Monthly Archives: December 2018

Body Impolitic’s 2018 Guide to Sane Holidays


Debbie says:

Photo by Rose Galitz,

Laurie is on vacation, so this is my version of our annual list. We’ve been putting up versions of this post since 2006. The suggestions here are (mostly) for folks who celebrate the upcoming holidays in some way, and are fortunate enough to have people and resources to celebrate with; if that’s not you, skip to the bottom. If that is you, then even if your family are your favorite people and you look forward all year to the holidays, you still may find useful hints here.

1 – You have a right to enjoy things in your own way. To the extent possible, do as much or as little holiday stuff as you want; it’s supposed to be a celebration, not an obligation.

2 – Make sure you spend time with people who know you’re awesome. If you have to be with toxic people, remind yourself three times (out loud) in your last alone moments before seeing them that they are toxic and you are doing this against your will. As soon as you can get away from them, do something really nice for yourself. (If they are abusive, and you are still stuck with them, here’s some excellent advice.)

3 – Eat what you enjoy. Corollary: don’t eat what you don’t enjoy. Desserts are not sinful, they’re just desserts. Making people feel bad about themselves is sinful. Relatives who push you to eat (or not to eat) may want to be in charge of your choices, but you don’t have to let them take over. If you  currently struggle with eating disorders, or have a history with them, this may help.

4 – Wear what you think you look terrific in; if you don’t think you ever look terrific (we disagree) wear something that makes you feel comfortable, with colors or textures you like. Accept compliments and ignore digs about your clothes.

5 – Plan your responses to inevitable comments beforehand. If you have family members who don’t share your politics, you do not have to put up with racist, Islamophobic, anti-science, or other hateful comments. Make a plan in advance: you can decide if you want to actively disagree with them (have your facts ready), if you want to cut off the conversation with “We disagree, and I’m not willing to discuss it here,” or if you want to just walk away. Or keep all three in your toolbox and use the one that feels best in the moment. Make a promise to yourself in advance that you’ll engage or not engage as you want. Whatever you do, don’t spend too much energy on those ideas.

6 – Not spending too much energy applies to the the personal digs too. For example, if you know that your brother is going to tell you, “for your own good,” how you’ve made a bad life decision, practice saying, “I appreciate your concern. Excuse me, I really want to catch up with Aunt Meg.”

6 – If you enjoy time with kids, they can be a great way to escape from the adult toxicity. If kids drive you crazy, keep your distance when you can, and try to keep your patience otherwise: they didn’t overstimulate themselves with sugar and toys.

7 – If you have enough to give to someone who has less, it often really helps when you’re feeling attacked. If you know someone who is having a crappy holiday, even — maybe especially — if you are too, consider taking a moment to do something for them (a quick text, a social media hello) that they will enjoy.

8 – If you hate the holidays, or they make you sad, you are not the least bit alone. Participate as little as possible. They’ll be over soon. If you’re wishing you had someone (someone particular or folks in general) to spend the holidays with, treat yourself with special care. If you’re a volunteering type, that can work, but so can staying at home and taking a bubble bath.

9 – Be effusive about every gift you get; then be discreetly rude about the awful ones later to your friends. If they’re really awful, throw them off a bridge in the middle of the night.

10 – If it suits you, stay away from news and social media; distract yourself with whatever light entertainment helps take your mind off things.

If these aren’t your holidays, have a great Chinese meal and enjoy the movie!

We’ll be back in the beginning of the New Year.

Photo at the top was “highly commended” by the Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards, a conservation project working with Born Free UK.  I imagine the polar bear looking at your family Christmas and scratching its head.

Follow me on Twitter @spicejardebbie

Menstrual Cups? Cloth Pads? Non-corporate, Non-disposable Solutions to Age-Old Problems?


Debbie says:

I found India Kushner’s article in the Tempest right after I finished reading Michael Lewis on the experience of Kathy Sullivan, one of the first female U.S. astronauts. Here’s Lewis, from his book The Fifth Risk:

It was an open question as to which was more mysterious to a male NASA engineer [in 1978]: outer space or the American female. … Of course, the male engineers were seriously worried about what might ensue if a woman had her period in space. … [Sullivan said] “The male world’s response was, Oh, that’s ok. We’ll just suppress their periods. We all looked at each other and said, ‘You and what other army, buddy?'” The engineers finally agreed to pack tampons in the supply kids. The first time Kathy opened her kit she saw that each tampon had been removed from its paper wrapper and sealed in a plastic fireproof case. Heat-sealed tampons. Each plastic case was connected to another. She pulled on the top one and out popped this great long chain of little red plastic cases, like a string of firecrackers. Hundreds of tampons, for one woman to survive for a few days in space.

Men’s misconceptions about menstruation are often that funny, though Lewis’s writing helps. Women’s misconceptions are more complex, and more disturbing.

So I was pleased to find Kushner dispelling not one, not two, but thirteen stereotypes and myths about cloth menstrual pads.  And she starts with lauding her own menstrual cup:

I learned my friend used a menstrual cup.

Never having seen one before, I imagined a paper cup tied around her waist so it dangled right below her vagina – a horrifying image. I couldn’t imagine it being very clean or practical. Flash forward to a few years later, and I couldn’t have been more wrong- I’m now a total convert.

So, now you have me using a menstrual cup. Natural next step?

That natural step was cloth pads. Here are two of the myths she tackles:

Myth #2: They’re awful for the environment.

I’m currently on birth control so my period is sometimes lighter than it would normally be. But, there are still days where it can be very heavy.

So if I’m using tampons, that means I’m using anywhere from 11-30 tampons every cycle (over 300 tampons every year).

I didn’t realize just how many tampons that was until I did the math. That adds up to between 5,000 and 14,000 tampons in your lifetime. So the switch to cloth pads? That was easier to make than I thought.


Myth #13: You will spend the whole day feeling like you’re sitting in a pool of blood.

Uh, not true.

Reusable pads absorb as well as regular disposable ones. I recently switched over to only using Performa pads, and had to get used to a concept called “free bleeding.”

(Quick PSA: It’s not the type of free bleeding where you’re bleeding through your clothes.)

But I’ll be honest: I was more aware of my period, which meant that I got more in sync with my flow.  Early on, I would flee to the bathroom because I was sure it had leaked through, but – surprise, surprise – it never did.

Thank god, right? Right.

I never noticed this before with throw-away pads, because there’s so much material down there that you never get that feeling. After I got used to the sensation, though, it was smooth sailing. Though sometimes I can feel that there is, in fact, blood in my pad, the pad itself doesn’t ever feel like it’s soaked or wet.


The other 11 are equally informative, and equally fun to read. I’m long past needing this advice myself, but if I wasn’t, Kushner would have convinced me by now.

What’s more important than the content of Kushner’s article, and Lewis’s excerpt, is their existence. Menstruation is simply and unconfusingly a human experience, which more than half the population either has dealt with, is dealing with, or can expect to deal with. Absolutely nothing is gained by refusing to discuss it — except the continued protection of fragile male sensibilities and the ongoing reminder that in too many places and contexts, women aren’t really considered fully human — in fact, to many men, we’re still stranger than outer space.

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