3.13.2013

blood in cups

menstrual cups: used rubber Keeper (size B, small); new silicone DivaCup (model 2, large)

Friends have been telling me to blog more often, but it's been hard to find the time and daylight, meaning picture-taking happens only on weekends. But blogging is about real life in real time. So besides contemplating changes in my wardrobe, last week I was also deciding on a new menstrual cup. (Be careful what you wish for, eh?)

Blood, of course, is messy. Once upon a time, women stuffed their underthings with rags to sop up their monthly flow. That was of course after the time of ancient bleeders being shunted away from the rest of the tribe into a hut to sit on moss or cow dung or some such thing for a week in all their tainted impurity or sacred lunar specialness, depending on the enlightenment of the tribe. I can only imagine the clean-up back before the days of washing machines and color-safe bleach. Then came disposable menstrual pads, originally thick and belted into place in one's underpants (see Judy Blume's classic female-teen fiction, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret), though now pads are svelte, self-adhesive, and magically dry—like today's diapers. Even better came cotton or rayon tampons soaking things up from the inside, though they carry a rare bacterial health risk, Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), if left up in the hoo-ha for too long.

But the most economical and environmentally sound option that most women don't even know about is the menstrual cup, an internal container for menstrual blood that is dumped and washed out as needed during one's period and reused for years. Each costs around $30, which is recouped within a year or so when the cost of disposable pads or tampons is tallied up. And cups are environmentally friendly since they don't add anything to the landfill each month.

So why don't more women know about them? For one, the cups are clear, tangible reminders that women are losing liquid blood combined with strange clots of tissue measurable in ounces per month, and perhaps many women would rather maintain a level of psychological distance from their mammalian identities. Plus, some women still might not be comfortable poking around in their vaginas all by themselves with anything other than a vibrating dildo. But probably most importantly, if more people knew about and used menstrual cups, tampon and pad producers would lose all that regular- and super-sized income. Hush up the safer, more efficient, more cost-effective technology. Don't talk about it. Pretend it doesn't exist—like what happened to the formerly widespread electric streetcar grids in cities across America, now reappearing as token novelties.

But back to menstrual cups, Wikihow has a useful page compiling the different brands and sizes of menstrual cups produced worldwide, all shaped more or less the same, form fitting function. I've owned the latex Keeper for 20 or so years, pre-Internet, when one could only order it by mail, after a Wiccan friend turned me onto the idea. And I would have used it even more over the years, but it tends to leak and so has become an at-home or beginning-and-end-of-the-cycle method. The protruding end also partly broke off several years ago, though this didn't affect functionality and actually was more comfortable that way. One only needs to do Kegels to push the cup lower down the vagina to pull it out (but not from the stem, as I learned when the stem broke).

Then maybe five years ago my sister discovered menstrual cups of the newer silicone kind, and hers, the LadyCup, does not leak, she says. (All the frilly pink brand names just kill me.) Sadly, it's taken me this long to admit I need to try a larger size. I chose silicone this time since there's a chance the rubber ones could trigger a latex allergy, and who wants that? Thanks to an Amazon gift card from a kind friend, I chose the Canadian-made DivaCup because it's one of the biggest (and so requires less frequent changing), is clear and so gives a nice view of what's inside, has good user reviews, and came with free shipping. Plus, Canada's almost local.

For gossip, the U.S. Keeper/Moon Cup brand had an allegedly shady naming dispute in the courts with the British Mooncup producer who was using the "Moon" name first, so some women are boycotting the U.S. company on ethical grounds. (Go America! Continue your race to the bottom.) And for a laugh—because laughing's better than crying at all that periodic blood loss—the U.K. Mooncup has produced a rapping ad with the cup battling against the tampon. Love it.

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