On my first day at the New York Times, I did something that I wouldn't wish on my most mortal enemy: I woke up at 6:30 a.m. Restless and nervous, I headed to the bathroom, pulled down my pants, and … it was a crime scene.
The day before, I had my first grown-up period. A few weeks prior, I had gone off the pill, which I had taken since I was 17. I got my period when I was 12, which is normal, but I was a freshman in high school, which wasn't. By that point, having your period was passé. All we talked about that year was fingering and being fingered, so while I thought there might have been something weird about my period, I didn't really have anyone to talk to about the five or so pads I was going through every day.
When I lost my virginity, I swung by my college's student health center to "talk about my options." Thirty minutes later, I had a pill pack and a pamphlet. I began them that day, and I quickly fell in love. My period became well behaved; its regularity comforted me, and, over the years, it got shorter and lighter. By year five, I was averaging a two-day cycle, regular tampons, no cramps. It was heaven.
In March, I stopped taking the pill. I had been on it for half my menstrual life, and I was curious to see what I was really like, without all the additional hormones. (The weird side effects of stopping were minimal — I had a week of straight headaches, then a week of unquenchable horniness. It was the closest I'd ever come to feeling like Drake.)
That morning, I got back from the bathroom. I texted my best friend from college, the only person I knew who would be awake at that hour. I told her about my period flood; she told me to look for ultra tampons.
I Googled "tampon absorbency" and got the following categories: light, regular, super, super plus, and ultra, which I didn't even know existed. Each came with a few fun-and-flirty facts: "Light-absorbency tampons absorb six grams of blood or less." Or: "Many women find that regular-absorbency tampons are good for most of the days of their period." I scrolled down to ultra, basically the equivalent of a feminine-hygiene product that was held back in school for three to four years.
"Ultra-absorbency tampons absorb from 15 to 18 grams of menstrual blood. Most women will never need to use ultra-absorbency tampons." Somehow, this comforted me: I didn't need ultra tampons. Apparently, no one did! I hadn't found the group for which I am considered the one percent, but there was no way it'd be menstrual freaks. I was just a normal girl having a heavy day.
I soldiered on. The first-day outfit I had all picked out — a gray-and-navy striped dress — became a terrible idea. I needed reinforcements, which is just a better word for pants. I left the house in a blazer, jeans, and a super-plus tampon (12 to 15 grams of blood).
On your first day at the Times, they take you to the Page One meeting, where an editor from every section of the paper gathers around one big table and they fight for a place on A1. The meeting began, and editors started to squabble. In Metro, there was an election. In Style, there was a trend. In my pants, there was a disaster.
I was able to hold it together through Page One; the red scare didn't occur until my benefits meeting. Suddenly, I knew, and I couldn't figure out how to escape without disrespecting my commuter benefits, which I can't tell you a single thing about. When that presentation ended, I excused myself to the bathroom, sneaking a peek at the chair.