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An Ode to the Diva Cup

More than once, as I’ve watched my Diva Cup roll around in a pot of sterilizing boiling water on my stove, I’ve thought to myself that I should probably do a shot of tequila with the thing at some point. It holds an ounce of liquid, and it looks like a little silicone shot-goblet, but it’s more that I just want to party with it, because I think it’s awesome.

I made the hasty decision to buy the damn thing already in a drug store in 2008 and, ever-cautious with my lady bits, I looked up instructional videos and Livejournals (if that says anything about menstrual cup demographics) about insertion techniques before I got down to business in my bathroom. True to Livejournal form, most of the stories were bad ones, about people crying in their bathrooms, cursing the injustice of shallow vaginal canals.

But it wasn’t so bad, and there ain’t no mountain high enough and ain’t no vaginal canal shallow enough to keep you from getting the hang of it. As per the instructions, if you start by folding the cup in on itself and finish by yelling “Chup chup chup chup chup chup chup chup, nannaaay!” and firing your gun into the air, the invisible swordsman will appear, and the Diva Cup will disappear.

The first time I wore my Diva Cup in public was to watch a gay pride parade — my little way of saying ‘Hey, whatever you stick in your wherever is cool with me, friends.” I spent as much time getting teary-eyed at the beautiful and inspiring display of openness and pride as I did clenching my legs together, worrying that I was about to spontaneously birth a mini shot-goblet of blood on to the sidewalk if I so much as exhaled.

After the parade, I stopped in at a café with a friend and bee-lined it to the ladies’ room to assess the damage. Nothing. No sign of life. Clear skies. You’ve got clearance, Clarence.

“There’s nothing there,” I whispered to my friend upon my return from the bathroom.

“What?” she whispered back and looked around like I was trying, unsuccessfully, to summon ghosts.

It was that precise moment that I became a member of the Unofficial Menstrual Cup Salesman Brigade and made it my life’s mission to convince other menstruating women everywhere that holy shit, you have got to try this out. 

My conversion crusade got off to a bit of a false start when I told my then-pregnant and not-at-all-menstruating older sister about the novel idea and told her that once her rivers inevitably swell again come spring, she should get on this, they even have bigger sizes for stretched-out birthy vaginas. Sold.

She didn’t bite immediately, and like a good salesman I held back, or forgot I’d even mentioned it, and once she had an eight-month-old at home, she brought it up again. “I just bought one today,” she told me in an email, “and I’m having nothing but bad luck so far. I bought the one for baby mamas, and I read the instructions multiple times and did exactly as instructed, but it always leaks. WTF?”

WTF, indeed. When I read the message I took a moment to pause and shed a single tear before I responded. “Oh how I love thee, Diva Cup,” I began, and then admitted that I don’t know much about post-birth junk elasticity.

In the year I’d been a Right Honorable Diva Cup Ambassador, I picked up on two crucial pieces of advice that I always imparted on my pupils. First: nothing is more important to the Diva Cup than the 360-degree turn. When I first read about the turn in the instructions I was all, “You want me to do a pirouette? In my bathroom? Well, if you say…” And upon a second read I thought, “Screw that, I got the fucker in position, I don’t need to get showy about it. Let sleeping dogs lie, mon frère.” Then I did a pirouette and got on with my day.

Nope, turns out that turn is like when the kid twists the bedknob in Bedknobs and Broomsticks and the whole thing lights up and angels sing and a portal to a new land is unlocked. If it doesn’t turn easily, you’ve screwed up. Abort mission and try again, pal. When you do it right, sometimes you actually hear a little suction noise, like the first hopeful gasp of a newborn Narnian centaur. That’s the portal latching onto the opportunities in the new world you’ve just unlocked. Wash your hands, sister, because today’s the first day of the rest of your life and you’ve probably got bits of uterine lining on them at this point.

The second crucial piece of information I picked up is that my vaginal canal swings to the right. Who knew. More importantly, who knew and didn’t tell me. For a while I was fighting nature and trying to keep everyone center-aligned but the typesetter of my loins was gunning for ragged right and I was in no position to argue. I don’t get it, but once I gave in to the ol’ starboard lean, the turn came more easily and suddenly it was like I was riding a bed with Angela Lansbury to Naboombu.

Around the same time, the same friend from the cafe succumbed to my sales pitch and came to me for troubleshooting. The turn wasn’t happening. It was like the cup was flattened, she said.

“It obviously has to work,” I told her. “You’ve had other cylindrical-shaped things in there before. Has a dude ever complained that you’ve flattened his penis? If not, there’s a way.”

Science, nature, and brute force cannot be wrong. And if a silicone shot glass in your vagina was meant to be wrong, it wouldn’t feel so right.

Heather Cleland is a writer from Toronto and has been menstruating like a champ since the early ’90s.

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