In other news, I've been cleaning out my upstairs bathroom today, and I discovered an unopened box of TampaxTM tampons. Given the design of the box, the advertisement on it ("No belts! No pads! No odor!"), and the age (79) of the likeliest woman who purchased it, I estimate the box was bought circa 1965-1970.
jcobleigh is out running errands today and when I called him to cancel one of his errands, I also told him about the box of tampons. He wanted to open the box and see what Ancient Tampons looked like.
I remember my mother giving me a little pink book (also printed circa 1965) when I turned 11. Her mother had given it to her. It was titled, "Becoming a Woman", and it had been published by a feminine-products company. I knew it was Very Serious, because my mother gave it to me almost surreptitiously and told me to read it somewhere where my younger sister wouldn't see it. The little book explained about puberty and growing breasts and periods and cramps (but of course not PMS. They hadn't acknowledged PMS by that point. :) It was very circumspect about things, using neither medical terminology nor euphemisms like "down there" (my mother's favorite). There were lots of references to "femininity" and such. Then there was a whole section on how to fasten this Iron Maiden-looking belt-thing and affix a pad to it and tighten the straps. At the end, there were a bunch of sixties-era pink flowers and an advertisement for douches, I think.
I brought it down to my mother after reading it, horrified that I was going to start bleeding from someplace I generally never thought about (I had another hole down there?), and having cramps in my belly. I had had cramps before, when swimming, and the thought of having them every month until I died (it didn't mention when this "change" stopped, nothing about menopause, etc. Thank God for Our Bodies, Ourselves! :) It made me instantly dislike being a girl. Boys didn't have to go through anything like this! It just wasn't fair. I didn't want to have to wear a harness around my chest. I didn't want to have to strap this whole contraption around my waist--
Wait a second, my mother said. Give me that.
I handed it over. She flipped through it and found the belt diagram and laughed. She assured me that I wouldn't have to strap a contraption around my waist. She took me into the bathroom and explained about maxi pads ("It feels like I'm wearing a banana between my legs," I later said), lightdays, and tampons ("Ew! I have to stick something up myself?!" "You don't have to use them if you're not comfortable with them. It takes practice. You can just start with only using pads."). She had me read the information about Toxic Shock Syndrome from the tampon package. I further resolved never to use them. I asked about the douche-thing at the end of the book. She said never to use douches. Since she was on a bathroom tour, she decided to explain about shaving legs and armpits. How barbaric, I thought. I'd lived in this house and used this bathroom for as long as I could remember. All these implements of terror and the unknown had been lurking there the whole time? I felt betrayed.
My mother's timing was good. I few months later, I discovered reddish-brown spots on my underwear, when I was in the downstairs bathroom at my church. I remember crying because I knew then that I wasn't a little girl anymore. I went upstairs, white-faced I'm sure, and told my mother. She encouraged me to start shaving soon after. It was at that point that I diverged from the inexorable path of feminine personal care that the Establishment was pushing me towards and I stopped shaving my legs when I was 13. Haven't touched 'em with a shaver since. My logic (having read the Bible and observing on the plethora of women getting laid in it), was that people managed to be attracted to each other and reproduce offspring long before anyone started assuming that hairy legs on a woman was unsexy. Therefore, it didn't necessarily follow that hairy legs on a woman was unsexy. Thus, I didn't have to shave my legs. My mother (and my sister, who by this point had read the little pink book as well), said my legs looked horrid and tried unsuccessfully for several years to shame me into shaving. I never did, and I think it gave me back a little bit of control. I had fought off a little bit of the horror and kept my tomboy-ish self at least a little intact. As an unexpected side-benefit, I still have a nearly pre-pubescent kind of hair on my legs, which means it's generally light, soft, and mostly invisible anyway.
On our third date, jcobleigh and I went to Herrell's Ice Cream. I was terribly tickled by the realization that my ploy of not wearing "date-clothes" was actually working. On my first date with him, I'd refused to dress up unnecessarily or put on make-up. Neither of those things were "me", so I decided that if he still wanted to go out with me when I was dressed as I felt comfortable, then he was okay by me. I told him about that decision on our third date, by which point we were schlepping around in even more relaxed duds. He said he hadn't even noticed and had thought I looked great. Cheered by our success, I told him I had a confession to make. He raised his eyebrows over his ice cream at me, and I took a deep breath and said, "I don't shave my legs."
He looked totally nonplussed, like That was a confession?
"So?" he said. My heart leaped within me.
"You don't mind?"
"I hate shaving," he answered.
I grinned and licked my Purple Cow*.
"What?" he asked, sensing my inner devious tomboy grinning out at him, I think.
"You just vindicated my thirteen-year-old self!" I said triumphantly. Then, because he was puzzled, I had to explain the above Shaving Story of My Life to him.
I am glad we don't have to wear those belt contraption things anymore...
*Purple Cow: raspberry ice cream with dark and white chocolate chips. My favorite, found only at Herrell's. It really is too bad that my lactose-intolerance has kicked up again.