Trials and Tribulations of Cupping

A truthful account of the first time I used a cup.

“Don’t panic,” I said to myself. “There’s nothing to panic about.” It was just a 6 cm silicone cup trapped all up in my lady parts. I was lucky this had been a trial run.

I had decided to try a menstrual cup after ranting (once again) about Tampon tax. The cup was appealing for many reasons; cheap, reusable, environmentally friendly and easily transported. It was perfect for me. I spent about 10 minutes on Amazon, found an economic generic model named after a Greek goddess and decided to give it a whirl.

What could go wrong?

Mistake #1 Lazy research

I thought any brand would do. I thought they were all the same and after a few hours practice I would be a pro. What I wasn’t counting on was my over zealous high positioning and short fingers leaving me with a foreign object trapped inside me.

I think it’s important to mention to any women reading this: you can’t lose a menstrual cup inside yourself. Your cervix isn’t a vacuum that hoovers up foreign objects. A fact I soothingly repeated to myself during my panic.

Mistake #2 Over-confidence

The easy to use instructions you receive with your cups seem a little nonchalant in retrospect. I got my fold right and whacked it up there without considering how I was going to get it out. What ensued was the gynaecological equivalent of trying to find the end of a roll of sellotape.

Also, don’t be fooled into thinking this is a one finger job. There was a level of intimacy that left me feeling like I owed myself a steak dinner and two bottles of red. I may actually be a qualified gynaecologist now.

Mistake #3 Thinking I was in charge

The vagina is in charge. People who use pussy as a put down clearly haven’t tried to wrestle a cup away from its vice like grip. It had claimed the cup for it’s own and was not going to give it up without a fight.

Happy Endings

Rather than run crying to my nearest Family Planning clinic, I made a cup of tea, watched some Youtube videos, did some Kegel exercises and tried again. The cup had shifted, I was able to get a better grip on it and I sit here typing, cup free and knowing a lot more about my cervix.

The experience has not put me off in the least. I think it’s great women are getting to know their bodies better. And I stand by my choice to use the cup.

I’ve done my research properly this time and found a cup that’s right for me. I’m sure with some practice I’ll be a pro in no time.

What’s the deal with the cup?

Curious about cupping? Let this idiot be your guide.

I‘ve long been outspoken on periods and how they are viewed and treated within society. I’m baffled by the fact we have to pay for sanitary products when it’s part of our biology. To add insult to injury these products are then taxed as a luxury. If this was happening to men, there’d be a riot. To top it off, sanitary products contribute to the burgeoning quantity of waste loading the world’s landfills. This is why I chose to go the way of the cup.

Here’s a bit of information you might find helpful if you’re planning on giving it a go.

All shapes and colours

Surprisingly, there are many different kinds of cup, in different colours and different shapes. The most well known brands are the Diva Cup or if you’re UK based, like I am, Mooncup. I use a Lunette because it was an affordable price, suited my flow and has a long stem which makes it easier for me to position and remove. It’s worth doing some investigating before you make a purchase. I speak from experience. Most companies will offer you a 60 day money back guarantee. So if the cup you choose is not for you, try again with another.

Find your fold

To insert your  in order to do this you need to fold your cup. I recommend watching a few Youtube videos before going in there. The U fold pictured below is the most common. I prefer to use a narrower fold. Pick the fold that’s comfortable and suits your shape. You may also want to wet the rim or use some lube to make insertion easier. I’m going to be honest. You’re about to get real up close and personal with your vagina. The kind of intimacy you may have only known after a bottle of wine and a fancy meal. It’s an educational experience.

Positioning

This is the tricky bit that makes you feel a bit like an amateur gynaecologist. Don’t give up! It can be frustrating, but if you’ve endured someone else fumbling down there, you owe it to yourself to persevere.

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Courtesy of LENAcup

The cup should be fully open and positioned beneath the cervix. If it doesn’t open it can move and will leak. The advice is to rotate it, but this is easier said than done. What I found was easier was to run my finger around the outside of the cup a few times, do a few squats and check again. Give the stem a pull when you think it’s opened. If it’s offering some resistance it means it’s open and the suction is working. If it doesn’t, try again.

