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Mnena: My Sanitary Towel in a Black Plastic Bag

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Nigerians are some of the least environmentally friendly people I know. Man, woman and child, we toss garbage out of our moving cars. We unwrap items and let the packaging fall where we stand. We then innocently wonder why our roads flood when it rains.

Where other countries are trying to cut back on plastic bag usage (Wales, for instance, introduced a minimum of 5p charge), we Nigerians seem to be just getting started.

At Shoprite, for instance, they pack every item individually, shaking another bag open before one is filled up. KFC puts your food into the classic brown takeaway bag and then places the paper bag into a takeaway carrier bag. But nowhere do I find this wastage more ridiculous than when my small pack of Always sanitary pad is given its separate, and more often than not, black plastic bag.

Most times, when an item is put in a separate bag, it is because it may contaminate other items. So your frozen food is kept isolated, in case it melts and soaks through something else. Also, your bleach, or air freshener, is put in another – in case the smell or liquid gets into other items. What is it about the sanitary towel that makes it deserving of its own standalone bag? Do we really have to hide it in an opaque bag?

This is the general attitude of society to our periods. Periods happen but no one is supposed to know about them. And in some societies when they do know about it, you’re meant to remain hidden away. In some homes in India, you’re not allowed to enter the kitchen, the house or attend temple. During the Ramadan, Muslim women on their periods are not allowed to fast.

We tend to hide our periods even from other women. I recall when I was about 7 or 8, I came across a yellow package in my much older cousin’s box. It was the size of a book and almost as thick as a dictionary. When I squeezed it between my palms it felt like foam. She said it was bread that only girls her age could eat. Her and my other cousin found that hilarious for some reason. When we ask for a spare pad from other women, we usually do it in an apologetic whisper like we’re getting our weekly fix of drugs from the dealer. When she brings out the pad/tampon, she palms it off to you like an eight ball of cocaine and you quickly shove it into your bag or pocket and walk away furtively. It really should be as normal as turning to your colleague and asking for white powder, the facial kind.

Your period shouldn’t be something to be ashamed of. It is a natural part of life and we shouldn’t have to lie and say we have a mildly upset tummy when we are actually dying from period cramps. There was a time I called in sick at work and on my return to work interview I plainly told my team leader, a man, that I had had period pains. Yes it was awkward and it got even more awkward when he moved on to the next question which was how likely is this to occur again?

We have been socialised to think that our periods are disgusting, shameful and not normal even though menstruation is as natural as boy’s voices deepening at puberty. The classic South Park joke “…I’m Sorry Wendy, but I don’t trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesn’t die” typifies the attitude. Have you asked a man to buy sanitary towels for you before? Their faces twist up like they are in pain not unlike the one you are currently going through.

I have a love-hate relationship with my period and oscillate between thinking of my period as something gross (the smell, the sight) and then something to glorify in. Seeing my period every month means that I’m more likely than not, still able to bring life into this world., a much needed assurance. It also means an even greater relief, the leg weakening kind, since I’m not quite ready to bring said life forth just yet. The days waiting can age you while you grapple with how to raise a child on the salary that can barely sustain your Uber trips.

It’s also a great wheat and chaff separator when it comes to guys. If he still asks you to come to his place despite you being on your period, keep your appointment with your manicurist because something special is about to happen.

As sickening as many people find periods, they are not so put off that they can’t make money off of us. Periods are serious business. The female hygiene market is said to be worth $15 billion and a recent study in the UK revealed that British women spend as much as £18,450 on their periods over their lifetime. This covers pads/tampons/panty-liners/menstrual cups, new underwear (due to spillage), pain relief, chocolate/sweets (yes they tell us sugar makes the pain worse but we beg to differ) and others.

Let’s stop being so ashamed of our periods. They’re normal and people have built fortunes off of it. So next time you go to a supermarket, proudly slam down your pad/tampon on the checkout counter and when the cashier whips out the little black bag to hide it away, tell her to stop, you have a planet to save. Then pick up your pads and dance away like the Always girls.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime  |  Olaf Speier 

Mnena hates quirky things and can't come up with a bio. In any case, here are the basics. Writer. Lover of Small Chops. Fan of Hadley Freeman. Visit her website: Mnena.com  and follow her on Twitter @mnena

35 Comments

  1. Nammy

    September 21, 2015 at 11:24 am

    I have always been open about my period, nothing to hide there but I see no reason why I should proudly display my pack of sanitary pads, when I go to the store to purchase it, I readily but it in a nylon bag.
    It’s just like going to the rest room for No.2, even though its a perfectly natural thing to do I won’t announce to my colleagues or house mate that I am going to the restroom for No.2 while waving a pack of tissue, il just up and go, when I get out and maybe I am asked why I took long, il tell them why.
    Nothing to be ashamed of, but also nothing to be proud of either. Its just a natural thing that we don’t brandish over our heads or tell to all we meet.

