social studies

Unavailable Tampon Syndrome

It’s two days before my period is due and as usual my mood is hanging somewhere between moderately frustrated and thoroughly homicidal. This month however it’s not PMT that’s the cause of my irritation, but another lesser known disorder called Unavailable Tampon Syndrome, or UTS. Most of you won’t have heard of it because…well…I just made it up, but the seriousness of the condition should not be underestimated.

UTS occurs when the only pharmacy you’ve found within a 20km radius that sells the only tampons you can use decides not to stock them any longer. Some lucky women may never suffer this affliction, and others may only have to confront it once or twice in their life, but if you’re anything like me you come to anticipate it on a monthly basis along with all the other joys of menstruation.

In my case UTS is caused by the increasing difficulty in finding stockists of Tampax Super Plus tampons (and yes I know that just gave you more information about my menstrual cycle than you were hoping for, but I promise whatever you’re imagining isn’t as bad as the reality often is. I hope that makes you feel better). For the last three years I’ve been UTS free as my local pharmacy has always had a supply of Tampax Super Plus on hand, sitting on the shelf gathering dust until I trundle in with my abnormal uterine bleeding every four weeks.  

It had been going so well. Where the supermarkets and corner stores had failed me, I could always rely on this one chemist to carry them. Once a month, as soon as my tits began to feel like watermelons, I’d duck in for my usual 30 pack of Nurofen Plus and two boxes of Super Plus. I’d go home, drug up, plug up and spend the next four days contemplating a hysterectomy. Too easy.

Yesterday all that changed. Standing in the feminine hygiene aisle desperately scanning the shelves, I felt myself relapsing. There were regular tampons, super tampons and light tampons (pfft, who uses those?!) There were organic cotton, fluro wrapped and easy twist open tampons. There were even slim ones, which I guess is good if the other styles make you look fat. But nowhere to be seen were the Tampax Super Plus tampons. Even worse, there wasn’t a space on the shelf where they should have been.  I knew where this was leading. Unavailable Tampon Syndrome.

Obviously my stunned expression was noted by the staff, because I was soon asked if I needed help. “Where are the Tampax Super Plus?” I asked in a way that I hoped disguised my alarm. “Oh, they’ve been discontinued by the manufacturer” said the guy serving me, a gay boy I know socially but not well enough for us to be totally relaxed discussing heavy periods. He was no doubt wishing he’d taken more notice of where I was standing when he offered his assistance, and desperate to cease discussing sanitary protection immediately. Clocking my look of disbelief, he followed up with “that’s solid information.” He was trying to act like he cared, but the curled lip and backwards step he took upon realising he was discussing things of a menstrual nature betrayed him, and I’m pretty sure as soon as I left he was texting all his friends about how close he came to actually having to deal with a period. Apparently there are some aspects of being a woman that even the campest man just doesn’t want to embrace. When he asked why I couldn’t just use the Super tampons I decided it was easier to leave than go in to the finer details of my flow with him, and frankly I was ready to suffocate him with a packet of overnight pads anyhow.  

In a total flap, I went home and panic bought $157.00 worth of tampons online from the only website I could find that had them in stock, and paid an additional $20.00 for urgent delivery. I know this seems like over reacting but panic buying before disasters is human nature, and trust me when I say that the 2011 Brisbane floods have nothing on the sort of flooding that can occur from my beaver dam. Eventually I contacted Proctor & Gamble to ask them for clarification, and received a reply assuring me that Tampax Super Plus were most definitely still being manufactured. I bloody well knew it.

I am not trying to be difficult, but to have to beg pharmacies to stock something that is essential is annoying at best. To be lied to about why they’re not stocking them is downright insulting. I don’t choose to buy Tampax Super Plus tampons because I get off on buying the biggest, most expensive tampon available; I have a medical condition that requires them. Of course I’d prefer to use the pretty little bullet shaped ones everyone stocks because they’re compact and easily hidden and come in bright colours, and I can buy the fucking things everywhere including petrol stations. Unfortunately, that is not how my body works.

I understand that Super Plus tampons will never be the bestselling item in the Tampax range, not every gal can be lucky enough to experience the sheer joy of a heavy period. But that doesn’t mean the women who require them cease to exist. And the most frustrating part of all of this isn’t the fact that they are so hard to buy. It is that on almost every occasion where I’ve enquired whether a pharmacy stocks them, a female assistant has said to me she would buy them too but she didn’t know they existed. It makes me wonder just how well Super Plus tampons would sell if women knew they were an option. Perhaps it’s time for the chemists of Australia to consider that a full range of tampons is slightly more important than a full range of Revlon nail polish?

As for the guy who told me they’d been discontinued? I can’t wait to drop a Tampax Super Plus in his drink next time I see him out. Just wait until he sees how much liquid those suckers can hold!

