We’ve all been there. We all know. And we all pretend that, as adults, we are no longer embarrassed. To which I say, ha! If we weren’t still embarrassed, drugstore.com wouldn’t be doing so well.
Just as there are passages in our lives, just as there are stages to the grieving process, there are stages to our personal product embarrassment, too. And I am well qualified to document it all because I am:
- too old to have done any online shopping before the age of 30, and
- too cheap to do much online shopping now. Those shipping charges just kill me. No, really. Part of my soul dies.
So here we go — Personal Care Items: The Stages of Humiliation
The most embarrassing items? Tampons and pads, of course. Oh, the horror! My own mother — seeking to empower me, I can only presume – stopped buying them for me early on. I still remember the long, hard struggle to get those suckers out of the store. My best friend acted as lookout, scuttling ahead of me each step of the way, peeking around and over the aisles to make sure there were no “boys” in view. If any appeared, that telltale pink or blue box went back on the shelf – even if that shelf contained cat food or cleaning products – while we skulked away. (In a nonchalant fashion, of course).
We always had to find the oldest female cashier in the store. One time, we got to the front only to realize that the sole cashier was a very tall, very cute, very well-built young guy. We left the store empty-handed.
While I laugh now at the memory, I have to admit that my discomfort about these purchases does occasionally resurface. Generally, it happens when I make a special trip for these items and these items alone…. especially if buying multiple varieties. Everybody knows what’s happening. Everybody knows it’s happening now. I’m always tempted to tell the (male) cashier, “Yeah, hurry up, buddy; we don’t have much time,” and then wink. I haven’t tried it yet.
Late adolescence/early adulthood
Once you finally start getting used to buying tampons in public, it’s time for birth control. No matter which variety you choose – whether it means a trip the pharmacist or a trip to the shelves – you just wait for all the alarms to go off. If you’re lucky, you are still young enough so that you expect somebody to ask you for ID. Back in the dark ages of my youth, I also expected them to ask if I was married….. or what my mother would think…..or if I’d ever noticed that the slut archetype in the movies always gets killed off first.
Things might have changed. But I’m guessing not by much.
Early adulthood through middle age
Ah, these are the glory years. It’s not that these years are humiliation-free, but it’s always temporary. Diarrhea medicine. Hemorrhoid cream. Athlete’s foot spray. Wart remover. These are once-in-a-while purchases, easily forgotten, not often repeated. If somebody looks at you while buying them, which they won’t, you can even shrug your shoulders and laugh a little laugh. They might even laugh in mutual recognition: yeah, yeah, shit happens. We’ve all been there. Feel better tomorrow!
Middle age and onward
OK, I have to admit that I have not yet bought any new embarrassing items in my 40-plus years. But I know it’s coming. I see the products on the shelves. Cute little incontinence pads in cute little boxes, to be eventually replaced by the not-so-cute Depends. Stool softeners. Personal lubricants – especially the kinds that “tingle.” Yeah, we know: sensation and lubrication diminish with age. We get it. Does everybody in the store have to know, too???
The irony is, once we no longer need the tampons and the birth control, we’re embarrassed about what? No longer needing tampons and birth control, of course! Joan Rivers actually did a bit in her standup act about carrying tampons in her purse, after menopause, so that she could “accidentally” drop them, causing people think she was younger. Talk about coming full circle!
I’m not ready for that little trick yet. But I might go ahead and re-consider drugstore.com. I have a little time. Maybe I should save up for shipping charges.
Do they give a senior citizens’ discount?