"I'm a twin, so when my sister got her period first (even thought I hadn't yet gotten mine), I stepped up to the plate to be helpful. She was having trouble figuring out just how the hell you're supposed to just 'STICK IT IN!?' so we were in the bathroom together and I forget exactly how 'hands-on' I had to be... but a sister bond is strong, and let's just say that together we figured it out. Laughter is key in this process. Lots of laughter.
By the time I had to do it, I felt like I knew what was going on, so it was helpful for the both of us. "
The Hovering Family
"It was traumatic. I was on vacation with my family. I'd already had my period for a couple of months and had been using pads, but since I wanted to go swimming in the hotel pool, my parents gave me permission to use tampons for the first time. They bought me some, as well as some LUBE in case I had trouble??? Like, K-Y Jelly. All I remember is going into the little dingy bathroom in our hotel and my entire family RIGHT OUTSIDE just waiting for me to put in a tampon so we could go to the pool. I could hear my dad saying stuff like, 'Do you think she needs help in there?' and my brother complaining about how long I was taking and my mom knocking on the door gently every once in a while to ask if I was OK, all while I'm just trying to figure out HOW TO PUT THIS FOREIGN OBJECT INTO MY VAGINA. I eventually got overwhelmed and started crying because I was like 12 and kept inserting it incorrectly (and consequently kept having to PULL OUT A DRY TAMPON).
Needless to say, I didn't use tampons again until I was like 17. "
The Best Best Friend
"The first time I put in a tampon, my best friend was sitting outside the door of the bathroom instructing me. I had just gotten my period but wanted to go to the pool because my crush and his friends were going to meet us there. I'd never learned how to put in a tampon because my mom doesn't believe in tampons.
I just remember trying to shove the whole thing in my vagina, not knowing the plastic tube was suppose to slip out. I just kept yelling to my friend, 'It's not going in! It hurts! Which hole? ARE YOU SURE IT'S THE RIGHT HOLE?'
And she kept yelling back, 'Yes, it's the right hole. THERE IS ONLY THAT ONE AND YOUR BUTTHOLE. ANGLE YOURSELF. TRY TO RELAX!'
Anyway, I definitely didn't put it in right and ended up bleeding on my bikini bottom later."
The Awkward Conversation With Mom
"Before I ever got my period, my mom waited until we were in a car and I couldn't flee and said out of nowhere, in this tone that indicated this was the worst thing she'd ever heard, 'Your friend [redacted]'s mom said that she would show [redacted] how to put in her tampon when the time came. Is that something you want? That's not something you want, is it?'
It was not, and also I wanted to die.
SECOND OF ALL
I had the barest understanding of my own vagina and when I tried to put a tampon in, the first time I used a Super Plus Absorbent Giant Hot Dog Cotton Rod and also didn't understand how angles worked, so I wound up limping around my condo for 15 minutes before trying to take it out. HAVE YOU EVER TAKEN OUT A DRY TAMPON? IT'S LIKE RIPPING OUT ALL OF YOUR GUTS ON A STRING. Like, oh hey, you wanted to be more comfortable FUCK YOU YOU'LL NEVER BE COMFORTABLE AGAIN.
I don't use tampons very often."
The Hiking Trip
"I was on a bus in the mountains of Spain on my way to hike waterfalls at a monastery and goddamn shark week started four hours into the drive. I was 13 and very worried and asking all of my friends on the trip if they had a pad because we were stopping at some Podunk Spanish sheep town in 10 minutes, and it was the last bathroom break we were going to get for hours. No one on the bus had a pad, but [my friend], legit MVP of that trip, had a tampon, and while I'd never put one of those in, I was sure I could figure it out.
I squatted in the bathroom of a restaurant that had an ostrich paddock out front (Spain is weird, FYI) and just kind of crammed it up there. I didn't know how applicators work. I just popped it in and dragged it back out. There was an inch of the cottony part sticking out of me but I thought it was supposed to be like that, like when you put the cork back on a bottle of wine and you can't get it to go all the way down. So it was fine, I'm thinking everything is fine...until I stood up and realized that it FREAKING HURTS to have half a tampon in and dry cotton rubbing those parts raw with every step. And I was on my way to a MONASTERY HIKE.
Long story short, I hiked up some very Catholic mountains with half a tampon sticking out of me, which chafed my vulva so badly I couldn't sit down for hours afterward."
