting for 9 or 10 days (with the heavy flow five days in the middle). I couldn’t go very far from a bathroom without risking serious embarrassment and mess. Of course it was time to see the doctor.

    I also had to stop using the keeper (for various infection reasons). The ONLY tampon that had any chance of making it possible for me to work for up to an hour between mad rushes to the bathroom was the OB Ultra. NO other company makes a tampon of that size any more (because of all the toxic shock stuff in the 80s).

    I got checked out, and was offered a procedure that was basically cauterizing my uterus (burning away the lining, ablation, it’s called). This was fine with me, I wasn’t using it for anything anyway. So now I have “normal” periods. They last around six days, instead of nine. I have one, maybe two, days (per period) where I fill an ultra tampon in about two hours (instead of 45 minutes) though I very occasionally still fill it in an hour (maybe one period a year is that heavy). I don’t pass as many chunks as I used to, but they do still happen (usually associated with days of much heavier flow).

    The loss of the ultra size of OB tampons is a heavy blow. It’s got nothing to do with brand loyalty or the environment and everything to do with not wanting to have to rush to the bathroom ever damn hour and irritating my vaginal area to the point of searing pain from all the wiping and swapping out of tampons or constant rubbing of pads.

    So yeah, I’m upset, really upset, that I can’t get my hands on ultras any more. I’m not so upset that I’m willing to pay $80 a box, but I shouldn’t fucking HAVE to. I’m so sick of feminine hygiene products that are geared towards young women who barely bleed at all. There’s a million choices out there for those women, but women who are at the other end of the spectrum have nothing now. *garumph*

  3. Yes, I do recall Sister Taffy’s (of Landover Baptist fame) anti-tampon campaign: “Satan’s Little Cotton Fingers”. She promoted Angel Pads, because they come with wings!

    When I lived in Taiwan I asked friends and family to send me care packages of ob tampons.

    Yay, tampons.

  4. I know this smacks of first world problems, but the unavailability of o.b. tampons is seriously impacting my quality of life. For those not familiar, they are a different shape than all other tampons. They are the only ones that fit me; all others feel, like Amanda said, like the “fingers of Satan.”

    And I’m devastated to hear they discontinued the ultras completely (or as I call them, the purples).

    Johnson&Johnson is RUINING MY LIFE!

  5. I have been fortunate in that my periods lately aren’t at all heavy (in fact they’re annoying, ~10 days of drizzle, sometimes it stops and then surprise!
    I like o.b. because their light tampons fit me. I can’t wear the ultra size ones, they’re too big. I am sorry for all of you who did use them and can’t anymore. J&J is stupid.

  6. I used store brand tampons when I used to use them, and always had to get Super Plus absorbency if I wanted to go more than 3 hours between tampon changes.

    I use the Keeper, now, and it’s nice not to feel like a freakin’ desert. (Super Plus ABSORBS EVERYTHING.) It seems to work pretty well.

  7. @MorgannaLeFey No, this younger woman knows exactly how you feel. My periods were like that pretty much as soon as they started (along with incapacitating cramps and anemia). For a while I was on depo provera shots that stopped my periods with crazy amounts of hormones, now I have an IUD that does the same but with tiny amounts of hormones. I don’t even want to contemplate how bad my periods would be if I started having them again (thankfully I don’t want children so I have more options).

  8. @Lyra Lynx:

    They should be less weeny.

    Hoorah for tampon talk!

    I recently started using a Diva cup. I adore it. It probably would not have been acceptable when I was young and my flow filled an overnight pad in an hour. But then, nothing was adequate then. *shudders* Life used to be fucking hard, man.

    Speaking of which, consider a visit over to http://www.stlcharity.org/ and maybe donate to help SAVE THE HOOHAHS!!

  9. Is the young women have lighter periods a real thing? I’ve never heard that… when my IUD wears off I’ll be 38. I better not get heavier periods… I had 5 periods between my two kids and the first two days of those, I couldn’t leave the house without looking like a murder victim… specifically, a victim murdered by my own vagina… with a grenade.

    I didn’t even bother with TP. I’d just hop in the shower every hour or so.

  10. I particularily laughed at finding them everywhere – because due to testosterone therapy (I’m a transgender guy) I have had exactly 2 periods in the last 8 years…. and yet I still seem to find various feminine hygiene products amongst my things in strange places to this day.

    Given the rate at which the things breed, you would think there’d be no such thing as a shortage!

  11. I’m so glad that I’m not the only woman who was enraged by the o.b. shortage. Let’s be clear, when you go to the store in search of tampons at 11:30 pm, it’s not a lark. They goddamn better be there. Using Tampax now. ugh. I’ve never needed the ultras, but I really feel for you ladies that did and can’t get them.

  12. @Buzz Parsec: I think recent research has shown the dying early was due to drinking and smoking. So as the differences there dissappear, so should the differences in life-span.

    If I’m misinformed, don’t tell me. ;)

    Oh, and it takes more than hillarious tampon talk to alienate me.

  13. @Elyse: I used to have really painful heavy periods when I first got them, then they sort of regulated. But now I’m over 30, they’re like way worse than they used to be. Really heavy for the first couple of days, and replete with hella sore back. :(

  14. If anything, I think conversations like this provide a good way to occasionally cull the weaker males from the commenters.

    On topic, as much as I can be despite being male, I would think that having your uterus stretched out for nine months prior to giving birth is bound to have SOME impact on future periods. Maybe that’s what makes the major difference between young girls and older women?