Comfort

A good way of checking that it’s correctly positioned is comfort: like a tampon, you shouldn’t feel it. So if the stem is digging into you or you feel uncomfortable, remove it and try again. I found practicing when I wasn’t on helped me feel more confident.

Cleaning

Wash your hands before inserting. Pour the contents down the toilet. If you’re at home rinse your cup out in the sink with warm soapy water. You can buy special wipes if you plan to remove it when you’re on the go. Once it’s clean you can reinsert it. At the end of your cycle, sterilise the cup with boiling water. I don’t bother with all the wipes and washes, but they’re available if you prefer them. I like to use my little Meeno pot rather than crossing boundaries and sterilising my cup in the communal saucepan. But that’s just me.

I’m still getting used to mine and researching. If you’ve got questions or advice feel free to comment!

It’s Everyone’s Problem

 

I’m a people person. Everyone knows this. There’s nothing that warms my heart more than meeting a kindred spirit.  There’s something reassuring about finding another person whom you have something in common with. All it takes are two little words of solidarity to make a large and anonymous world less lonely: Me too.

But when that common ground is a collective experience of harassment and abuse we all need to pay attention. Men and women. This isn’t a random phenomenon like the sky turning yellow. This is an indicator of the extent of harassment, aggression and assault within our society. And it needs to change.

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We’re no longer living in an age where a man can drag his chosen woman back to the cave. But it’s an age where a guy can show you his dick, make you feel unsafe on your journey home and violate your personal space with little or no fear of retribution.

Harvey Weinstein’s outing as a sexual predator has reignited a polemical outpouring in the media on an age old issue. But whether this will lead to any real change in male attitudes and society’s treatment of women is yet to be seen. Let’s not forget that only a year ago the pussy grabbing President of the USA  was caught on camera bragging about his ‘conquests’. That bombshell didn’t stop him getting elected. What was also troubling was it didn’t stop women from voting for him.

Who’s responsible?

It angers me that a discussion on harassment and assault is inevitably dragged back to the role the victims have to play in the situation. Let’s be clear, there’s one problem here and that’s the predatory males victimising and manipulating women. However, every time something like this comes out women are asked to reassess what it is we’re doing that’s driving the boys crazy.

Donna Karan’s mindless rhetoric in the wake of the Weinstein allegations raised more than an eyebrow. Was a woman whose fortune had been made selling sexy clothes and perfume to women really implying that women were asking for it? Ok, she took it back. She was jet lagged. Some of her best friends are women. We get it. But why does this argument always come back to how women act?

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Mayim Bialik’s op-ed in The New York Times is also problematic. A well educated actress and feminist, familiar with Hollywood, Bialik’s editorial reads like the cautionary tale of how awkward looks and demure dress sense steered her safe of sexual predators. Though she takes care not to do a Donna, and tell women they’re dressing too sexually, I wonder why she feels the need to highlight her opinion (after all it’s only an opinion) that her own looks had spared her the horrors of harassment. I always thought she was pretty.

Bialik’s insinuation that the pretty ones are the one’s getting harassed and assaulted is reductive. It’s why the Me Too status started. To show this a problem that happens to women. Period. Bialik’s focus on women building their esteem away from their appearance overlooks the way girls are sexualised by strange men every day. Whether they want to be or not. And in doing so it implies it’s the job of women to control men’s behaviour.

I won’t disagree that there is more to a woman than her looks. Indeed, a woman’s worth doesn’t lie in her push up bra and contour kit. But I don’t understand how a sexual predator’s actions have brought us to an after school special on female self esteem and worth. There is something patronising about the idea that a plainer gal, who models herself on Eleanor Roosevelt, would never be subjected to such misfortunes. It’s simply untrue.

People need to stop thinking this is the curse of the beautiful or provocative. This is a problem endemic to our society.  This doesn’t just happen to certain women. And it’s not a woman’s problem. It’s everyone’s problem and staying silent on the matter, ignoring it or trying to cover it up won’t get rid of it. The onus to change things isn’t only on women, it’s on men too.

