The first time I sported a cloth pad approached the Divine. Having suffered the indignity—the scourge, really—of drugstore pads and tampons for twenty years, I’d frankly gasped when, at nine months pregnant, I saw an ad in a feminist ’zine for cloth pads. Cloth pads?! I thought, Oh glorious day! Not only were they handcrafted in soft cotton, like the diapers I’d stockpiled for my baby-to-be, but, like popsicles or peonies, they were available in a panoply of colors. Thrilling, I promptly completed the mail-in order form, choosing downright delightfully patterns, zebra and butterfly, promptly rendering my monthly moon Jimi Hendrix album-sleeve worthy in the pads’ colorful psychedelia. “Move over,” Janis Joplin croons, and so did I—move over, skin-sticking, sweat-inducing, chemical-smelling menstrual accoutrement, and make way for new-and-improved flow. Period.
As I excitedly awaited my package, I recalled how my grandmother, Zylpha, oft described the humiliation of scrubbing her “rags” in front of men. How my mother, Sharon, who came of age in 1950s Los Angeles, suffered menstrual meltdown: invited to a beach party, she demurred, owing to her period. Zip! A girlfriend turned her on to the latest thing—a tampon. Sadly, the tampon turned Mom’s Beach Blanket Bingo into beach blanket bummer: she jimmied in the whole enchilada, applicator and all, and shuffled around all day like the Tin Man. I myself? I’d done enough time with synthetic maxis, as comfy as a hot, wet diaper, and tampons that felt like square pegs.
So when my package finally arrived, soon after my baby, I was flying high. I snapped in a cloth pad and was forever changed: print butterflies flapped their fabric wings in celebration—of my body, my blood, the life cycle itself—their sacred connection to the Divine.
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