 

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Notorious

Vamp. Tramp. Temptress. Seductress. Tart. Trollop. Words that conjure up such wickedness, such evil, such sensuous manipulation of men!

In what is primarily still a man’s world, where things are seen and documented from a male point of view, the worst villains are always women. Sure, there have been some seriously devilish men, but the best of the worst are always the women. Just ask the happy folks at Disneyland. In a recent poll of the “Best of the Worst” villains, three of the top five characters were women. It seems even the kids are picking up on just how vindictive women can be…

In our culture, women are portrayed as either angels or monsters – never anything in between. Yet even the angels among us are assumed to have a repressed manic energy. “Hell hath no fury as a woman scorned” and all that. Women are expected to go mad at some stage in their lives – it’s just a matter of when.

Why? Is it really all Eve’s fault for believing that dastardly serpent? Was Adam so peeved with his woman for denying him a life spent lazing around in Eden eating mangoes, that he felt obliged to teach every man after him never to trust a woman?

Or was it Adam’s mythological first wife, Lilith? She liked it on top, but he wanted to make love missionary style so he told her to bugger off. Given that most men would be content with sex in any position, was Adam perhaps a repressed homosexual? That’s it! No wonder the Catholics have exerted so much energy repressing women and bolstering the position of men. The last thing they would want made public is that the father of mankind is a raving poofter!

Then there was Pandora and her irresistible box of evil little voices. Her curiosity didn’t just kill the cat; it damned mankind for all eternity.

It is a theme that runs consistently through history, from ancient mythology to present day. Women stuffed up by taking the initiative, and refusing to wait for a man. Interestingly, the very characteristics that make these women a target are the same personality traits admired in men – aggression, courage, strength, independence and dominance.

Of course, as the feminists have been pointing out for the past 40 years, we’ve historically only ever heard the bloke’s side of the story. Maybe both Eve and Pandora were sick of languishing with the limp wristed other halves, and desperate for a bit of excitement. Who knows? Lilith certainly wasn’t going to hang around, sexually frustrated and subservient to her husband’s urges. The world’s first feminist, was our Lilith. Germaine Greer in full flight was never a patch on Lil, who screamed and cursed Adam for banishing her from Eden, and spawned evil little babies to harass her ex husband.

We will never really know what caused women to obtain such a violently unattractive reputation, although perhaps Freud went some way to explaining the problem all men face, when he admitted that for all his psychoanalysis, he never could work out the intricacies of the feminine psyche. I suspect a lot of the mystery surrounding women relates to men’s view of ‘that time of the moth’, and their utter bemusement at the mood swings, cravings, obsessions and trauma that females go through every month. Part of the expectation that women eventually go troppo must surely come from generations of men watching their mothers’ journey through the wonderful world of menopause, without actually understanding what the poor woman was enduring. This thinking, by association, must culminate in long lasting cultural references to the Mother-in- Law figure.

What we do know is that the motif of the dangerous woman remains current in our culture and shows no sign of abating. Within society, we don’t ever anoint a queen of ‘nice’ (well, we have Miss Universe but no one in their right mind takes that seriously), yet we always have a reigning queen of all that is conniving, manipulating and obsessively sexual.

In every generation, there is one woman anointed by society, who embodies the archetypical temptress. A mysterious, dark and untouchable fembot, whose only aim in life is to suck the essence out of every man she encounters. These women come primarily from the rank of actress, perhaps as a result of the flamboyant nature of the business and because as a profession it was always seen as only a slight step up from prostitution, although there has been the occasional politician, author and painter.

So what sets these women apart from their peers?

Well, firstly they act as though men’s only use in life is to provide a little light entertainment; they appear to believe that men are an unnecessary appendage in life. This is a woman who we could never envisage living for her family, standing in the kitchen making her husband’s dinner, hanging out the washing, or ducking through the supermarket, a kid on her hip, grabbing toilet paper, sugar and milk. Audrey Hepburn, widely considered one of the most beautiful women to have ever lived, couldn’t have cut it as a vamp. She was too domestic, too devoted a wife and mother, too darn nice. Instead, one imagines a real vamp waking slowly just before lunch, wrapped in satin sheets, hair shining in the late morning sun, her luscious ruby lips calling for a Bloody Mary to get the day rolling. These aren’t the sort of women you wouldn’t take home to meet your mother; they’re the sort of women who wouldn’t want to meet her anyway. Wanton women, who care for nothing other than their own peace of mind, are somehow Succubus incarnate. It is as though women, in forsaking their duty as controller of domesticity and childrearing, are letting down society. The inability to become breathless with excitement at the thought of a new washing machine in which to clean hubby’s clothes is seen as almost deviant in mindset. Indeed, many continue to believe that the family is the very foundation up on which we depend, without it we are ruined. Every woman who consciously chooses to ignore her social responsibility represents one more tear in the moral fibre of society. The “Post War Happy Housewife” must be determined to lose herself in the happiness, and cleanliness, of her family. Any other way of life just isn’t normal.