#MeToo #HimThough #HowIWillChange

Let me be Brief

The battle for most practical panties seems to be on. Gone are the days of pants simply hiding your shame and offering a paltry barrier to the cold. Now they actually DO stuff.

In the Red Corner…

For those of you who haven’t been exposed to the viral advertising campaign infecting Facebook feeds, THINX are a brand of underwear intended for use during your period. Think luxury period pants meets feminine hygiene products.

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Here comes the science

No more panicking when you think you’ve come on, or having to make sure every purse you own has an emergency tampon in it. THINX has you covered from flow and hygiene, to style.

Now, I’m no Mila Kunis, so maybe the awesomeness of my undergarments being more ‘period friendly’ is lost on me. Like most women, I learnt to be careful and always prepared. Unlike Kunis, I also don’t have $100 to spend on a cycle set that saves me from having to pay that annoying tampon tax. It’s a shame.

Miki Agrawal, She-EO, seems to have good intentions; she’s setting up an education foundation, giving back to women who need it and trying to bust the menstruation myth. The sale of each pair of undies contributes to Afripad, a Ugandan project that makes reusable sanitary pads for women at an affordable price.

So wearing underwear finally pays off.

In the Blue Corner…

The good intentions behind AR Wear’s anti-rape underwear will lead us all directly to hell. In an attempt to take action against the rising number of sexual assaults in Germany, an inventor has created a fashionable looking…well, chastity belt. Clearly a future where men were taught to respect women’s bodies, control their urges and were adequately punished when they didn’t, was looking unlikely.

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Drinking in these bad boys is gonna be rough

The underwear is cut proof and locked into place, thus thwarting any would be sexual assailants. Because we all know someone with a knife, aggressive enough to try and cut off your underwear during an assault will just shrug and toddle off when they realise there’s no getting in…

 

I’d much rather put £87 toward a taser.

There is always the hope the government will invest. Then they could issue women with a few pairs. That way if attacked we could  neutralise the threat with a taser and then put his genitals in prison until the authorities arrived.

The message is bleak and antiquated: Lock up your daughters.

And the winner is…

If I thought the right underwear was the answer to anything, I’d be wearing as many problem solving pairs as I could. However, between these two ideas THINX seems to have a more feminist and life affirming message. It also manages to flip off that stupid tampon tax that I loathe.

 

Numbers game

Women who sleep with my boyfriend, then have the cheek to comment on my sexual history will be verbally decimated.

There is nothing that will get a woman more angry than finding out she’s being cheated on.

Oh wait, how about his side chick calling her promiscuous.

“He thought that because you’ve slept with so many more people than him that you wouldn’t be happy with him. He was always worried.”

Yeah, that happened.

A married ‘Christian’ woman who had been looking for Jesus in my ex’s boxers, was using my sexual history to justify  her arseholery.

I should have pointed out the irony, but why confuse her further with fancy words?

I’d love to say it was the first time my sexual activity has been commented on. But, as an asian woman I am used to people commenting on my dating life. Jokes have been made about my revolving door dating system. My parents stopped bothering asking if I will settle down. And I have learned to shrug off the questions fishing for confirmation of how many people I have slept with.

Not enough I say.

I am used to friends taking the piss about my dating life. It’s part and parcel of sharing it so openly on social media. It’s funny. I have no problems with it. So why should anyone else?

But, oh they do. And rather than accept that it’s their issue, their insecurity and their choices, they want to make it my issue, my insecurity and about my choices. All of a sudden it’s all about numbers.

The more open minded people I meet seem to have no problem with how many people I have slept with. They also tend to have slept with significantly more people than I have. So why would they care?

As long as you’re the lower number you’re fine.

Funnily enough, I have seen the same nonchalance disappear when it’s turned out I’ve slept with more people than they have. Then they spit out their Starbucks, awkwardly mumble something about doing what you want with your body, before quickly leaving.

Probably to call a group of women together for an orgy to get their numbers up.

It’s a strange phenomena. It doesn’t make me regret a thing. Just taught me to never share numbers, or waste too much time on people who seem obsessed with mine. The issue is clearly their own.

Nothing good comes from sharing numbers.

Unless they’re phone numbers for hot guys you’re going to unashamedly bang.

