How I Became (and Stayed) a Nothing-But-the-Pad Person

by Emily Graves, M.A., L.M.T.

I moved to New York in 1998 and when I saw the price of tampons, I flipped! I had been living inside of ‘Co-op Culture’ back in Minneapolis, where we were still able to work at a Co-op in exchange for a percentage off our purchases, and the state didn’t charge tax on ‘necessary items’, so tampons weren’t on my radar as a big deal.

People who use disposable tampons for their period will use over 10,000 over the course of their menstruating years.

I was riding mostly organic cotton for a good price, and, I’m gonna be honest—from time to time, my mom still bought me tampons, bolstering my stock. If things got desperate, there were even small stockpiles of tampons available for free in the bathrooms of certain female-friendly coffeeshops in town. And, you could ask any woman, stranger or friend, for a tampon when you were in need, just as you could freely bum a cigarette from any smoker you saw. Ah, Minneapolis…thank you for making my period so easy! 

So, until my move East, I didn’t know about the “pink tax” (which is a term for the routinely higher prices on products directed at, or used by women- in particular, those that are “unavoidable purchases”, like menstrual products) nor did I deal with menstrual product scarcity. It was not a part of my ‘monthly budget’ that needed to be considered. But, when I walked into my first New York bodega for period products and saw the price I would be charged to address needs created by a bodily function that was non-negotiable and intrinsic, my brain growled and then screamed “Unfair, unfair, unfair!” and the Riot Grrrl Doc Martens on my feet longed to kick a hole in the system. Not only were the tampons expensive, the only period products I could easily find were deodorized(??) -and packaged in plastic, which was then packaged in plastic. The whole thing felt… gross, inside and out. I railed against the unjust system to everyone I knew and committed myself 100% to finding another way.

People spend an average of $6,300 on disposable menstrual products over the course of their menstruating years.

“Not only were the tampons expensive, the only period products I could easily find were deodorized (??) -and packaged in plastic, which was then packaged in plastic. The whole thing felt… gross, inside and out. I railed against the unjust system to everyone I knew and committed myself 100% to finding another way.”

Now, I need you to stop for a minute and please remember that this was not during the days of the World Wide Web (yep, that’s what those three ‘w’s’ stand for!!!), where you could just pop online to research, look for something, or order anything. We were still using pay phones with actual coins (when they worked) and if you wanted a change in your menstrual life, you had to walk around and talk to people; look for feminist zines and use your damn imagination. You could write someone a letter, or at night, when none of your roommates was on the telephone, you could wait for dial-up to hook you into ‘internet’ so you could e-mail questions to the few friends you knew who also had e-mail addresses. So, the solution wasn’t instant, dear readers, and some of the solutions suggested just weren’t right for me.

A classic zine about menstruation. Photo credit Microcosm Publishing.

Generally, I’m the move-around type (Muay Thai boxer, yogi, runner, Thai massage therapist) a fiery wind that would never sit still for my period (though I’m totally into you sitting still for yours if you love to/want to/have to!), so I was never going to be a good candidate for rags-around-undies or some of the other suggestions I was given, as long-term solutions. It was when I visited Olympia, WA in 2000, that I finally discovered the menstrual cup in a Co-op and breathed deep sighs of victorious relief, storing my little box of organic cotton tampons in my bathroom for visiting guests forevermore. I never intended to have reason to change course again, once I had finally solved my problem.

The author, Emily Graves, practicing Muay Thai boxing. Photo credit Emily Graves.

But, in 2007, I met Luci Daum, the creator of Party in My Pants reusable cloth menstrual pads. I was managing a small store at a yoga and healing center where her products were sold. After we finished going over her inventory, as she did with everyone at that time, she pressed a couple of free washable cloth pads on me. I explained I didn’t need them, I really was totally fine, already off disposable menstrual products, etc., and blah blah blah, but…let’s just say I wasn’t going to get out of there without some free samples!

A store display of Party in My Pants pads. Photo credit Aria Durward.

I discovered pretty quickly that they did come in handy for the “Am I getting my period or am I not?” days and the “Is my period over, or is it not?” days, when it had always sucked to try to get a menstrual cup up in my bod, but it was easy to snap a Party Pad on. They were also good for catching the occasional blood that worked its way around the cup when I had a particularly high-kicking day while training Muay Thai, or was super flexible during my yoga practice. But, I had no real reason to switch-switch. I didn’t have any energetic feeling that blood should flow down and out of me while I had my period, or objections to having a rubber cup in my vaginal vault. I had no discomfort that would have pushed me to change. 

But then I moved out of state, and with all my boxes packed, got half-way to our new place and got my dang period! I couldn’t find my cup and couldn’t hang out and bleed free while I stood on the side of the road and unpacked a U-haul full of boxes, looking through each box individually for a small menstrual cup, so Party Pads stepped in for all-around use that month. Then, we ended up renting a storage unit for our stuff, staying with a friend for months, and it took longer to unpack than I thought. A lot longer. Within a few months, I realized I just hadn’t used the cup at all and it hadn’t mattered. I meant to look for it- and I did find it eventually. I had it at the ready, but the next month it was just… easier to use the cloth pads.

“Within a few months, I realized I just hadn’t used the cup at all and it hadn’t mattered. I meant to look for it- and I did find it eventually. I had it at the ready, but the next month it was just… easier to use the cloth pads.”

