The Traveling Tampon

Have you ever stood in a supermarket line with a years supply of tampons? Ever had to declare your tampons at customs? Or perhaps you’ve stood in a crowded foreign airport (using a mixture of broken English and sign language) explaining what you do with your tampons and why you’re currently carrying hundreds of them? If the answer is yes, chances are you’ve been away from home for an extended, ahem….period.

I think most traveling women have learnt how to strategically pack 10 boxes of tampons in their suitcase, (they make great shoe-fillers), it brings a whole new meaning to “fill your boots”.

It wasn’t until I started traveling that I realized women differed so dramatically in their choices. All of us, at different ends of the globe, have been given different information, usually handed down by the women in our life. As young women we listened and followed the customs of our surroundings.

If you’re Asian it’s possible you may have been told using a tampon was the same as losing your virginity. If you’re an American, after being deemed old enough for a tampon, you may have only seen a tampon with an applicator. In my country town by the river, as a girl who swam every day, I think we skipped past the pad and on to the tampon stage very quickly. My mother was a practical woman, it was a brief conversation “if you want to swim in the carnival this weekend you’ll need to use these”. Done. No need for a long discussion, actually, we really didn’t discuss “it” at all.

As a new expat, within my first few months in Jakarta I soon learnt tampons weren’t for everyone. My Indonesian teacher warned me it was unnatural for anything other than my husband to go “in there”.  I’m sure she didn’t speak for the entire Indonesian population but it was definitely the belief of a lot of women I met. Even though tampons were taboo, the subject of Aunty Flow coming to visit was one to be shared with everyone. Lets discuss it at breakfast, at lunch, at dinner, lets discuss it at the office, lets just talk about it all day long. “I’m sorry, I wont be at work today, I’ve got my menstruation”. Okay, thanks for that, I’ll see you and your menstruation tomorrow.

A girlfriend of mine who was working as a journalist in Jakarta, got more than she bargained for on a trip to interview the President. On passing through security an entire discussion was had about her tampons. With no idea of what they were holding up to the light, an intense conversation developed. What sort of weapon was she carrying? Was this to be an assassination by tampon?

While living in the US, I made a mercy dash to a pharmacist late on a Sunday evening, I found myself standing alone at a stark white counter. As I handed over my box of little white friends, the assistant made a sideways glance to check the coast was clear, and asked in a hushed tone “what are they like”? It took me awhile to register what she was talking about. Surely she didn’t mean the tampons? She was in her early twenties. “Ummm, good?” I nervously responded through fear of being on hidden camera. “I’ve seen people buy them before, but I’m not sure if I could”.

I realize now, she meant the applicators, or lack thereof. Primarily, the applicator has been the preferred option in the US, although having read a recent article in the Huffington Post regarding OB brand (no applicators) being hard to find and now on the black market, it appears there may be a shift in trend?

For Australian women, there is only one brand of applicator tampon and I think it may just be our American friends that are buying them. I’m afraid I have to agree with this clever woman who described the use of an applicator as “feeling a bit like someone else putting your glasses on”.

There is one common theme though, no matter where you live, those patronizing television commercials stay the same. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world. I was so pleased to find this one. Have you seen it?

So, are you brave enough to share how it works in your part of the world? Tampons, pads, moon cups. What are you packing?

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