I was pretty young at the time. How young? Well… old enough to go to the bathroom by myself, but young enough to be pretty ignorant about a lot of stuff… and young enough to have a selectively limited vocabulary. There was no pedestal sink to be seen in our bathroom, but as one sat on the toilet, the double doors to the under-sink cabinet were directly in front of one’s nose, within easy reach if one were inclined to go exploring. And I was so inclined.
In that cabinet, there were, as you might expect, such everyday items as a plunger, toilet paper, and various cleaning products. But the largest and most curious item there was the bright purple box with the elegant white script reading “Kotex” emblazoned on the front. The other text was mostly readable, but not very helpful. “40 Super” didn’t mean much. “Feminine Napkins” seemed to hold more promise – after all, I knew full well what napkins were. Pulling out one of the objects, though, only deepened the mystery. These looked nothing like the napkins with which I was familiar. No, these were much more complex objects, made of 2 or 3 different sorts of material of varying thickness and texture.
The fine print on the box did little to clarify the situation. One passage read, “…every girl should know about menstr–[hmm…big word, keep reading] before her 11th birthday…” That paragraph struck me as rather off-topic and I wondered whether it wasn’t an advertisement for some other product.
I was a bright and resourceful child, though, and the explanation soon came to me – these must be the napkins we used when company came over! For a time, that explanation satisfied me, though the day finally came when I decided to look up that big polysyllabic “m” word from the side of the box. Soon enough, with the aid of such reference materials as I could get my hands on, I was able to come up with a vague semblance of what these strange objects were really for.
Postscript— As long as we’re on the topic, I should mention that a friend of mine once told me of the time that she, her siblings, and her neighborhood friends all played “Doctor” together. No, I don’t mean in the sense that they disrobed in front of each other; I mean in the sense that they pretended they were running a big hospital. Some of the kids played the part of doctors, some were patients, some were nurses, etc. They found a table on wheels that they used as a gurney and proceeded to run each other up and down the block as if they were headed for the emergency room. In their search for something that would serve as a surgical mask, they hit upon Mom’s stash of feminine napkins and tied them around their faces to complete the effect. Well, when Mom got home, she was fit to be tied, as you may well imagine. The image of those children running up and down the block so costumed was a source of merriment in that family for many years thereafter. After enough years had passed, even their Mom finally agreed that it was pretty damn funny.