Every month I sort of started with the pads, made plans to grab my cup for the ‘real deal’, but, never quite got around to using it before my period was over again. I had never really loved the public restroom booth cup-removal, re-insert, then make your way to the sink with menstrual blood on your hand thing, so it was nice not to have that in my life anymore.

From left: Overnight Pad, Large Pad, Luxe Liner, and Bitsy Pad. Photo credit Elizabeth Downey.

I straight up preferred the Parties for overnight. And, with a big-ass Overnight Pad and a pair of full coverage undies, I didn’t have to worry about blood spurting around the cup when I taught Muay Thai boxing and I could change out the pad immediately after class and get fresh for the day. 

Over the years, Party in My Pants pads have continued to show up and serve me, shape-shifting in usefulness, as if anticipating needs I didn’t even know I would have and then meeting those needs with utter cuteness and comfort, assuring me once again, that all is well in the world.

When I wanted to deliver ice-cold herbal remedies to soothe my postnatal perineum, I turned 6 Medium Pads into herbal “padsicles” that hung out in my freezer and stepped in to soothe my hard-working pelvic floor for several weeks after birthing my daughter. 

An assortment of Medium Pads. Photo credit Elizabeth Downey.

“Over the years, Party Pads have continued to show up and serve me, shape-shifting in usefulness, as if anticipating needs I didn’t even know I would have and then meeting those needs with utter cuteness and comfort, assuring me once again, that all is well in the world.”

When I experienced prolapse within the vaginal vault and used a sea sponge daily as an intravaginal pessary for a number of years, Party in My Pants reusable cloth liners acted as a catch-all for the occasional urinary or sponge ‘incontinence’ that occurred as a result. 

Natural sea sponges can be used for menstruation or as a pessary. Photo credit Tatiana Fontalvo.

After surgery, years later, the Super Pads worked as hot pads, cold pads, and an herbal medical delivery system during the healing process. Over the years, when using intravaginal herbal treatments for various pelvic issues, cloth liners were there to catch any oils, powders, or herbs that wanted to escape during the day. 

And, as a lifetime condom user before my uterus was moved out of my body for good, I didn’t realize just how handy Small Pads would be for keeping semen off my undies the ‘day after’, allowing me to change the pad out a couple times that next day to stay fresh(er) which—let’s face it—is a lot less gross than having to deal with the ‘seep’ all day long. 

Mini Liners on a clothesline. Photo credit Madelaine Kemp.

And, for years, Party in My Pants reusable pantyliners have accompanied me on trips, where the weight of a backpack really matters and the advantage of bringing a pair of undies and just two Party pads you can wash out on alternate nights makes all the difference in the world.

Every time I think I’ve turned a corner and can finally pass on the pads I’ve had for the last 16 years (yep- they REALLY do last that long!!), life steps in with a new use for Party Pads. Even my 7-year old daughter has grown up playing with Luci’s pouches and Parties since she could reach for them, and extra pads have served as long-standing “adorable diapers” for dolls or decorative “cloth chains” for her play area. At this point, I consider them family heirlooms that I’ll be passing along to her permanently—eventually. 

“Every time I think I’ve turned a corner and can finally pass on the pads I’ve had for the last 16 years (yep- they REALLY do last that long!!), life steps in with a new use for Party Pads.”

Party in My Pants pads hit the deep yearning in each of us to see something functional, beautiful, cute, funny and meaningful—and then take that thing and hold it near to us, giving us permission to say, “Well, at least I have this…” As in, “I had cramps all night and I have to go to work, but at least there’s a bad-ass orange tiger in my pants!” or “I might end up losing my uterus, because I have to use a sponge to keep it in, but at least there’s a garden of delicate flowers between my legs!” On those days, Party Pads are pure redemption. 

An assortment of Super Pads, including a bad-ass orange tiger. Photo credit Elizabeth Downey.

And, on your normal having-a-period day, it’s like picking out a little set of cool friends to hang with; “Yay! Stained-glass mirror pattern in shiny-track-suit-from-the-80s-colors pad! I love you! See you at my bathroom lunch break…” 

Yeah, for some of us it’s like that….Party in my Pants just keeps being there, being useful, looking good. 

So yes, “You win, Luci. You win.”

Check back in with us next month for the first exciting installment of “Dark Side of the Moon: 1001 Uses for Cloth Reusable Menstrual Pads.” (Spoiler alert—we won’t  actually cover 1001 different ways. But we will be offering valuable information on how to take care of your pelvic health and become a better partner to your own body).

About the author:

Hi! I’m Emily Graves, M.A., L.M.T. I live in the high desert mountains of Northern New Mexico and return every year to spend time in my homeland: the lakes, green trees, and Twin Cities of Minnesota. I’ll be showing up here on the Party in My Pants blog from time to time to share with you some of the experiences, wisdom and information I’ve gathered over my 20 years in the business of health and healing, with a focus on Women’s Medicine and Body-Centered Empowerment. In addition to being a health & healing professional, I am a teacher, writer, musician and all-around movement arts practitioner with a special passion for Muay Thai boxing. You can find out more about me, my online classes in Conscious Core for Women and my 1:1 sessions here at Radiant Body Arts & Healing, where we are fiercely devoted to providing the creative, outside-the-box support you need to enact the positive changes you want.

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