Secondly, a vamp is nobody’s fool and nobody’s victim. She most certainly does not require rescuing. Marilyn Monroe, the world’s most famous sexpot, doesn’t fit in with these women as she always had a quality about her that seemed fragile. Even in a low cut, figure-hugging sequinned number, all lips and tits and breathless singing, she appeared as though a little girl secretly dressing up in her mother’s clothes. Men yearned to be the one to save her, yet the only thing that could have helped her was a large dose of what a true vamp possesses in truckloads – confidence. Vamps exude self-assuredness. They live to please themselves and are not fazed by outside opinions. They aren’t the sort of women to check themselves when they bend down so that their underwear doesn’t show. Rather, they’d be quite happy if someone did get a flash of their undoubtedly sexy underwear.

Most importantly, these are women who have never apologised for their behaviour, as they frankly don’t see what needs repenting. Where men historically flex their muscles, or those of their troops, women flex their brains and squeeze their opponents by the heart or the testicles – whichever they reach first. What’s more, they get away with it, via a raised eyebrow and a determined pout. There have been some ballsy women throughout history – Queen Victoria, Joan Crawford, Margaret Thatcher, yet they never really got away with being iron fisted. Mostly, they were just written off as uptight bitches who ‘need to get some’.

Why do we bestow on some women an almost reverential form of fame, while others are hard-hearted old bags?

An undeniable part of the allure must their beauty, although it is by no means the only reason. Grace Kelly was a stunning woman, but always seemed to have something ultimately wholesome about her. Jane Fonda almost had what we’re looking for. Barbarella proved beyond doubt what a little sex rocket she could be, but then she went all serious, all activist, all aggression and frustration. Hanoi Jane didn’t exactly exude sex appeal riding in a tank during the Vietnam War, in her camouflage gear and with her hard hat slipping sideways off her head. Not even if the world did know she was pretty gorgeous under all that dirt and dust!

No, it is more than just beauty. It is an awareness of their attributes, combined with a total disregard for their looks, a slightly untouchable quality, a self sacrificing sense of humour, and a twinkle in their eye that indicates there is serious mischief to be made. No matter how bad they are, you can’t help thinking they’d be fun to hang around.

Their effect is measurable on both males and females. Men seem to behold the seductress in morbid fascination – at once repelled and aroused at the thought of a woman proving them redundant, while women are caught between jealousy and admiration. In either case, the world is in awe of the vamp.

So, are these man-eating, praying mantis-like, hyper sexualised, masculinised women all bad? With the media constantly chugging out constructed images of the world, who knows? We do know that their very existence threatens the makeup of society, the way we are conditioned to expect women to behave, and the standing of man and women as equals; with men a little more equal than the women.

Yet the vamp is a necessary evil. We need rebels and rule breakers amongst us to provide the excitement and interest in life. We need them so that we may safely experience danger by living vicariously through the experiences of those daring enough to take a risk, and we need them to measure ourselves against. In short, we need the sinners as much as the saints in order that we may live a little easier within our own mundane lives.

The power she wields over society ensures there will always be women who would relish the opportunity to personify all that is deliciously, hellishly, sensuously alluring, untrustworthy and villainous about women. It is, after all, what sells stilettos and red lipstick – year after year, generation after generation.

DO NOT SWALLOW!

