Sunday, July 03, 2016

When Medusa met the menstrual cup

It was a match made in heaven! (Like other marriages are!!!)

If Medusa is now asked to rank five of her favourite inventions of the recent past, the menstrual cup will easily come out on top. A decade ago Medusa had similarly been amazed by the neatness of a tampon, but had then been deterred by the price and the frequency of replacement, but this, the menstrual cup, has left a love which started at first use, and will last for as long as Medusa will have the agility to fit it in, and the need for one.

Many have written paeans to the menstrual cup (read this and this), and Medusa is longing to join their ranks, by reminding herself that most women in South Asia do not have access to the amount of water it takes to clean a menstrual cup, and definitely not the money to buy. In fact, and this Medusa learnt only this year, apart from torn rags, women use SAND, ASH, PLASTIC and Paper, due to their absorbent properties and their availability -- and here Medusa has been cribbing about her super expensive sanitary pads, available in four kinds of sizes, three kinds of thicknesses, five smells, and a million brands. Medusa heard a lot about the damage to the environment that tonnes of used sanitary napkins and their packaging make- and also just recently heard about the various ways in which rural women are encouraged to use incinerators to burn the used napkins and then to eventually use the ash as fertilizers, but incinerators are in short supply, taboos around menstruation entrenched and multifarious, and napkins difficult to come by.

Most of the month Medusa is happily oblivious of her uterus, but once it starts acting, and it has been acting up off late, it brings all kinds of pains and aches, emotions run high or low, but more than the physical discomfort which Medusa has learnt to bear with copious amount of fluids and pills at the right intervals, the logistics of it all end up being mind boggling.

Would an XL suffice or should she scout the shops of an XXL or even a XXXL? Which shop is likely to have them? How can there be only three XXXL pads in one packet? How much do they cost ? A LOT.  Should she lie down straight or sit up straight? Should she move from a supine to a standing position now or later? Can she turn to her side? Does she need to change her clothes and wash her sheets right away? Will people notice?

Will she have to go to work? Will she go out afterwards? Will those spaces have bathrooms that work? Will there be gaps between classes to change the napkins? Where will she throw them? Can she talk about her discomfort to the people around her? Will they hush her up every time she opens her mouth because, well, just because.

All of these issues haven’t been resolved with a menstrual cup, but most have. It is a one time only investment for many years to come, it completely takes care of the mess and the attendant worries, it needs to be emptied much less frequently, perhaps thrice a day, and once inserted, can more or less be forgotten about. No disposal, mere cleaning with plenty of water, some amount of dexterity with one’s own body and a ten-hourly (on average) access to a clean bathroom.

One needs to have just ONE menstrual cup, it can be washed with water and put right back in, It costs approximately 600/- online, which is one third of what Medusa spent in the past two months, between XXXL and different brands. 

So no wonder, at this ripe old age Medusa is finally waking up to the possibility of that oxymoron, “A happy period”.

For most other people who menstruate, across the world, the menstrual cup remains a near-impossibility. It’s expensive, not easily available, requires a lot of water, a clean place for using it (although for people who do not have a clean toilet at their disposal, what extra hurdle can this pose) and a complete removal of the myriad menstrual taboos that Medusa doesn’t even know about. But even for them, surely, the menstrual cup will make things a wee bit better. So if there are people distributing menstrual cups and educating people about it, you have an eager volunteer here!