    • Darkling

      September 25, 2015 at 3:15 pm

      Lol then you’re still somewart ashamed cause I wave my tissue in the air and wave proudly. Nothing to hide AT ALL. Each to her own though. No disrespect.

  2. hannah

    September 21, 2015 at 11:29 am

    wao! i so love this write-up. u are damn so right. lol

  3. Scared Homosapien

    September 21, 2015 at 11:51 am

    Lol @Then pick up your pads and dance away like the Always girls. No, please!
    In as much as I’m very open about my period, as in, i tell you straight up why i can’t come to work that day (my male boss was horrified when i first told him this, so he doesn’t bother asking anymore when i tell him i cant make it to work), why I’m so moody, why i can’t have the soda you are offering, why i can’t be walking up and down the staircase at work, you will not find me brandishing that instrument. No, i won’t.
    Before i go, am i the only one that likes the smell of period blood? As in, i always take a sniff of my bad before throwing it away. This is actually weird and embarrassing! lol…

    • eeeehh

      September 21, 2015 at 12:12 pm

      Smell of menstrual blood ke? I think you might be the only one oh lol…

    • Scared Homosapien

      September 21, 2015 at 12:21 pm

      *pad

    • Wale

      September 21, 2015 at 12:26 pm

      @Ms Homosapien- WTF? TMI!
      @author, well written article, I think men should read and understand these things women go through.

    • Miss_Flygerian

      September 21, 2015 at 1:02 pm

      Ewwwwwwwww…….like ewwwwwwwwwwww!!!!

      Jesus Christ…WTF???

    • ATL's finest

      September 25, 2015 at 7:19 am

      Lmao!!!! YACKS!!!, I can’t STAND the smell let alone bring it up to my nose.. That waste product need to be wrapped up & tossed in the trash can

    • Ada Nnewi

      September 21, 2015 at 1:08 pm

      I like it too… 😀

    • Pretty O

      September 21, 2015 at 1:50 pm

      hahaha no lie, i am guilty as well… thought it was only me…

    • Disgusting

      September 21, 2015 at 2:17 pm

      Disgusting but I like it too. Haha!

    • Mbaks

      September 21, 2015 at 2:48 pm

      Oops

    • OMG

      September 21, 2015 at 2:56 pm

      OMG! are you a witch???? you must be sucking real blood.. you witchie whichie

  4. Zeeebby

    September 21, 2015 at 11:59 am

    FINALLY…. Just last week, a colleague asked me for spare sanitary towels (I always have 3 in my bag) I just put my hand in my bag and openly handed it over to her. Fast forward two days and I heard she told someone else I openly embarrassed her coz I gave her pad in front of a male colleague without covering it….. I was shocked; I DON’T SEE THE BIG DEAL….MENSTRUATION IS VEEEERRRRY NORMAL….
    I AM STILL WONDERING IF I AM WRONG SEF COZ I DNT GET IT

    • Tot

      September 21, 2015 at 12:55 pm

      I certainly would have felt embarrassed if someone handed me a sanitary pad in full glare of other colleagues. Haba, some things should be done discreetly nau.

      On the other hand, she would have saved herself that embarrassment had she made provision for herself, I don’t understand people borrowing san. pads. You know it would come each month so have backup at work. It’s not that hard.

    • Hephie Brown

      September 21, 2015 at 2:51 pm

      WOmen have been having periods for millenniums and we have it on an average of 52 times a year and (God knows i cant do the maths) times in our lifetimes.. more than some people have sex or read a book or more than an average nigerian eats balanced food…i like to believe that there was a reason that, Women were banned from lots of things during old testament days when on perods, but then wasnt all that over ruled? In as much as the sight of blood is disgusting to most, the concept of period shouldnt be. People should be able to talk about their periods freely! It comes from a place that is crucial to mankind! It is necessary for that place! So if we can talk about Sex, Penis, Vagina, If a guy can brandish condoms, why cant a woman brandish sanitary pads? Please what is the maor difference between tissue and pad in social standing? one is for poop and one is for blood…right?

      abeg abeg for all of you saying you will be embarrassed, i bet you are embarrassed you have sex? I bet you are boring little people who are so timid and rigid and not fun to be around?? are you? are you??

      I do not carry extra pads by the way, i hate to borrow but i do or walk into a mart and buy, or better still, use an alternative, Jesus, there are million convenient ones..

