Using a cup for the last year has given me such freedom, it's really been unexpected - what I thought would happen would be that I'd be using this reusable product to save the Earth, and either it'd be a hassle and I'd stick with it, or it'd be a hassle and I wouldn't stick with it.
I know there shouldn't be a stigma to menstruation (it's entirely natural after all, and half the world's population experiences it), but the reality is that I teach college physics, where my class of 24 students would have at least 20 men in it, and it would always happen that I realized I needed to change my pad or tampon during lab, my bag would be in the front of the room, and I would have to try and discreetly palm my pad or tampon (because women's dress pants can't even fit a tampon in the pocket, let alone a pad, and even if I were the sort of woman to carry a purse I wouldn't in lab), hope none of them saw it while I snuck off, and hope that none of them put out an eye while I was off doing my thing. When I was growing up, my parents had a policy that all "raw" garbage had to be put in the kitchen trash since that was emptied more frequently, and that included my used pads (because my mother never told me about tampons), and I would always get this sick feeling as I walked my used pad from the bathroom to the kitchen, hoping nothing dripped, hoping my dad didn't see. I think I had the same feeling when I had to sneak out of lab to go change my pad or tampon.
Now with a cup, all of that is gone. I can go the entire day without emptying it, and if I do have to empty it I don't need to bring something with me to the bathroom. Just knowing that it's now my choice whether other people know I'm menstruating, that it's entirely under my control, has been so liberating that now I don't mind even talking about it. The last time I visited my parents, it was at the tail end of my period, and I took my cup out to wash it, rested it on the edge of the sink while I brushed my teeth and let it drip, and entirely forgot about it. An hour or two later one of my parents came up and knocked on the closed bedroom door. Their voice was muffled by the door and I didn't notice who it was as they said they thought they found something of mine in the bathroom. I blurted out "Oh, that's my menstrual cup, was it in your way?" before I even thought about who it was, and then my mother came into the room with the cup. "Here it is," she said, "just don't let your father see it, it would bother him."
And looking back now on all those years of puberty, I think the two people most bothered by my menstruation were myself because of my mother drilled into me that menstruation was a Bad Thing, and my mother. I think my father's only worry was that he didn't want to embarrass me, and I think when I'm next visiting them I'm going to ask him about it. It's only been a year using a cup, and my attitude has changed so much, partially from the actual use of the cup, partially from the support I received here in the early months of my usage and the stories I read here, and I like to think partially from my own conscious effort to destigmatize menstruation. Women menstruate. Get over it.
Thanks for all your help here ladies. I can't wait until my OrangeCup gets here - orange is a particularly liberating color for me. I'm half Chinese, and throughout my childhood wearing orange made me look jaundiced as it does many Asians. As an adult now and bolder in what I wear, orange is actually flattering on me. So here's to self-confidence, growing up, cups, menstruation, and orange!
X-posted to my blog