Signs of Singledom

Being single comes with unique characteristics

“Are you single?”

In the right context, it’s a promising question. It was half term Friday. I was mid-ludicrous story and being loud and drunk, when a relative stranger inquired into my relationship status. All it took were these four words to turn that my smile into my ‘I wish I could stab you with my eyes’ look:

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What the hell does ‘single’ look like? Say it!

“I can see why.”

You’ve seen it in movies when someone says the wrong thing; the scratch of vinyl as a record comes to an abrupt halt. That pin drop silence.

What the fuck did he mean by that?

Am I single because of my behaviour? Was he implying I had no choice in being single?

No, he meant it in the good way. There’s a good way. The “No man could handle you!” way.

It was fast becoming clear to me that this guy a) had archaic notions about the liveliness of a woman being directly proportional to how likely she is to be available and b) wanted to be kicked in the crotch.

I didn’t get it. He was recently divorced. (You can see why. I mean that in the good way.) He didn’t fall into his own labelling system. Perhaps marriage had made him docile and lacking in personality, thus more likely to take a bride.

Maybe he was onto something though. What if I do have distinguishing features that set me apart from women more likely to take a groom/partner?

I used to think I was a fun loving, alcohol abusing, wiseass. Little did I know I was manifesting the symptoms of being single and incapable of being domesticated.

Perhaps single people everywhere are subtly evolving. Currently we have the ability to be shown a genital shot at any time without flinching. Eventually, I’ll have evolved physically to have extra long arms, so I can zip up my own dresses.

Lord knows I can already eat a meal for two by myself.

One day in the future, we’ll all develop a Tinder shaped birthmark about our person that will fade along with our personalities when we meet our match. You know, the one who is out there, somewhere, waiting (knowing my luck, in the bushes).

Maybe then people won’t ask me stupid questions and waste my hard earned drinking time.

Photography credit: http://www.gratisphotography.com

A Suitable Boy

I give up. Let someone else pick the next dysfunctional man I date.  Just don’t let that someone be my parents.

After a conversation on the dire state of my love life, my friend Jess suggested letting my friends introduce me to nice single men they knew.

Now, coming from an Indian family I am no stranger to the idea of relationship introductions. My Dad showed me a picture of my future husband when I was 11.

The image of a fat boy ramming an ice-cream into his mouth, as if it was the cure for ugly, made me burst into tears. As it turned out, he wasn’t my betrothed, but some random child who had wandered into the shot.

The arranged marriage ‘gag’ had been born. It would plague me all the way to adulthood.

Initially, there were some golden opportunities for a laugh. Like when my Dad signed me up to Shaadibride.com, an Indian dating website. We would sift through the applicants, who neither cared that I was an agnostic, nor that I drank and smoked.

“They’re desperate!” My dad would cry, laughing. Cheers, Dad.

But the fun would always be short lived. My dad’s thinly veiled desire to see me married to a nice, Indian boy always came out when an eligible candidate appeared. In this case it was a doctor, offering to fly me out to Frankfurt for a date. Then all I’d hear was:

“Why do you hate your people? Give him a chance!”

The doctors always made him crack.

3ffd8bae2635f73c80d91544aab0782d9fab3aefc2d45f71e9c239955e73d98dThings haven’t changed. Only last month my Dad was waxing lyrical about the neighbourhood watch officer who had come to give him property stickers. Before him, it was the Olympian flautist he’d met at a wedding back home (playing fast and loose with the word Olympian there, Dad).

Occasionally, my mum will take over and dish out dating advice straight from the 30s.

No, I can’t keep quiet until the wedding day, mum. I don’t want to be a secretary and try to marry my boss. I will not learn to ‘talk nicely’ with ‘boys’. Thanks anyway.

They’re more bothered by me being single than I am.

I can only imagine that the sound of my biological clock ticking away like The Tell-tale Heart, is driving them to madness.

This is probably why I avoid any kind of spinstervention. Historically, they have ended in disappointment. My dad remains optimistic though.  He still insists I don’t stand directly in front of the microwave in case I fry my eggs.

Hope never dies.

 

 

 

Situationships

‘Hey. Remember me?’