Swimming With Stingrays
"The second time I got my period ever was on vacation in the Bahamas with my family...and we were about to go swimming with stingrays. My mom and two older sisters laughed and told me I'd have to hop on the tampon bandwagon REAL QUICK. They gave me a little pep talk and asked if I needed help, but I was like, NO THANK YOU PLEASE I GOT THIS. I relied on those cartoon photo instructions on the back of the box and definitely didn't put it all the way in. Then I spent the whole afternoon preparing for my imminent death by stingray since I was sure this little piece of cotton was not going to do shit."
"It was my 13th birthday, I think, and for my party, we'd planned to go ice-skating. Well what do you know? I got my period that very day too. I told my mom there was no way I wanted to wear a pad while ice-skating (as a figure skater, I was terrified by the thought of something bunching around and squishing between my thighs). So I freaked out and asked my mom to help me put in a tampon. She actually went with me to the upstairs bathroom, while everyone else was playing downstairs, and helped me put it in! She also talked it through with me so that I didn't faint and I could actually find the place to put it in next time. I'll never forget that moment and told myself that I would absolutely do the same thing for my kids if they ever asked."
Billy Graham's Christian Sleep-Away Camp
"I was at camp. Not just any camp, Billy Graham's Christian sleep-away camp in the mountains of North Carolina. My mom had packed me a box of super Tampax just in case and so that's all I had when the time came. Fifteen other girls were banging on the door trying to get in as I was attempting to shove this unnecessarily dry cotton lump in, which I had no clue how to use. We were late for our white-water rafting trip so I just did my best.
On the bus to the raft site, I could feel the tampon the whole way. It was painful, and also I had done something very wrong so it wasn't working. I was bleeding all over my bright yellow and orange modest one-piece-bathing-suit-and-board-shorts combination. But this was Billy Graham camp, so I had another solution: The whole way there, on the raft, as my co-campers and I were being tossed into the freezing cold river into the rapids and pulled back in over and over, I prayed that the stains would all go away and no one would see them. When I got out of the raft at the other end of the river, the stains were actually gone. But it wasn't (just) Jesus... The water had been SO COLD and rushing that it took the blood stains out of my clothes and I bounced around so much in the raft that the tampon had been jostled into the right place. HALLELUJAH, PRAISE THE UTERUS AND THE RISING TIDE." —Jess Probus (who requested her name and the link to Billy Graham's Christian sleep-away camp be included)
The Playtex Pro
"I tried the second day of my first period because I had a soccer game I COULD NOT MISS. With the help of a mirror and those wicked smooth Playtex plastic applicators — small humblebrag ahead, apologies — I was kind of a total pro my first time around. When I told my other tampon-shy friends, I was actually called into many a middle school bathroom stall to offer practical and moral support. I thought I would make a solid OB-GYN for a while (then they showed us the birthing video in health class, HAHA NOPE), and my middle school superlative was 'Most Likely to Help You Out of a Sticky Situation.'"
"Those little illustrations in the tiny booklet folded up 80 times weren't very helpful, and I just couldn't figure out where it went and jabbed relentlessly. It took some teenage ~*love*~ to figure out the proper orifice. So really I have to thank the football player with a broken leg who broke up with me soon after because I wouldn't grind with him at homecoming, which he vetted with a phone call before even asking me to the dance."
When the Directions in the Box Don't Help
"My mom probably did a really good job explaining it to me, but I still didn't understand by the time I got my period. I went through an entire box of tampons trying, and failing, to put a single one in correctly. The directions in the box weren't even giving me enough visual cues apparently. I thought you had to start pushing the tampon out of the applicator outside of your vagina, not inside. After that experience, I just assumed tampons hurt and I didn't trust them for a while. I told my friend who had also gotten her period recently that they hurt and she was like, 'I'm never going to use them!' Nice."
What Happens in the Bushes Stays in the Bushes
"I was 12, and my best friend and I wanted to play outside in a summer rainstorm. We wore those tiny cotton Soffe shorts, so I knew a big maxi pad wouldn't cut it. My friend was still pre-menstrual, and locked us in the bathroom with her mom's super jumbos until I got one three-quarters of the way in. On the walk home after frolicking in the rain, I kept stopping to complain that it was halfway out, about to fall onto the ground. My BFF told me to just pull it out right there, behind a bush ON THE STREET, because 'no one would see.' After 10 minutes of yelling, I did yank it out and we both nearly fainted at the horror dangling in my hand, so my friend grabbed my arm and basically, it got tossed into the bush. I won't take full responsibility.
But in that moment, we both glanced up into the face of a man looking out at us from his kitchen window. I tried to grab it back from the bush, but my friend panicked and we sprinted home. I didn't wear tampons for another year and avoided that street through the end high school."