This is not what you think it is.
I was cleaning the loo the other day using one of those cleaners in the bottle with the swanlike neck that is ostensibly to help you get in under the rim, but in fact means you squirt craploads of disinfectant out in the very beginning, before running out just prior to completing the bowl’s circumference. I was trying to navigate the final squirt of solution around the bend when I saw in bold print on the label:
“DO NOT SWALLOW!”
Really? Who is that message for? Presumably the only people who would even contemplate putting the spout in their mouths are toddlers or morons – neither of whom can or would read the bottle first. It would have been better had the warning read
“NEGLECTFUL PARENTS SHOULD NOT BUY THIS PRODUCT!”
Or
“SERIOUSLY DUDE, THIS AIN’T CORDIAL!”
But stuff’s like that now. Not just the warning labels, sometimes it’s the serving suggestions. My butter container actually says “SPREAD ON BREAD.” Hmm, ground breaking idea.
Quite often it’s the whole stupid blurb on a product that upsets me, especially the ones where some marketing guru thought it’d be a good idea if the thing itself appeared to try and talk to you.
An example: I was staying with my brother and noticed his girlfriend’s shampoo and conditioner.
“COLOUR ME HAPPY” pleaded the shampoo, “DANGEROUSLY STRAIGHT” claimed the conditioner. Even her face cleaner was called “WASH OFF!” (complete with exclamation mark).
The back of these bottles was worse, giving the products personalities and attempting a dialogue with me.
SHAMPOO: “I’ll protect your colour treated hair because I’m packed with conditioners to help keep your hair healthy and truly radiant. And that’s a sign of happiness.”
Is it really? I thought smiling was a sign of happiness? Or laughing.
The conditioner was worse, it had vaguely homophobic undertones.
CONDITIONER: “I’ll get right to the point. It’s easier to get straight.”
It then got all condescending with me:
“Can I be straight with you? You don’t have to work as much. Get the look with a big dose of my conditioning…and move in a fine line.”
Weirdly, the directions for use (again, is that really necessary? Are there actually people confused by how to use conditioner?) were kind of creepy, somewhere between Mills & Boon and Sex Predator:
“Use me: Massage me in, relax, rinse me out, walk straight ahead.”
UGH! I instantly felt like a dirty old man had whispered into my prepubescent ear. Good thing I was in the shower at the time.
I don’t get it. I don’t get why shampoo can’t just say “this shit cleans your hair”, and conditioner say “this stuff makes your hair smell better & stops the comb getting stuck in your knots.” I reckon we’d all get the gist.
Tampons are another one. You know you can buy them in silver foiled packs now? That’s good. Us girls like to be a bit ‘showy’ with our sanitary protection. Combine the blinged up little box with a super cool ad showing a bunch of models dancing around a nightclub toilet flicking their tampon packets open and shut in time to the music, and you’ve got one super sexy status symbol. NOT. Nothing, and I repeatNOTHING, is going to make us get excited about getting our period. Unless we were freaking out about an unwanted pregnancy. Actually, that’s a great idea for a tampon ad. A teenage girl stressing out that she’s up the duff, then excitedly running to the chemist when her period belatedly arrives. The conservatives would hate it, it’s bound to get extra publicity.
It’s all such rubbish, and it makes me feel that we’re considered a pretty stupid bunch of consumers. Sure, some of us probably are. But I’m reasonably certain all barr a few real nutters out there DON’T ACTUALLY THINK THE SHAMPOO IS TALKING TO THEM. At all. Not even a mumble.
Radiant hair is just a sign of a good hairdresser; I don’t care what my shampoo tried to tell me over breakfast this morning, I know I’m right.

Facebooking My Demons

I am in the midst of a very weird experience! Yesterday I, after much pestering from several friends, joined Facebook. And it has been a minor revolution. Yesterday morning, there was a long list of people I’ve often thought of over the years but for whatever reason had lost contact with. Almost 48 hours later and I can’t get over the people I’m now communicating with! Friends from high school, people I travelled with, even someone from primary school that I really had to comb the cerebral archives to remember. It’s amazing, and addictive. Such an easy way to stay in touch that I’m finding myself frustrated by those I know who aren’t yet on it. So silly really!

And yet, as I traced through the collections of ‘friends’ on everyone’s pages looking for people I recognised, a funny thing started to happen. I sort of reverted back to my social position in high school. Most people I went straight in, clicked on and submitted a friend request. No problem, I know they’ll want to be my friend! But there were quite a few others over whom I hovered the mouse before deciding ‘Nah, they might not respond’. Social death Facebook style. I didn’t like the idea of possible rejection, or them thinking I was just being a ‘hanger-on’.

What is that about? It was straight back to the awkward & socially tumultuous times I experienced in high school. I was never one of the tarty ‘popular’ girls, but nor was I a complete social pariah. Mostly, I think people found me a bit weird because I wasn’t easily classifiable. I sort of just drifted towards whoever was talking to me on any given day. Every day was another experiment in having to pretend I fitted in. What’s strange is I don’t feel that ever anymore, so why does the idea of hooking up with school friends bring it all back? Why does that time of my life weigh so heavily on me that, almost 14 years after I graduated, I still obviously haven’t left it behind? Why do I still care what they’re thinking? I’m not at all fazed by people in my current life, so why these people with whom the only thing I really have in common is our education? I even caught myself looking at the picture of me I posted, thinking “Jeez, it’s a bit cheezy. People will think I love myself”. Who gives a rat’s arse really? Well, me apparently!

Truthfully, with the exception of the few I have had a little contact with, most of these people don’t know me at all. Nothing about me. My interests, likes, loves & what my every day entails. What’s more, we’re adults & we’ve all grown up. We may even find that over the past decade we’ve become even more alike. Who knows? Problem is, I probably won’t know because I’m not sure I can take that first step & put myself out there.

Am I going to end up on Dr Phil? God, I hope not