Bugga. I’ve just finished putting together an Ikea bookshelf and sitting in front of me is an assembled shelf and the inevitable hand full of leftover screws. And a fairly significant looking bracket. It is only now that I pick up the instructions and attempt to pinpoint my mistake. There’s only one thing worse than assembling an Ikea product and that’s taking an Ikea product apart. Telling a friend about it later in the day, her teenage son, drifting through the kitchen in search of food contributes the following to the conversation—‘Instruction manuals are for the weak’. This kid is a kindred spirit. He is a fellow ‘rebel without a clue’.
This philosophy came back to bite me in the form of an innocent piece of silicon called a menstrual cup. *I suggest you stop reading now if you find such subjects uncomfortable as this post will get messy* For those that don’t know, these cups are a medical grade silicon device shaped like a small egg cup with a thin ‘toggle’ at the base of the cup about 2.5 cm long. They go by floaty names like ‘Mooncup’, ‘Diva Cup’ and my personal favourite, the ‘JuJu Cup’. Various friends had been waxing lyrical about these devices for years. They are environmentally friendly, eliminating the use of expensive pads and tampons. I’d read in an online product review you barely know you are menstruating and can even have sex while they were in. The cup suctioned gently on to your cervix and when it was full, you flicked the edge of the cup to break the seal with the cervix, emptied, rinsed and you were good to go again. What could possibly go wrong? Turns out quite a lot.
Firstly, there was the timing. I was in the rosy throes of a new romance. The world was fresh and new and healed. We finished each other’s sentences, we delighted in mutually loved, books and films. We shared many of the same loves in music. OK, so maybe I was lying just a teensy bit when I said I liked his Christian Rock (I see now this was a sign), but what did it matter when so many other boxes were ticked? We had shared our not inconsiderable baggage, and rather than take a step back, we adored each other more. I’d given up on finding ‘the one’, but perhaps I’d been too hasty?
When the beau suggested a weekend away in a romantic cottage on the river, I bought new underwear, a lacy black nightie and chocolate truffles that cost more per gram than gold. He bought French chardonnay and all my favourite cheeses. It would be the perfect romantic getaway. Except, for a very inconvenient period due to start on the day we left. Aha! I think. Now is the time to try the menstrual cup. In my former life as a (very) amateur triathlete, one of the old timers said ‘don’t try anything new on race day’. I see now that this is good advice for life. But I was not thinking about triathlons, I was thinking about love and not yet knowing the beau’s sexual proclivities around menstruation, on the morning of our departure, I dashed into the health food shop to collect my prettily packaged ‘JuJu’ cup which would dispense with all menstrual mess and would ensure we could continue our romance in front of an open fire with wine and chocolate truffles.
Getting the cup in was a breeze. No need to read the instructions, it was, pretty self-explanatory. I knew where my cervix was. It was comfortable, in fact, you hardly knew it was there. Before bed on our first night in our lover’s paradise, I thought I’d take the cup out. I pulled firmly on the toggle, but nothing much seemed to happen. Oh well, no big deal. I’ll deal with it tomorrow. The following morning when the beau nipped into town for supplies, I took the opportunity to really get serious about getting this thing out. I contorted and huffed and puffed in the shower but the JuJu seemed unwilling to budge. I decided an implement was in order. I looked through the kitchen drawers and decided a chopstick should do the trick. Note to self: the beau is a very speedy shopper. He enters the kitchen to find the possible love of his life, flat on her back, breathing heavily, her legs splayed up the wall with a chopstick poking out of her fanny. He took in the scene for a few seconds and then began to put groceries away as I ummed and aahed and attempted to explain what was going on, all the while threatening to break out in a fit of giggles.
‘Do you want me to help?’ he asked seriously
That the beau didn’t find this situation even the tiniest bit amusing was yet another sign I missed. Oh, for the gift of 20/20 hindsight. But it was a kind offer and after 10 awkward minutes, with the beau now breathless and red-faced, we admitted defeat.
'Have you read the instructions?’ he asked
A quick Google revealed that the toggle on the end of the cup was for placing, and under no circumstances should it be pulled. OK. Well, that ship sailed some time ago. It also advised; do not have sexual intercourse whilst the JuJu is inserted. The toggle could be injurious to a penis and cause damage to the urethra. In the dark days that would come down the track when the beau’s true colours emerged, I am ashamed to say; I saw this as an opportunity missed.
By the time we returned to Adelaide, on Monday, JuJu and I had been connected at the cervix for almost four days. Still, I refused to admit defeat and several more attempts using kitchen utensils (sanitised of course!) would follow.
‘For gods sakes Mother, go to the Doctor!’ said my exasperated daughter, who only calls me ‘Mother’ when she is exasperated.
Reluctantly, I call the Clinic. Please don’t let Prudence answer, please don’t let Prudence answer. ‘I hope you get Prudence!’ yells my daughter, laughing her most wicked laugh.
‘Doctor’s Clinic, Prudence speaking’
Brilliant. Most medical clinics have a ‘Prudence’ keeping the general riff-raff away from their Doctors. They’re like an uptight ‘door bitch’ and if they had their way, patients would be eliminated from the picture entirely. ‘Is it an emergency?’ she asks in her superior, judgemental, private-school voice.
I try to explain my predicament and as usual, she instantly puts me on the back foot. I speak too fast and say too much. I unfortunately mention kitchen tongs and chopsticks.
‘SO, YOUR’E TELLING ME YOU HAVE A FOREIGN OBJECT STUCK IN YOUR VAGINA?’ she asks loudly.
Very loudly. I visualise the scene in the always crowded waiting room, cringe and eventually manage to wangle an appointment. My Doctor is already giggling as she ushers me in. She knows about the romantic weekend and is dying to find out what on earth has happened. I explain then shake my head as my Doctor produces a large pair of forceps. This being unsuccessful, she produces a bigger pair of forceps. Still, this small piece of silicon is stuck fast. This is some powerful JuJu.
‘We’re gonna need a bigger boat’ I tell her, and eventually, with the assistance of some Monty Pythonesque sized forceps borrowed from an intrigued colleague, the JuJu seal breaks with a very loud pop and splatters blood up the white walls of the surgery. Our laughter is so raucous, it brings two other doctors to the office to see what is going on, where they find two women helpless with laughter and a wall that looks like a scene out of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. As I leave, my Doctor looks at the wall and says, ‘I know just the person to clean that up!’ I didn’t think I could laugh anymore, but as I leave the clinic, the image of Prudence entering my Doctor's office in rubber gloves, and a bucket will have me chuckling for days.
I hope my experience doesn’t put you off using a menstrual cup. They’re great, and you only dump the entire contents of the cup all over the floor of a public toilet a few times before you get the hang of keeping the little bugger upright when you take it out. And a sensible person who had read the instructions would not have had any of these experiences. This whole bad ‘JuJu’ could have been avoided had I read the small white pamphlet inside the pretty pink satin drawstring bag.
So, am I a reformed ‘rebel without a clue’? Probably not, like my friend’s son, I have the combination of being a born optimist and inherently impatient. ‘How hard can it possibly be?’ will probably always be the first question I ask before even thinking about reaching for those instructions. Instructions, after all, are for the weak.
Kristen Lawler March 2019