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Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan
Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan


Cup of joy

  • It strikes me that perhaps the only reason they're uncomfortable with the idea of the menstrual cup is because it puts you face to face with your period in all its bloody glory.

I'm almost evangelical about my menstrual cup. I even said that in an interview when I was asked about it. “I love it,” I remember saying to the reporter, “It has changed my life!”

It seems a strange sort of thing to get so worked up about. At its most impressive, it's a flexible silicone cup in a shade of pink that's not hot or bright or worked through with any kind of design or pattern. You fold it either in half or pushing down one end, and then you insert it into your vagina. Once lying against your cervix, it unfolds and collects the blood you have during your period. Based on how much you bleed, you pull it out and empty the contents into the pot, rinse and re-insert. Once a month, usually when you're done with your period, you boil it to sterilise it and it sits in a little cloth pouch waiting to be used again.

What most women I know find the hardest thing to use about it is the actual insertion. “I don't want to put anything inside my body!” is a common complaint. Or “I feel uncomfortable inserting tampons, and this looks too bulky.” These are women who have regular sex, and are generally educated and comfortable around their bodies. However, these are also women who would not use a tampon, preferring instead to use a sanitary pad. (Now, I've used a pad after I've been on the cup, and I can tell you there is nothing worse than sitting around in your own blood—the smell of it, the discomfort when it rubs against your thighs, the need to discreetly dispose of it and so on and so forth.) But since these women are educated and aware and like their bodies for the most part, it strikes me that perhaps the only reason they're uncomfortable with the idea of the menstrual cup is because it puts you face to face with your period in all its bloody glory.

As a pre-teen, and one of the youngest people in my class in school, I was anxious to get my period. There was a time when everyone's bodies were changing—the boys' voices were getting deeper, girls were getting their first bras, and when you're even six months younger, it makes you feel like a child when all your friends are growing up. I read Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and wished for my period as much as the girls in that book did. My friend got hers and came rushing over to show me, and I—desperate to catch up—used a marker and coloured all over one of my mother's spare pads so I could pretend to have my period too. I know some people were ashamed of the idea, but in my particular group of friends, it was an honour we couldn't wait to have. Every morning, I'd crawl into bed with my mother and say sadly, “It still hasn't come.” Life, it seemed to me, would only begin when I started bleeding, and some of the mysteries would start unravelling, and suddenly, the world would be at my feet. I would be a Woman, and even at 12, I felt that was so much more desirable than being only a girl.

And then came ten years of having my period and not talking about it at all. If you mentioned it, you mentioned it in whispers. “I'm down,” you'd murmur to your friend when she asked why you looked uncomfortable. Or instead of saying “down” you'd use your hand to make a thumbs-down gesture. “My chums” was another one. I always wondered why you'd call it your “chum” when nothing about it was friendly at all. And far from opening up the world, it seemed to narrow it down. Back then, sanitary pads were all we had, active teenage girls who had too many things to do than sit at home and be bothered with cramps or run to the bathroom every hour to see if your pad needed changing. There even became a girl code, where your friend would ask if she'd stained her skirt, and walk in front of you, while you examined her bum carefully. No one could know. This was a secret you kept.

Which is why when the sustainable menstruation movement started—basically stopping the amount of waste you generate by using disposable pads and tampons—I was delighted to see how many people were openly talking about their periods. Suddenly, it wasn't a secret any more. Suddenly it became so okay to discuss PCOS (poly-cystic ovarian syndrome) and cramps and cups in public. In public! And women with their periods wanted to go everywhere—especially into temples that refused to take them before, claiming they were unclean.

(Which, in itself is so ridiculous. How can a period be more unclean than say—sweat? Or tears? Assuming the men who go to the temples do all these inadvertent bodily things—and more, but I'm not comparing my period to their poop—they're about as unclean as anyone else. What is it about a woman's biology that intimidates some men so much? They would carve out all of you, leaving just your womb, if they could.)

I'm glad we're talking about our periods again. Mens-troo-ation, as they say in Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret is not a dirty word. Walking around with a blood stain on your butt? Not such a big deal. And seriously, get the cup. It'll change your life and save you money at the same time. Perfect.

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