The first time I heard its name I was twenty-something, sipping Bullitt Rye out of a red Solo cup at a friend’s birthday party. A woman was standing with her boyfriend and a few randos describing, in abhorrent detail, how the Diva Cup had changed her life. I was repulsed by her openness to casually discuss how she inserted the Diva Cup into her vagina. I was further traumatized by her willingness to describe how she removed it.
Women were not supposed to talk about their genitals at parties. They were supposed to talk about normal woman things like men, lipstick and the hot weather. Anything involving our periods, or things related to/in the general vicinity of our vaginas was off-limits. If such vaginal discussion did occur, they were saved for intimate slumber parties involving impromptu pillow fights, bedazzled pubic areas and the sharing of our deepest darkest secrets under the unspoken oath to never repeat said information. Vaginas were the original Las Vegas – What Happens There, Stays There.
The girl ended her live Diva Cup infomercial by enthusiastically saying “And you can put it in your dishwasher!” after someone ask how it was sanitized. I nearly spit out the rest of my whiskey. “Dishwasher?” I thought. “I don’t want period blood all over my precious Tupperware!”
As the speedboat of age sailed away from the naïve island of my early twenties and settled into the dock of my thirties, I became more health conscious. When you’re a young woman, you make decisions to be skinny. When you’re older, you do things to feel less shitty in the morning after a night out. I cut back my drinking and added things called “vegetables and fruits” to my diet. I switched my deodorant after reading an article that suggested a link between Alzheimer’s and antiperspirant. I even abandoned my beloved aforementioned Tupperware in exchange for glassware because of the high levels of BPA found in the former. Tampons, however, were never part of my health conscious agenda despite knowing full well the harmful effects of using them.
The Amazon reviews raved about it, and it seemed healthier and cheaper in the long run. Upon first glance, it was impossible to understand how I was going to fit the cone-shaped piece of silicone into a teeny tiny baby hole. I tried, several times, to fold the malleable cup into my vagina. Each attempt proved fruitless, making me long for the ease of the tampon’s smooth applicator.
I was committed to making the Diva Cup work. I could feel the storm of menstruation on the horizon and without any tampons to use as a lifeboat should I fail, the Diva Cup was my only hope in batting down the hatches. I squatted down low to the ground and took a deep breath. I chanted “A baby can come out of here.” over and over as if those words belonged to an ancient incantation that would transform my vagina into Mary Poppins’ purse and the Diva Cup would slip inside with the grace and ease of Mary Poppins herself. Like magic, the Diva Cup disappeared into my vagina without further incident.
I slept like a woman that night. I felt confident in my decisions as a grown ass adult female sorcerer. I thought about that girl at the party I had overheard years ago, and how I had judged her with such vitriol. Homegirl was ahead of her time. I imagined raising my Diva Cup to the sky and toasting to her honor, a true uterus utilitarian.
My celebration of womaness ended abruptly when I tried to remove the Diva Cup in the shower the next morning. No matter how much I tugged, folded, pinched or pulled, my incantation proved too strong. The Diva Cup was lost inside me forever.
I sheepishly came into work that morning knowing that at any moment, without warning, my menstrual blood would break the silicone dam and cause a tsunami of embarrassment. Still unable to remove the cup, I would then pass out and a mass of handsome firemen would be summoned to retrieve the plastic cone from my vagina with the Jaws of Life. It would turn what could be a sexy fantasy into the prom scene from Carrie.
After several more attempts to remove the cup, I gave up and instead wandered the hallways of work, defeated, a ghost of the woman I was the night before. I found reprieve in a female co-worker’s office. It wasn’t a slumber party, and we weren’t particularly chummy, but she was the closest thing to a safe space. “Can I confess something?” I asked. The word “confess” can disarm even the most professional of relationships. Her face softened and she answered “Yes, of course.”
I told her the whole, sordid story. She smiled and shared the story of her home birth. There she was, standing up, cervix dilated, a baby knocking at the front door of her vaginal opening. Her midwife instructed her to reach inside and snap the amniotic sack. She looked at the midwife with fear. There was no way in hell she was going to do that. The midwife encouraged her, reassuring her that it would all be fine. Once the water had successfully broken, the midwife instructed her to reach in and pull her newborn child out so she would be the first to hold her baby. The sentiment was nice, but she had no idea how she would successfully perform her own birth. Again, with the reassurance of her midwife, she reached in and pulled her precious bundle of joy from her teeny tiny baby hole.
I sat there, mouth agape, inspired. She told me this story, not to one-up me, but to make me understand that a woman’s body, and more specifically her vagina, had the power of three of Mary Poppins’ purses (my words not hers.) As women, we have vilified our bodies to such an extent; we don’t even know what they are capable of. How we treat the subject of our periods reinforces the horrible narrative that menstruation is a mysterious occurrence. These occurrences are peppered with befuddling traditions each mother bestows upon her daughter as a right of passage not to be questioned. My mother didn’t let me shave my legs until I got my period. My friend Shayna’s mother slapped her in the face, a Jewish tradition, when she got her period. We are then forced to buy all these contraptions that are meant to ease the pain of menses: panty liners, cleansing wipes, overnight pads, scented feminine wash, Midol, hot water bottles, a young priest, an old priest. As the old idiom goes, better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t know. Our vaginas are the last frontier of healthy living, and tampons are a necessary evil we refuse to question.
Armed with her pep talk and a YouTube instructional video, I marched back into the handicap stall of the woman’s restroom, took a deep breath, and removed the Diva Cup from punany purgatory. My womanhood was restored.