What It Feels Like For A Girl -or- How Some Swedes And I Reenacted The Prom Scene From “Carrie”
A day trip to IKEA turned into a bloody mess the other day when I started my period during the 1 1/2 hour drive to spend a crapload of money on furniture that requires an engineering degree to assemble and ninety-nine cent Swedish meatballs.
I felt the familiar dampness, followed by dread, somewhere around what felt like mile one million, and remembered that I had thrown everything into a seldom-used purse I’d chosen to match my diplomatic relations expertise and can-do spirit. What I hadn’t remembered was seeing a tampon.
When I finally arrived at the International House Of Orange Couches, I made a beeline for the ladies room. Once there, I rummaged through my bag to make sure I wasn’t wrong about the tampons and see if I could find a quarter for the “Feminine Hygiene Products” vending machine mounted on the wall. Shit. No quarter? But I always have change! A woman came in as my forehead started to bead with liquid desperation. I thought I saw her give me the slightest side eye as she slid by me and into the closest stall, carrying a large purse that I imagined contained 47 tampons and not one other thing.
When it became clear to me that my bag contained neither quarter nor tampon and all the wishing in the world was not going to call forth the Kotex fairy, I resigned myself to Plan G, at best: the toilet paper torpedo.
If you are not familiar with the toilet paper torpedo (patent pending), it’s the name I’ve given to the emergency makeshift maxi pad we’ve all made at one time or another by rolling toilet paper around our hand about fifty times, folding it in half, and stuffing it into our panties. It doesn’t have dri-weave or wings but it’s free and readily available. If you are a complete flibbertigibbet when it comes to your period like I am, you might use this more often than you’d like to admit.
Anyway, I chose a stall far away from the tampon hoarder and looked at the mess in my pants. I had fortuitously chosen my darkest denim jeans that day, so I wasn’t terribly worried about strangers seeing my bloodbath, but, when I looked down, I was reminded of a terrible fact: it was laundry day and I wasn’t wearing panties. I yelled out, “BALLS!” having heard the Queen of Not Sharing leave a few seconds before. I could MAKE the toilet paper torpedo, but how would I keep it in place? I just had to hope that my pants and unusually strong labia majora would be enough to keep it from migrating. I thanked god for the fact that I am a fatty because I thought my thighs touching might come in handy for this assignment.
I crafted my toilet paper torpedo and carefully placed it where it was most likely to prevent further damage to my pants and pride, and pulled up my jeans. I did a little dance in the stall and everything felt fairly secure. Secure enough to hike through two football fields-worth of stylish, affordable bookcases preferred by bachelors, young couples, and single moms on a budget? I hoped so.
I walked through the giant maze that is an IKEA store, grateful for the giant arrows painted on the concrete floor that kept me from wandering off the path and spending days trying to find my way back to the post cards they want you to frame and call art. I mean, I don’t WANT to go all Donner Party on other customers to survive but I will if I have to and, if you are lost in what is essentially an enormous airplane hanger that’s been converted into a giant game of Chutes & Ladders, things might get real and mistakes might be made. Delicious mistakes.
The walking was uncomfortable, but no more than you’d expect for having half a roll of toilet paper stuffed between my legs. I was in the home stretch! I was going to pull this off! I finished getting everything I needed and was making my way toward the cash registers when the walking got more comfortable, suddenly. I froze in my tracks, terrified to move. No! But the jeans! The fat! The labia majora! It couldn’t be! It was.
A horrifying tickle went down the inside of my thigh, then calf, then ankle, and the bloody toilet paper torpedo landed next to my flip flop-clad foot. I wanted to disappear. I wondered which saint Catholics pray to for the earth to open and swallow them up. I contemplated sprinting out of the store, Flo Jo-style, and never looking back. I finally did the only practical thing that came to mind: I reached down, scooped up the damp wad, and threw it in my bag while simultaneously smearing the small red wet spot on the floor with my shoe. I ran back to the ladies room, disposed of the offending item, and made another, relieved that it only had to stay in place for a few minutes until I could safely sit in the car and hold it in place with my giant ass.
The second toilet paper torpedo did what it had to do and I arrived home to start a load of laundry, which included the jeans that I had massacred and the panties I should have been wearing to prevent mortification. I also took a giant, gulf oil spill-solving size box of tampons and distributed a few to each purse I have in the house and some to the car, as well. While it’s rewarding to be the Garrison Keillor of horrifying menstruation stories, I am determined to not be caught without supplies again. At least until next month.