Every now and then a guy I’d completely forgotten about will resurface on my WhatsApp or chat.

You know the type. The ones who send a mandatory maintenance text that outwardly says ‘sup’,  but really means ‘I haven’t forgot you, we could still hook up. These never ending situationships that went nowhere have started boomeranging back in the form of monosyllabic text reminders of the fuck ton of bad choices I once made which now baffle me.

I appear to have dated an array of sexual opportunists and emotional parasites who have hoped the relationship door will be left ajar on the off chance they get locked out of a opportunity with a girl they actually like. Luckily, I can now identify a waste of time in under 10 characters. A tragic but necessary life skill. Like being able to find your way home drunk.

It took me years to realise I had to stop responding. Screw being polite. I wasn’t bitter, or in my feelings, I just didn’t want to massage the ego of some guy who was clearly getting some relationship karma coming back his way.

These men had gotten all the time out of me that they were going to. If I was going to spend anymore of my time frivolously, I’d rather waste 20 pokeballs trying to catch an angry Seadra than maintain intermittent contact with someone who lacks both common courtesy and the ability to send a witty text.

Despite this move in the right direction, I did not live happily ever after.

Much like the elusive bus that only appears when you light a cigarette, the minute you stop bothering with some guys they rematerialise with added emojis.sex-love-life-2014-10-text-from-ex-main

Really? You were thinking of me? If you want to get all nostalgic, try having a wank over your mum’s Mary Kay catalogue or watch The Goonies. Don’t assume some type of emotional vigil is being held for you by an old flame. You’re getting in touch with a practical stranger who (if they’re me) will ask you to lose their number.

I refuse to assist any more guys in any delusion that I may be the one that got away, or that I’d spent years at a window, Jane Eyre style, before wandering the moors to find them. I am not that girl. The only time I patiently wait by the window is when I have an ASOS delivery coming.

Why am I ranting about this? The Colombian. A fuckboi who didn’t want to date me then  ghosted me before disappearing completely. Until one afternoon when I got that ‘Hey’. Here’s some free advice: if you plan to resurrect a relationship via text, get a thesaurus. Only Jesus can get away with a casual ‘Hey’ and that was after just three days. I hadn’t heard from this guy in 2 years.

What followed was more monosyllabic inane small talk and thinly veiled enquiries about my relationship status which culminated in him asking me to fly out to see him in Colombia. The only response I could think of that fit was LOL. He did not take this well.He ranted on about how I obviously didn’t care and to forget he’d said anything.

Guess what? I didn’t care. He had texted me while I was happily eating Jaffa cakes in a dick free zone. His irritating wounded act ruined a perfectly lovely afternoon.

A month later I got another ‘Hey’ and a life update. Now he’d moved to Mexico and wanted to know whether there was a chance I’d be moving there, or was I still mad at him (because clearly it was my irrational female anger stopping me from uprooting my life to Mexico for a guy who was a dick). I’ve never found block and delete quicker in my life.

To the horrified male friends who have messaged to ask what the ‘poor guy’ had done wrong, allow me to clarify my position: I’ve got nothing against exes getting in touch. Just don’t do it if you were a douche who is now feeling sorry for himself. Definitely don’t interrupt a woman during biscuit time.

It’s a mobile phone, not a time machine. Move on.

The Menstruation Myth

Period, period, period, period, period. Are you comfortable with it yet?

When I was 17 years old I tried to send my brother to the local pharmacy because I needed tampons. Before he could step out of the door I could hear a mumbled conversation and then a resounding WHAT, before he was loudly told to get upstairs and my father stormed into the living room to give me a piece of his mind.

 Little had I known that my insensitive request had nearly turned my brother gay, or worse, transgender.

I was astounded by the ignorance flowing out of the mouth of someone I respected. A well educated, well read individual, and one who had no problem discussing fashion and makeup with me, hardly the manliest of conversations.

The line was drawn at periods.

The attitude towards periods he had experienced growing up was one where they were treated as a curse, a sign of uncleanliness, a burden women had to endure as discreetly as possible without tainting any innocent men with it. In the later years we managed to educate my father away from the fears borne from menstrual ignorance; he no longer handles a box of tampons at arms length, nor washes his hands compulsively afterwards.

