Sunday, March 04, 2007

Time for a Serious Debate

Warning: a really long post with semi-graphic tampon talk follows. If you aren’t into the minutia of the tampon experience, perhaps you better just go read something else instead…

About a month ago I was at a meatloaf-eating dinner party when the question of tampons was raised: plastic or cardboard? A rousing and drunken (and really long, right?) debate ensued that culminated in a visitation from a tampon ghost, a tampon piñata standoff and plastic applicator anthromorphism.

Because I am budget-conscious and environmentally aware, I fall on the side of cardboard. I have a tendency to purchase Walgreens brand tampons (or “Walpons”), but sometimes I will buy cardboard Tampax instead (if they are on sale, or if Walgreens is sold out of the multipack that I like).

The lovely Joolie is a fan of plastic Tampax tampons all the way (and I tried to link to them on the tampax site, but they are oddly unpictured. But I bought them, so they are still available. Are they being discontinued as the Pearl Tampon takes over the entire non-cardboard market? Strange.) So we challenged one another to a tampon-off: I would try the plastic applicators during my next period, and Joolie would make a go of the cardboard applicators. The following are my conclusions.

Plastic pluses:
  • Really quite a joy to insert.
  • Plastic applicators are much better at withstanding the rigors of being stored in my bag and carried all over creation. I may make plastic my new “standby” tampon that gets to sit in my bag for months just waiting for an emergency use.
Plastic cons:
  • I felt horrible every time I threw one of those perfect plastic missiles with accompanying shiny plastic wrapper away.
  • A box of 36 plastic tampons cost $2 more than a box of 40 cardboard tampons at the HEB (both Tampax brands – you could save at least another $2 if you went to Walpons).
Cardboard pluses:
  • Biodegradable (and flushable, if you need to, although I always feel like I will jam up the plumbing so I usually just throw them away). And here’s a little anecdote: when Dr. M and I were first dating, he lived in an apartment with his brother and those dudes had no garbage can in the bathroom. I guess they would just flush any trash they generated in there. Having flushable tampons allowed me to not have to carry my used tampon applicator and wrapper out into the living room to throw them away in the kitchen garbage. That probably saved our relationship right there.
  • Cheaper (see above).
  • Really just as comfortable to insert.
Cardboard cons:
  • Not as durable for carrying around in a bag.
The result: I’m a cardboard gal. Although I won’t look down my nose at anyone who prefers to invest in plastic. It just doesn’t seem necessary to me – maybe the same way that it doesn’t seem necessary to spend twice as much for organic apples and I always order well drinks and house margaritas? I’m kind of cheap, I’ll admit it. But this is an area of my hygiene where I don’t feel the extra money makes that much of a difference.

Finally, some untried hypotheses:

The Pearl question – are these really that great? Their website says that they will provide “incredible comfort and extraordinary protection to help make you feel feminine, comfortable and vital every day of your period.” Vital? I don’t think I have a problem with that. Feminine? A tampon will not make me feel more or less feminine while I’m having my period. And their definition of a Pearl Girl is the weirdest bit of PR I have ever seen.

I feel that even though I can concede certain plastic applicator points, I can’t really justify the extra cost for some kind of super vagina pampering Pearl applicator. Plus those “upgrade” commercials bother me. Part of why I don’t like the plastic applicators is that they seem to be a gateway into caving in to the Pearl experience. A case in point: when I bought my test box of plastic Tampax, the HEB coupon generator spit out a $2 off coupon for discounted Pearl tampons. This is obviously a plot.

And finally: OBs? I have never tried these, and frankly, they kind of scare me. Although I admire those who are willing to insert without the aid of any applicator at all, I’m just not that comfortable crossing that boundary myself. It really seems just a step away from The Keeper, Glad Rags, or bleeding into a moss-covered glen as I commune with my womanhood. I toast those ladies that are comfortable rinsing their menstrual blood out in the sink at a bar, or wrapping up their used glad rag and putting it in their desk drawer to take home after work, but I am just not one of them.

Dear readers: do you have a tampon opinion? Please share it freely and show Joolie that I’m right and she is oh so wrong.


steiger said...

i, myself, am a no-applicator girl. a tampon commando, if you will. i have no qualms about touching my lady parts, even at risk of bloodying my hands. i would use those nice non-chlorinated natracare tampons, but they are bank-breakingly expensive.

and no applicator (sans-app?) seems really a far cry from the keeper, i have to say, which is not something to which i can ever imagine committing. or, really, even trying once. i'm not sure why i feel the need to draw the menstrual management line somewhere, but i do.

milk and cake said...

i am freakily hippy in some ways, and i use obs when i use store-bought tampons. i also use sea sponges and make my own glad-rags. it's hard to explain to roommates what all that flannel-y weirdness in my laundry basket is, but i'm just against spending money every month on something that happens to ladies everywhere. plus, the practice of buying "feminine hygeine" products has been around less than a hundred years. although i'm not so hippy that i make other people live with my decision; i do use regular ob's at work, and keep a box of normal tampons and pads around for guests. i love my homemade glad-rags, though. i've probably invested less than $20 on them in the last 5 years, which is a smoking good deal. the sea sponges are great and less expensive too, although not so great when you aren't at home. rinsing them out in a crowded ladies bathroom is awkward at BEST, and sometimes you have to change them a lot. too much information? maybe. but it just goes to show that seemingly ordinary gals like myself love the hippy period-wear just as much as the next girl with dredlocks and a penchant for patchouli.

Joolie said...

Kristy and I have the best ideas when we're drunk. Look for my side of the story in a week or so. How do you think I should spend the $2 I'm going to save?

kristykay said...

The obvious conclusion here is that we should get drunk all the time. We had that meatloaf idea when we were drunk too, and that shit was delicious. Not to mention tableato. We are drunken geniuses.

Anonymous said...

that was bloody informative! tamptacular!

sorry i go now

reasonably prudent poet said...

i'm w/ milk and cake re: homemade gladrags. a few years ago i just got fed up w/ paying big bucks to manage my flow with storebought products. i *also* agree w/ milk and cake that homemade period-care is easier done at *home* -- and so, for those times when you just can't go w/o a harpoon -- i go for the cardboard. i'm not so excited about the bloody finger that results from the ob insertion, and i find that the slick coating they put on those suckers makes them just as easy to insert (basically) as a plastic one. so there you go. otherwise, joolie, you know i'm on your side.

Jilly said...

ob all the way -- its not as scary as it first seems.

one day I may take the plunge to the glad-rags, too.

Barbette said...

Um, since we're all made of wool and cotton, this debate makes us very uncomfortable!