      @Tot i bet you are the type that will say she does not have pad even when she does..are you??are you??? smp(pad)

      Ignore the tome y’all im having a minor migraine is all

    • Rynyx

      September 21, 2015 at 5:44 pm

      Sweetie, its 12 times a year. 52 times will mean it happens every week and that is not the case now or is it???

    • Hephie brown

      September 22, 2015 at 1:10 pm

      Lool that’s what happens when you have poor exxageration skills! gracias amigos

    • Manny

      September 21, 2015 at 10:27 pm

      You don’t feel embarrassed about it but you can’t make the same assumption about other women. Next time, biko give your colleague discreetly and let her make the call on whether she would like others to know.

  5. Xplorenollywood.com

    September 21, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    Right you are @Nammy! In this 21st century people are afraid of their periods, chick if you don’t see your period, then you should be afraid. I have a little pouch where I put my sanitary towels when going to the toilet sef so if you really feel that awkward, put them there so you don’t need to put them in your pocket or wrap them strangely. Once colleagues see this pouch, they know I am on my period, but truly I could care less, I just won’t wave it anyone’s face. I have gone to supper markets where they put my sanitary towels along with toiletries, in fact shoprite’s carrier bag is transparent so what’s the big deal? Women please be true to yourself, there’s nothing a guy hasn’t seen or heard before so you won’t be the first. I recall I had a boyfriend when I had cramps, he used to massage my back and make me hot tea ain’t no shame in that Biko!

  6. Blondie

    September 21, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    Every topic focusing on ladies and their grooming. Don’t the guys have things to be educated on? Like learning how to shave their underarms & not exposing all those hairy and not properly groomed underarms in public.

    I don’t see why women should be ashamed to talk about their periods. In addition to this topic, I was expecting the writer to educate us on how to properly dispose sanitary towels after use. I’ve seen some ladies disposing theirs wrongly. Also after-period hygiene (maybe a next article).

  7. glow

    September 21, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    My ex would refuse to carry d grocery bag which contains my sanitary towels….very silly cos he is a doctor…can u imagine?

    • LMAO

      September 21, 2015 at 1:47 pm

      hahahahahahahahahahaha…. too many glorified boys parading as MEN

    • ATL's finest

      September 25, 2015 at 7:23 am

      @ Glow really??? WTH lol as a DR, that’s d #1 reason he should understand and carry it. Well thank Goodness I have never dated any one like that cuz I will dump ur Tail so fast.. He can’t carry a sanitary pad bag but he can bang mtchewwww rubbish..we are in 2015 abeg

  8. Gbemi

    September 21, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    This topic brought back memories of my excuses whenever I was late for office meetings, my major excuse was I started my menstral period and had serious pains , before I finish saying the word men…….. My male boss would have stopped me and told me to just have my sit gently

    • pat

      September 21, 2015 at 11:04 pm

      I don’t think that’s a professional excuse to give at a professional job.

    • Darkling

      September 25, 2015 at 3:18 pm

      Then what is? I have seen people with period pains so bad they have to be in hospital. “professional excuse” I am actually shocked by that statement honestly. If you are sick you are sick period.

  9. essy

    September 21, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    Hmmm. nice articles.you make some valid points but telling your boss about your period might backfire on you in the future.You might be passed over for promotion because you have indirectly stated that you cannot come to work on some days because you have your period.Because now you have made that a weakness as a women.
    Being discreet is wise.Just say I was sick.no need to provide further details

  10. Ms Fifi

    September 21, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    @Gbemi that’s so me, my perfect excuse to be away from work is “I have bad menstrual cramps” I’ve used that line so much that my male boss is worried about me and encouraging me to find a permanent solution to it. Guess what guys I’m perfectly normal during my period, no cramps, no mood swings, normal flow, no pimple, painful boobs, i eat anything and the best part is, it only lasts 2days.

    That being said, it’s not like I’m not open about my period but you just can’t know when it’s that time of the month except i tell you,

    • Pretty girl

      September 22, 2015 at 2:04 am

      Ms fifi I am envious of u. Urs is 2 days mine is 4 days and within that 4 days if I do mistake take any thing that has sugar in it na one week be that. And I have a normal flow

  11. Proud

    September 21, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    Thank God he is ur ex now! Anyone that can’t appreciate a female body in totality should not deserve to share one

    • Manny

      September 21, 2015 at 10:31 pm

      You can only say that if you also appreciate a male body in totality and if you can carry his Trojans for him openly.

    • pat

      September 21, 2015 at 11:09 pm

      What does Trojans have to do with the natural state of menstration or is Trojans now natural?

  12. Kbabe

    September 23, 2015 at 11:51 am

    Puleeeeeaasssssse. Ask a child who saw her period at 1o or 11 how proud she was at that time. I don’t buy your gist jare. Plus my period is private abeg, why broadcast it?

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