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MG Asks: Do You Remembering Having "The Tampon Talk"?

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Posted on September 16 2016

Nowadays, it feels like there are a lot of options for that special time of the month. But back in my day it was pretty much pad v. tampon and given how tight my jeans were, you can bet your butt I was devoted to tampons.

In attempting to remember my own story, I asked a few of friends what they remember about having the tampon talk and their first time attempting to use one (successful or otherwise). Here’s what they had to say:

I was definitely one of those precocious readers who read about periods in novels way before I understood what periods actually were.

And it definitely took me a minute to realize that those old school “belts” or whatever Judy Blume’s characters talk about were no longer in existence.. My mom didn’t really explain things to me – but she bought so many “embarrassing” (i.e. fascinating) health and sex ed books for me that I totally read but pretended that I hated. Between those health books and my school’s rigorous health ed programming, I think I got a pretty good foundation of knowledge. That said, I was pretty hilariously ill-informed for a couple years in elementary school when my entire source of knowledge were a few young adult novels.

-Margaret, SF

I first got my period at 12, an age my mom apparently thought was too young for tampons.

So I wasn’t allowed to use them the first year or so of my period, which turned tampons into something mystical and terrifying to me. So of course that next summer, when I visited my aunt and her family for a long stay (my brother and I attended camp there with my cousin), my monthly gift arrived the very first day. I had no idea how to circumnavigate the daily (and mandatory) free swim time without tampons.

After confiding in my aunt, she pulled me into the bathroom with a box of Tampax. She gave me a long pep talk, detailed instructions, and an offer to do the first one for me so I could see how it felt. I declined the offer, but it took a full 10+ tries and over 30 minutes to finally figure it out — even with her watching and giving live action advice. Those cheap cardboard tampons were not the easiest for a first time user, but I was able to swim to my heart’s content during camp. And my aunt and I never told my mom I’d started using tampons before she lifted the household ban.

-Sally, TX

I got my period for the first time at the ripe age of 9 and it was pretty nightmarish.

I was watching Pauly (1998) starring Tony Shalhoub and Hallie Kate Eisenberg with my parents one summer evening and asked them to pause the movie because something didn’t seem right. Because I was 9 and because my parents are Middle Eastern, I didn’t know what a period was and believed I was dying. I saw blood, got dizzy, screamed and instantly started sobbing. I don’t remember much else after that except that my mom was very happy and called my whole family to relay the news. I was horrified and didn’t understand why my suffering was a cause for celebration. We finished the movie and I cried some more. I was happy that the talking parrot had his friend back, but I was mostly really upset about my changing body.

-Sheila, NYC

Some girls are lucky enough to get their periods for the first time in the dead of winter. I was 13 and in my first bikini at the public pool.

It was rough. To make matters worse, all my mom had on her was an extra large tampon. She talked me through it from the stall over because I refused to let her in with me. Obviously it took about an hour. Still not quite over that experience. I want to say that she had explained the concept before to me, but it’s one thing to listen to something theoretical and quite another to try to do it in reality.

-Vix, LA

*Names fictionalized to protect the innocent and celebrate the Blume.

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