Puberty is an awkward time. Everyone is faced with awkward situations and new experiences that are almost guaranteed to make them feel embarrassed – and none more so than dealing with periods. Buying tampons or sanitary towels for the first time is liable to make most young women feel conspicuous and awkward. But if you are an adult who has been menstruating on a regular basis (and one would hope that it was, at least, fairly regular) for several years and still feel awkward about buying tampons, it’s probably about time to have a sit down and think about why.
Le Parcel is a new subscription service which offers monthly deliveries of sanitary products to make period prep “headache free”. Customers select the products they need, to be delivered, along with some chocolate (not enough, in my opinion, to sustain someone through the trauma of several days of heaving bleeding) and a gift, a few days before the beginning each period. There’s even a video on the website to introduce the subscription and explain “why every girl needs Le Parcel”: the main reasons being, apparently, that presents in the post will magically make periods stress-free, and you might forget to buy tampons, silly you!
Quite apart from feeling a bit patronised by the whole endeavour, there are several practical reasons why I wouldn’t choose to use the service if it were available in the UK. At $15 a month ($20 including shipping, according to Yahoo!), it’s expensive, and with delivery and all the extra packaging it’s pretty eco-unfriendly. The greatest reason, though, is that I just don’t need to. Most women I know, rather than buying a month’s worth of tampons at the start of each cycle, have a stash they keep in a drawer somewhere that they top up any time they’re running low. This leaves little danger of running out at an inopportune time. Like most people who need to eat at relatively frequent intervals to live, I go grocery shopping several times a month. Frankly, the time and effort taken to select thirty items to make up a bespoke period package is not likely to be any less than dropping by the ‘women’s health’ aisle (or whatever slightly euphemistic label they’re using now) in the supermarket. Sure, there might be times when we forget – but very rarely have I been so incapacitated that I’ve been unable to leave the house.
Despite being wasteful and expensive and all the marketing screaming “you are incompetent!”, I can concede that Le Parcel might be attractive to some people on the basis that it’s convenient. What’s jarring is the emphasis on discretion – the subscription service promises to save you the embarrassment of “awkward stares at the checkout stand”. The press surrounding it carries the same idea – it’s described as a “discreet” service providing “mystery gifts” for the bashful buyer. But why does it need to be mysterious? Why should we feel awkward about buying such an ordinary thing? By saying it’s an issue, companies such as Le Parcel perpetuate the idea that we should feel awkward or ashamed – that it’s immodest not to make an effort to be discreet about such mundane events. They do so, of course, to boost sales. As we well know, thinking of ways to make women feel insecure in order to sell them what they don’t need is the sole aim of marketing executives everywhere. Whether it’s using hideous euphemisms to avoid talking about women’s bodies in an overly scientific or reasonable manner or telling us that buying sanitary products is embarrassing, it all reinforces the idea that we should be ashamed of our bodies. And shame is something I’d rather not buy into.
So, as it turns out, the claim that “every girl needs Le Parcel” is an empty one. I certainly don’t need a delivery van in order not to feel awkward about myself.
I’ll buy my own tampons, thanks.