My Personal Confidence is Leaking

I think it’s safe to say I’ve never scared: anyone.

Five foot five. Birkenstocks with socks. My wrists have the circumference of an Oreo cookie.

Not scary.

Or am I?

It’s a quiet moment in the restroom of a charming professional building in Portland, Oregon. Flowered wallpaper and cozy, golden sconces.

Then I turn my head. The alarm sounds.

PLEASE DISPOSE OF FEMININE PRODUCTS IN THE RECEPTACLE PROVIDED!!!!!(The bold, all caps, and garden trail of exclamation points are not mine.)

I’ve seen these signs all my life. Haven’t you? I see them so much I don’t see them. They blend into the woodwork.

And if you haven’t seen one of these signs, they’re not talking about “feminine” products like tiaras and toenail polish. They don’t mean glitter.

This is what those signs mean. They mean blood comes out of your body and, unless you’ve been shot, that is disgusting. Any items you use to deal with this blood are disgusting. Before you use them, they are embarrassing. After you use them, they’re embarrassing and disgusting.

No one wants women to be disgusting. Not when we need them to be soft and pretty and ready to be a helpmate. Blood ruins the illusion. Blood makes women people.

Please! Our pipes are old. Nothing down the toilet but toilet paper!!!

Landlords, maintenance staff, wastewater treatment facilities – I wish you no harm. That’s why I also don’t flush facial tissues, baby wipes, cotton swabs, diapers, phones, or puppies, which have also been found in community wastewater.


I’m curious about the “only”. If you put a paper towel in there does the can explode?

I would guess that the number of exclamation points in the sign correlates to how many plumbing backups have been experienced at a given property. Water seeping into the cracks in the linoleum. Cupboards rotted. Floors ripped out. I could really screw this up for someone. Some landlord, building manager, superintendent. Flooded. Broken. A city block brought to its knees.

Again, I wish no one any harm.

It’s just that, to be feared. It’s so new. Women spend so much time being scared. Mostly we’re trying not to get raped. It’s a fear we accept. Girl Power, Title IX, college, Sheryl Sandberg, and…all the while…don’t get raped! Like a lifelong simultaneous hobby.

It’s not like bloody tampons turn the tables, but just for a second I have to hmmmm and raise an eyebrow: Ladies…what have we here?

All those tampons we stash away. Hiding. No one taught you exactly, but we know to hide them. Even clean unwrapped ones. Just their existence is embarrassing. No one wants one to fall out of their hobo bag in a crowded Starbucks. You don’t tuck one behind your ear like a cigarette. (Even though smoking actually is disgusting.)

And it’s funny because the culture splashes women’s bodies everywhere. You’d think we loved women’s bodies. Especially boobs. Boobs in shirts. Boobs in shirts sell hamburgers, pickup trucks, gum. The only thing you can’t do with a boob is feed a person. That’s disgusting.

Women’s bodies. Hot. Sex. Mine.

Bodies doing what they do. Disgusting. Alone. Yours.

The woman on the cover of Sports Illustrated this year pulling her swimsuit bottoms down so far you can see her pubic bones. Does anyone wonder if this person on the cover of the sports magazine plays a sport? Does anyone wonder if the woman in the swimsuit, I don’t know, swims?

What if I told you she was menstruating? What if under that bikini suit she was wearing a bloody tampon. That as you ogle, she is shedding unused uterine lining!!! Would you keep the picture around? Or would you put her away? Until she can be good and sexy again.


There were teenage boys in the aisle when I took this picture. I was so embarrassed. Luckily, I didn’t exist.

When I started my first office job after college, I learned how to conceal tampons as I walked from my cubicle to the restroom. I tried to make sure I wore pants with pockets when I was menstruating. But when I forgot I would slip the tampon up the sleeve of my suit jacket and sort of hold it against the inside cuff. Just one finger tucked up so that it didn’t look like I was clenching my fist. All the while I strode down the hallway hoping my boss didn’t stop me to chat about the new marketing initiative.

I don’t want to hurt anyone. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s property. But maybe just one teeny time, just for practice, we could stand tall in restrooms across the city, and make people pay attention. Listen up city, I got at a network of weary, slightly anemic menstruating sisters. We’ve all got a jumbo box of Supers from Costco. We can stand here all day and twenty-eight after that.

And not to be a snot, but what do you have, monsieur? A little sign you printed on your printer and hung up with Scotch tape? You got “please” and seventeen exclamation points?

Here’s a secret. You don’t need to make signs.

The women who disobey your sign aren’t going to obey just because you added seven exclamation points instead of three.

And the women who wouldn’t flush a tampon down your creaky rusty stupid pipes because that would cause trouble and trouble isn’t nice —those women will wrap a used tampon in ten yards of toilet paper to try to un-disgust it before contorting themselves to reach the tiny feminine garbage can six feet away from where they sit with their pants down around their ankles.

And I would just like to suggest here in what I’m sure shows only my bitterness and lack of maturity but NO MAN WOULD DO THIS. A friend said, you know how they have those new toilets – flush up for pee and down for poop. She said a man would have another button for flush sideways for tampons. Flush diagonal for maxi pads.

You know what else clogs toilets? Giant poops. Does the men’s room have signs:


Like the airlines with the carry-on luggage. “If your bowel movement cannot fit in this box, please see an agent.”

And I’m not trying to get all over this but men are disgusting. They blow snot out their nose and it lands on the sidewalk. They hack up huge globs and hurk them out the car window. In front of other people. They leave the seat up and don’t even notice what is on the seat – grime and curly hairs and coagulated pee.

The man staring into his laptop, right next to me in the coffee shop, just sneezed a juice bomb into his bare hands and wiped it on his pant leg. In full view. Smiling before, smiling after.

His personal confidence.

I would flush for it.