My mum remains quite sheltered on the topic, like many Indian women of her generation. It was something whispered behind closed doors. Uttering it too loudly may cause your uterus to explode. She was taught that it was something to be ashamed of, something women suffered.

Maybe it was a good thing that she wasn’t around to give me the talk. I had to rely on my sister and PSHE for my information. My dad’s only recognition of the event was adding sanitary towels to the shopping list and then promptly reminding me I had to help him buy them, else he be considered a pervert by the rest of London. By the time she came home, my dad was now privy to my cycle, and I was using tampons.

Revelations that garnered an “Oh lord, the shame!” and an afternoon of praying.

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“They attract bears”

The ignorance surrounding the menstrual cycle used to really anger me as a young woman. Periods make women ‘unclean’ in my culture. You are not meant to enter a holy place when menstruating, nor are you meant to touch a man about to pray, or give offerings to god, and a whole other list of things you can’t do because you are tainted by your own biology. The most embarrassing part when I was a young teen, was you would be asked whether you had your period. I could understand this from a doctor, but not when all I wanted to do was step into a building. My mother would discreetly inquire if I had my period and if I did I didn’t have to go to temple, or religious events, or partake in religious ceremonies.

Needless to say, I was always on my period during such occasions.

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Yeah, he’s not convinced

For some of the men I dated ‘that time of the month’ was a punchline and an inconvenience. Periods meant sex was now a hassle. Ignorant fears of fathering a brain damaged baby, or seeing tampax in the bathroom were too much for a minority. In fairness these comments were made by the Bricks of this world who believe periods opened them up to bear attacks.

Most men my age aren’t that ignorant.

But that isn’t to say they are well informed, or that they want to be. An ex once asked me how I was able to be in the swimming pool of our local gym if I was on my period. Confused, I replied tampons. He continued to look at me awaiting an explanation. Why would he know the difference between a sanitary towel or a tampon? Why would he care? The Bodyform woman’s roar was obviously a signal to put the kettle on for him. What he could do though was wipe the terrified look off his face and stop scanning the water for Sharks.

A uniquely female experience doesn’t have be seen as a curse, or unclean, or a negative.

 Man up. It’s just a little blood.

 

Biological Duty

Having a womb isn’t a good enough reason to have kids

I once dated a guy who informed me it was my biological duty to have children.

Yes. He said that.

Think of my uterus, if you would, as a bread maker that came with my ‘kitchen’.

The kitchen is great, but wouldn’t it be more of a kitchen if there was a rising heap of dough in that breadmaker? Wouldn’t that bread make me happier in the long run?

I mean you can’t have a breadmaker and not use it.

How am I still meeting people in this century who have this take on females and procreation?

I was never someone whose womb wrenched when she held a child, nor have I longed to feel life grow inside me. I’ve always been happy to hand a baby back, and get a burrito.

I’ve had the occasional flash panic, and stood in front of the freezer section in Sainsbury’s, frantically texting friends about embryo storage, whilst cooling my ovaries. But it was no bigger a panic than the undercut/no undercut dilemma of 2014.

I love the little humans.

Not because I have a uterus, but because I find them amazing. The incessant questioning, stubbornness, creativity and boundless energy is something I’m on board with.

We get on well.

As a result, I’m often told to have some of my own. Funny, because I’m also told I’m great with pets, but that ‘A puppy is for life, not just for Christmas’ campaign really did a job on folks. That’s something I should consider carefully.

I’m at that age where all my friends have had, or are having children. Some as I type. I am often told there is nothing like the joy of motherhood. That it’s the best thing I’ll ever do.

I think a more realistic description is that motherhood is a completely different kind of experience from those I have had to date. No one is making it look like ‘the best thing’ when they are wrestling a pound of ‘pick n mix’ out of a screaming child’s hand, handling a flooded bathroom, or being bitten.

My trip to Vegas measures up better.

That being said, the love my friends have for their children is contagious. Their relationships are rewarding. The way their children love them is moving. Good people are being raised in the world and it’s a beautiful thing to see.

But from a distance.

For me.

For now.