Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Happy Holidays

I leave tomorrow for a week--I'll be at my father's house in Denver. I'm hoping for a little more sun than we've had in the gloomy Midwest.

And for all of you, whether you celebrate Chanuka, Festivus, the Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa or a special day of your own devising...I hope your holidays are bright and happy. Thank you all for being a lovely part of my 2007. Here's wishing all of us a peaceful, joyful and healthy 2008.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Adventures in Feminine Hygiene

As I’ve gotten older, my periods have gotten lighter and lighter. I even have an IUD (the copper kind, not the progesterone kind), which is infamous for resulting in very heavy periods. Not for me. My periods are light enough now that my faithful friend the OB tampon just doesn’t work well for me any more, and as a result, I’ve started using ultrathin maxi pads. Ick. I’ve never used pads; from the very start of my menses, some 30 years ago now, I’ve used tampons. But now there just isn’t enough flow to warrant their use; they’re uncomfortable and leave me all dried out and…well, it’s just not working. And the pad thing? Not loving it.

So. What else? I’ve known about and been sort of interested in the idea of the menstrual cup for several years, but I had never tried one. I bought a box of Instead, the disposable ones once, and they just don’t work for me, though I know people who use and like them. Besides, part of what I’ve liked is the idea that I could use something repeatedly rather than discarding one or more of them daily. There are cups made of silicone or rubber that you insert, remove, wash and reinsert. It seemed like it might be time to try one, so I ordered one from this website and received it last week.

It’s a MoonCup, and it looks like a cute little silicone bell, or a little hat (a friend of mine, who disapproves of all the Goddessy names given by the manufacturers, dubbed mine the CooterCap. Fine with me.). I have read about how it takes some time to get used to using them, so I wasn’t expecting my CooterCap to become my BFF the moment I unwrapped it. But still. My first couple of interactions with it have been less friendly than I expected. Granted, I don’t have my period now, and many people have said that it’s hard to practice when you’re not menstruating, so I assume that’s part of my problem. The first time, I was able to insert the Cap OK, but then I couldn’t get it out. I’m not a person who has any problem interacting with her anatomy on a fairly intimate basis…so I wasn’t afraid to stick my fingers in there and get to tugging. But it had formed a fairly strong bond with the wall of my vagina, which I think is the point—that’s how you prevent leaks. It took a few tense minutes to figure out how to break the seal and extract the CooterCap, and then it kind of boinged out of my hand and across the bathroom.

Hm. Trial two, which was a couple of days ago, didn’t go that well either. Insertion went smoothly—you’re supposed to fold the Cap up in a particular way, slide it in and then let it open once it’s inside you. I folded and slid, and then felt it open up, as promised. And, OW. It felt like someone was poking me from the inside with their knuckles. Damn. Fortunately, removal was easier this time.

So, despite these difficulties, I’m looking forward to trying to use the CooterCap during an actual period. I’ve read repeatedly that it takes 2 or 3 cycles before you really get the hang of it, so I’m remaining optimistic. I really do like the idea of less waste, a one-time expenditure (though at this point, near the tail-end of my menstruating career, how much am I really saving, for either the environment or my wallet?) and the potential for a method without the drawbacks of either pads or tampons.

I’ll report back…And in the meantime, if you're interested in learning more, there's a nice little tutorial here.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Thin Dreams Die Hard

I’ve been consumed lately with the un-fun task of getting my grandmother’s estate underway and debating with my siblings the merits of keeping farmland vs. selling it off. Ugh. In the midst of all this, a friend sent me a link to a post over at Shapely Prose, and it really hit home. It’s all about the things we tell ourselves will be different when we’re thin. Have you done this? God knows I have. For years I’ve had this running list in my head:

Once I’m thin…

  • I’ll find a fantastic man.
  • I’ll be more outgoing.
  • I’ll travel more, and to more exciting places.
  • People will find me more interesting.
  • I’ll smell better.
  • I’ll be fitter.
  • I’ll be outdoorsy and will learn to love kayaking, hiking, snowshoeing, etc.
  • I’ll be happier.

Wow. WTF? I could go on and on with this list. It’s absurd. The post at Shapely Prose talks about self-acceptance, both of body size and of the strengths and limitations that make up a personality. It talks about understanding that the things we’re not good at, or are afraid to do, or don’t like to do, are not necessarily because of our weight. They’re because of who we are, for better and worse.

Me? I’m not especially outgoing, and that’s not going to change if I’m a size 10 instead of a size 20. People already seem to find me interesting. I have already traveled to some pretty cool and exciting places, thanks. I’m pretty sure that the outdoorsy thing just isn’t me—I’m darn fond of a comfy bed at the end of the day, and I don’t really like being hot, or cold, or not having access to indoor plumbing at will. Give me museums, cities and culture any day. Those things may be a little easier on the feet at a lower weight, but would it change what I like, what I choose to do and what I’m good at if I lost weight? Of course not.

And yet. It’s hard to give up the fantasy. It’s hard not to continue to believe in parts of it, like the one about the fantastic man. Do I know big women who have found wonderful men? Of course. And I also know that it’s my feelings about my fat, rather than my fat itself, that gets in my way. I know this. And yet.

What are some of your thin fantasies?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Best We Could

So. It’s been a couple of weeks, and eventful ones. The day after I wrote the post before this one, I got a call from a cousin telling me that my grandmother was not doing well. I drove down to central Illinois to see her, and I was shocked by how much she had faltered since my last visit, which was only three weeks before. The retirement home staff told me that a good friend of hers had passed away a few weeks earlier, and she had essentially decided that she was finished. She had stopped eating and stopped taking her medication.

So I called my brothers and my cousin, and eventually everyone got down there to be with her. She died on the following Monday the 19th. I miss her, but it’s hard to be sad for her, in a way. She was 99 years old and had been ready to move on for several years. She had told me many times in the last few years that she has outlived everyone—her siblings, her husband, her two daughters and most of her friends. As we sat together in the hospital that last weekend, she said “I’m 99 years old. I’ve had a good life and a good family. I don’t want to be 100.” She died as she lived—a tough, stubborn woman who knew what she wanted and made it happen.

I always had a kind of difficult relationship with her. I have one cousin; she’s four years older than I am and has always made more conventional life choices than have I. Even when we were kids and teenagers, she was learning to cook and sew, and I was reading and drawing. Her family lived in a small community nearby, mine had moved away from the Midwest when I was a baby and had always lived in the suburbs of big cities. With the benefit of grownup perspective I see that my cousin was just more familiar to my grandmother. They made sense to one another. But growing up I always felt unappreciated and unseen.

Once my mother died, I tried to get closer to my grandmother as a way to stay connected to that side of the family. I remember trying really hard to think of things she would want to do with me (cards? Scrabble? Looking through antique books? Drives in the country?). I once spent a bunch of time researching a particular kind of glassware that she collected so that we’d have something to talk about when I came to visit. None of it worked, really, and ultimately I just had to learn to be content with our imperfect connection. One day we were talking on the phone as I was nearing the end of graduate school, and she said to me “I don’t really understand what you do, but I’m sure proud of you.” That brings tears to my eyes even now. I still wish we had learned not to be such strangers to each other, but I think we both did the best we could.