5 min read
by English Taylor | 09/28/2017
"This, right here, is your vagina hole,” said my mom, pointing to the opening of an empty Diet Coke can. In her other hand was an unwrapped Playtex tampon. “Take the tampon and push it about halfway into the hole. Once it’s in, push the middle plastic tube all the way in and pull the outer tube out at the same time.”
Simple enough, right? After all, last week I learned to operate a Bunsen burner in science class. There was no doubt in my 12-year-old mind that I could figure this whole tampon thing out. I confidently headed to the bathroom with a single Playtex, despite my mom’s encouragement to take a few.
“Do you want to take the Coke can, too, just to practice?” she called after me.
Nearly a box of tampons later, I was in tears. Why wasn’t my vagina hole as easy to locate as the hole on the Diet Coke can? I tried everything—from squatting on the ground to hoisting one leg up on the sink so I could see my vagina in the mirror. My mom hovered outside the bathroom, slipping fresh tampons under the door every minute or so. I screamed at her, “I hate being a woman!” I could hear her trying to hold in her laughter, which only pissed me off more. “Fine!” I yelled. “If it’s so easy, why don’t you come in and try?”
To my horror, she did just that. My mom walked in, squatted in front of me on the toilet, asked me to spread my legs, and slipped the Playtex right into my vagina. Just like that. Now, my mom and I had a pretty close relationship. She went into the Limited Too dressing room with me to try on my first training bra and patiently walked me through how to shave my pits and legs. But this moment took our closeness to new heights—we had never been quite this close. But eventually, after a few more of these mortifying and too-close-for-comfort encounters with my mother, I learned to put them in myself.
My first-time tampon experience recently got me thinking—do other women have clumsy, embarrassing, perhaps laugh-so-hard-your-tampon-comes-out-a-little stories about being a period newbie, too?
Turns out, you sure do. A 15-second mass email to my woman tribe resulted in a flurry of responses about feminine care fumbles. While I may have been alone in receiving a soda can tutorial (anyone...?), I wasn’t alone in feeling like a total idiot.
Below is a series of stories and anecdotes from women about maneuvering tampons and pads during their first few periods. Sit back, grab a Diet Coke, and enjoy.
“I was a really late bloomer, so I thought I should know exactly what I was doing and didn't ask my mom how to insert a tampon. But I didn't understand that you had to push it in (like, with the second piece of the applicator). I literally thought you were supposed to walk around with cardboard in your vag. I took it out, wore a pad, and told my mom I thought tampons were bullshit. She then explained.” - Ana
“My first time using a tampon was super awkward. I had never in my life put anything up there before and I had no idea what I was doing. I was also using a tampon with a cardboard applicator which made it especially difficult. (Cardboard? Really?) My mom kept telling me how to do it but it just wouldn't work, so I had to have her come in and help me. Well, she did. I eventually figured it out. I did start buying tampons with plastic applicators, which were much easier.” - Maria
“I tried to peel off the whole plastic applicator before putting it in.” - Lauren
“I got my period later than all my friends. When I found blood pooling in my underwear during photography class, I was ecstatic! I immediately left school to go home and celebrate with my mom by eating junk food and complaining about being a woman (finally). I relied on the American Girl Dolls’ The Care and Keeping of You book for tampon instructions. My mom tried to coach me through the first time but it didn’t work. I kept shoving and shoving but it just wouldn't go up. Finally, I was able to make a little progress and felt the tampon slide in. Success! But I looked down and half the tampon was hanging out (dingleberry a-la vagina). I waddled out, showed my mom, then used pads for a year. My doctor had to put a tampon up there to prove to me that my vagina could handle it.” - Tamara
“The first time I got my period, my mom was away on a business trip. I remember calling her crying and ending the call by saying something like, ‘This is all your fault!’ She asked to speak to my dad and I overheard him quietly whisper, ‘What should I tell her? Isn't it kind of like a nerf gun? You just sort of...um...slip it into its slot?’ It still makes me cringe when I think about it.” - Beth
“I was at church camp when I first got my period. I was the first one of my friends in my class and I had no idea what to do. I had grown up with one of the older girls at camp and went to her room about a day after it happened. (I decided shoving toilet paper up there probably wasn't the best long-term solution.) For the rest of the week, she gave me a supply of pads each day and night. The only piece of wisdom she missed in sharing was that pads are not waterproof. I learned this the hard way when I found myself at the end of the water park’s lazy river with my pad missing.” - Monika
“I thought you only needed to put the tampon in, leave it in for a minute, and then could take it out. I was so confused later on in the day! I even asked my mom why it was so popular if it clearly didn't work.” - Katherine
“I had been using pads because tampons scared the shit out of me, but my period came the morning of my friend Laura's birthday pool party. We were already running late when I screamed at my mom from the top of the stairs. I told her the issue and she grabbed a box of tampons. She used the those tiny ass o.b. tampons that didn’t have an applicator, which meant I was going to have to get up close and personal with my lady bits. To make matters worse, she whipped out a bottle of lube ‘to help the tampon go in more easily.’ 15 minutes and two tampons (fallen victim to the toilet bowl) later, I was ready to go.” - Keisha
We’re all tampon and pad beginners at some point. What was the first time you used a tampon or pad like? Any cringe-worthy (or useful) metaphors involved? Whether they feature nerf guns or lazy rivers, we want to know. Tell us about your first-time period experiences in the comments below!
English Taylor is a writer living in San Francisco. Her work has been featured in publications like Refinery29, NYLON, LOLA, and The Atlantic. English is originally from Nashville, TN and her interests include women's health, yoga, and jewelry design.
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