  15. @MorgannaLeFey:
    That happened to Mrs. QA when she was about 30 and it turned out to be caused by a huge fibroid tumor. They biggest problem she had was getting a doctor to take her seriously. Once she got a doctor that truly listened to her symptoms, she was in surgery almost immediately.

    The tumor was the size of a small cantaloupe, but turned out to be pre-cancerous but benign. Luckily.

  16. Not to sound like a mac user in a windows bugs forum, but:

    Had the US Keeper for the 5 year life span, just picked up the UK Femmecup and love it love it love it. As soon as I have a little money to spend I’ll buy 3 more and have enough to last me until menopause. Woot!

  17. @Lyra Lynx: Hell, I had female friends through high school and college, and work in a primarily female library. Anyone who can’t stand a little frank talk about the fun and fascinating biology of our fair females needs to man the fuck up.

    And be glad he’s a boy. So glad that shit doesn’t happen to me.

  18. @QuestionAuthority

    Yeah, I had some small polyps they called them. Those got removed at the same time as my ablation. My mother had a fibroid the size of a softball when I was in 2nd grade. They did a hysterectomy on her.

    I love ablation. Wire me up with fine metal mesh inside my woman cave and zap me with electricity! What’s not to love? :) The outcome was grand for me. Going from like 7 heavy days to 1 or 2 is heaven. :) I can’t wait until menopause.

  19. Hi Morganna
    There was no alternative as she was asymptomatic until the heavy bleeding (including clots) started. By then, the tumor was well established. She had to have a hysterectomy and one ovarectomy, too. It was a good thing that we had decided that we were done having kids by then.

    Just to get the word out: Sometimes heavy periods are a danger sign…

  20. I’ve always had heavy periods, but I find they’ve gotten heavier and chunkier (like @MorgannaLeFey but not quite as severe) as I’ve gotten older. I don’t have kids, so it’s not as if that triggered the change.

    I’m glad that you guys have conversations like this one because it’s extremely difficult to figure out how abnormal such things are. My mom was no help, having the same periods that she always has, and no clots or chunks. Which eliminated an inherited thing. Had doc check for fibroids with an ultrasound, and nothing, so apparently I’m just lucky that way.

    Although I’ve never like tampons; they’ve always seemed to make my cramps worse. I stick to pads because although they’re messier, I don’t feel quite as miserable.

  21. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only woman who doesn’t have an issue with periods. My flow is light and I have no pain or discomfort. I usually forget that I even have it so when I go pee, I’m reminded of it and then I have to make a second trip to change my pad. I rarely even bother with tampons except when I go swimming because my flow is pretty light and I can’t find the “junior” tampons except in a variety pack.

    Having my period is just not a big deal for me at all. Am I some kind of freak?

  22. @catgirl:

    You’re not a freak, just lucky!

    I do want to echo some of the sentiments about getting checked out for heavy periods. My mom started having really heavy periods after she had me, that just got worse and worse. Her doctors would barely listen to the issue until she started writing down just how heavy and frequently she had to change pads. Luckily she didn’t have any cyst issues and she ended up barely suffering from menopause because she was on the depo shot.

  23. @BeardofPants:

    Technically, they all do. With any BC you take, if you just skip that last week of sugar pills and start a new pack, you’ll skip your period. I did it for years. The doc used to tell me that I could do it in 3 month runs.

    And I think that in the last few years recommendations have changed and you don’t even have to do that 3rd month period. You can skip them all year long if you’d like.

  24. @Elyse:
    And I think that in the last few years recommendations have changed and you don’t even have to do that 3rd month period. You can skip them all year long if you’d like.

    What’s the effect of that when you miss a pill (accidentally or on purpose) and your period starts up again? Is it going to be much heavier than usual?

  25. @BeardofPants:

    I used Seasonale a few years ago. Sometimes it worked very well, but other times I would get very light spotting that would last for weeks. It’s different for everyone though. If you’re already using BC, it might be worth trying it out. It really works best if you are planning to use it long-term. I think it can take a full year before it really starts preventing periods completely.

    @exarch:

    If you miss one pill but then go on taking the rest, you’ll probably have very light spotting that could last any amount of time, if you have anything at all. If you stop taking them completely, your period will go back to what it was without the pills. The tissue doesn’t build up indefinitely if that’s what you’re asking. However, if you’ve been on BC for a long time, your periods might have lightened and if you’re used to that, having a “normal” period would seem heavier to you.

  26. @ BeardofPants – careful what you wish for…. it happens to some. Which is great if they are boys, not so good if they’re not.

    See RE: SALLY (SPECIAL MEDICAL PROCEDURE) [2010] FamCA 237.

    I stopped having to use pads years ago – but keep some in my bag because there’s always someone who runs out.

    I don’t recommend vaginal cauterisation without anaesthesia.

  27. @Zoe Brain:
    … it happens to some.

    That’s fascinating! :o

    On the other hand, wouldn’t it be cool if this happened to every kid? No gender stereotyping, you just figure out if you’re male or female when you’re old enough to appreciate the difference …

  28. @BeardofPants: I’ve been taking Lybrel (the no period BC pill) for about 3 years now. I love it so much. The only reason I started is was because I had the world’s worst periods and PMDD. I don’t get nearly as many migraines, no more anemia, and all of the other, more squelchy stuff has stopped too.

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