When I was a kid, my Aunt Caryl sent me a pink nightgown with “Victoria’s Secret” stitched across the front for my birthday one year. It was the first thing I’d ever owned from Victoria’s Secret, and at this point, it’s a good bet that whatever secret she’s hiding should stay that way.
I still wear it, because it’s so soft that I can’t bear to part with it. It’s oversized and hangs limply just below my knees. It used to be a cute nightgown for a preteen girl, but over the last thirty-odd years, it’s been pummeled into a limp sack of sadness.
I call it Old Faithful, and I pull it out when I’m not feeling well and don’t want to be touched. When the cramps overtake me, I slide it on over my bloated body and it’s like the proverbial Red Tent of yore. Do not come near me, husband. I am unclean.
This nightgown provides an impenetrable fortress of solitude around my body. It saves me from penetration of any kind. Stay back. Back, I say. I use Old Faithful for my period, the flu, post-surgical situations, and any time I need to get out of Bonetown.
I pair it with my postpartum undies from twelve years ago, which I’m slightly embarrassed to admit, I wear quite regularly. These cotton boyshorts came in a six-pack from Target, and at the time they fit just high enough on my hips not to chafe my fresh c-section scar. These days they hang off me like actual shorts and I may or may not have worn them outside a couple times, hoping they read as shorts to the neighbors from a distance and not super-stretched out underwear that’ve seen better days. Actually, they have no better days. These puppies have seen me at the worst of times and lived to tell the tale.
Remember in Swiss Family Robinson when the pirates were coming to ransack the ship and the Robinsons raised a quarantine flag to make the pirates think the boat was plague-infested and the pirates backed off? My nightgown is the quarantine flag. A plague on all ye who enter here, arrr.
When my husband sees me wearing the quarantine nightgown, he knows to tread carefully, bring me candy and chips, and make sympathetic noises. Don’t even think about getting into an argument with me while wearing Old Faithful, because I’m going to escalate from zero to sixty faster than you can say Tampax Super Plus.
Speaking of tampons, which is how you really want all paragraphs to start, I recently realized that I am one of the oldest living women on the planet who still uses these things. I’m in my forties and kind of in my final few years of needing them and will either say adieu by hysterectomy or menopause soon enough. I’ve been having periods for the last thirty years, give or take a few pregnant months, and I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. I’ve used the exact same brand of tampons since I was eleven, because when I find something that works, I stick with it. Over the last couple years, I’ve noticed my favorite box move from center stage in the aisle at Target to lower, and lower, and lower, migrating to its resting position on the bottom shelf. Then a couple weeks ago I went to re-up my stock only to discover with horror that they no longer carry my kind at all. They had a whole aisle of menstruation-related products but my trusty box of cardboard applicators had gone the way of cassette tapes and David Bowie.
I felt betrayed and extremely elderly in my uterus. Here I was on the homestretch of this endometrial journey and they wanted me to switch it up? No way. This old dog is not learning any vagazzley new tricks. I found my trusty box on Amazon and promptly bought a year’s supply.
But it made me realize that I’m no longer the prime demographic for these products. Younger, suppler uteruses have come up behind me with their demands for plastic applicators (which, why are we giving up straws for our mouths but shoving plastic up our vagistrations? I have questions. Surely our periods will endanger the sea turtles as well?).
The tampons may be abandoning me here at the end of my journey, but you know what never will? Old Faithful. My nightgown has stood by me month after month, through endometriosis, failed fertility treatments, a shaky pregnancy, and now middle age, with no signs of slowing down. I shiver as it envelopes me with its dusty cotton softness. I clutch my box of cardboard applicators tightly to my chest, softly singing, “Ground Control to Major Tom … Take your protein pills and put your helmet on … ”
Photo by Lottie Caiella