I wrote this editorial for my school newspaper. It won't come out until next week, but I thought some of you might enjoy it here.
When I walk through a large grocery store I am always a little weirded out by what I call the garbage aisles – things that exist solely to be used briefly and thrown away - the paper plates and cups, diapers, paper towels, and the mysterious “feminine hygiene” products. My family and I have pretty much eliminated these aisles from our grocery rounds, with the exception of toilet paper and flushable wipes. (Cae, our four year old, aka “The Squid” has not quite mastered the art of wiping with paper.)
The Squid was a cloth diapered baby and sometime after he was born I had a sharp tinge of jealousy that he got piss on cute hot pink cushy diapers while I was bleeding on weird plastic/paper combos or dry uncomfortable wads of cotton and dioxin shoved up my nani. I went to my local health food store and bought all cotton organic tampons and biodegradable pads and nearly died handing over my debit card. No way in hell was a high schooler with a baby gonna be dishing out that much money every month to bleed on something. I walked home in a daze with my premium menstrual products and began to ask around for something better.
The first alternative menstrual product I laid eyes on was my friend's “keeper”. The keeper is a rubber cup that is folded and inserted into the vagina and then opens and catches blood. It needs to be emptied twice a day, rinsed and reinserted. The keeper looked downright scary the first time I saw it. It's pretty ugly and has a long pointed stem that made me envision terrible thing happening to my bits. That being said my friend was madly in love with this contraption.
I next stumbled upon GladRags. Gladrags are a cloth pad system. Each pack comes with a cover with snappy wings and two liners that fit underneath to adjust for flow. I bought a couple sets of those but kept being tempted to just use a liner with no snappage to make the collection last longer. This led to many swearing sessions as I dropped liner after liner in the toilet forgetting to watch out as I pulled down my undies. I eventually lost the covers and the last liner met it's demise in a Hampshire toilet a few weeks ago. I pulled it out and tossed it, so don't blame me for any plumbing problems.
I wanted something to compliment my cloth pad collection for days when I wanted something internal. I like to swim and the gladrag swimsuit combo obviously wasn't gonna happen. I'd gotten so used to wearing something comfortable though, so there was no way I could go back to tampons. I went to the health food store and saw an intriguing little package. For five bucks I could get two sea sponges, purported to last a year. They are grown in a sea sponge farm and are a renewable resource. They're technically animals, which is a little weird, but not animal enough for me to mind. The sea sponges are COOL. They are good for pretty much mess free sex, although they can require a bit of exploring to get em out after. They can even be soaked in spermicide and used for contraception.
I discovered a new nice thing in the diva cup. Unlike the keeper, the diva cup is kinda cute with a much more friendly looking stem. It is silicon, which means it is dishwasher safe and boiling safe. (Although for a trad house friendly solution hydrogen peroxide works great.) The diva cup is super comfortable and comes with user friendly how-to info. It needs to be changed twice a day or so. I often forget that I have it in because it is so comfortable.
My absolute favorite alternative product though is the “Party in My Pants” cloth pad line. They are wicked cute. Who wouldn't wanna bleed on panda bears and cowgirls? They have cloth and flannelette options and they stay really dry. They are one piece pads with snaps and come in all different lengths and widths. When you order in the mail they send you a free “wing extender” for use with boy shorts, a piece of fair trade dark chocolate and a bunch of cute bird shaped cutouts. They are made by two women who seem really rad. The best thing is you just throw them in the laundry like anything – no rinsing necessary. As if all that wasn't good enough, they will give you your first pad free! Go to their website and click on the cloth pad curious link and for the cost of shipping you can try the product before you commit.