Turks and Tampons

My third Guest blogger is Alexandra from Death by Dolmuş. Alexandra is a Yankee lass who teaches in Istanbul. She writes about the quirky side of life in the ancient city and has a mild obsession with public transport. Alexandra also publishes an amazing photoblog. If you don’t like discussions about women’s itty bitty parts, don’t read the following (oh, go on).


There are strange things that occur in Turkey. I am pretty on top of most of it, but from time to time things do catch me off guard. I’m unfazed when a man brings a 12 foot (4 meter) ladder into an over-packed dolmuş (roughly 5 meters long itself.) I’m unfazed when my bank calls to ask permission of my employer when I wish to close my account (obviously a mere mortal like me can’t be trusted with such a serious decision.)

I was caught off guard when my colleague, a punk, riot-grrrl feminist with red hair (not Irish red, but like, the color red) and combat boots, moans to me, doubled over in pain, ‘Gahh, I wish I hadn’t left the window open last night.’ It had been a sweltering 80 degrees (25 C) and I couldn’t understand what that had to do with her abdominal pain. ‘The wind, the night air, you know, it gives me cramps.’ Efendim?

Now, I’m fairly certain that cramps are caused by your uterine walls contracting to expel the lining. But, you know, who can say for certain…

I was constantly appalled by the lack of knowledge these university educated women displayed about their own bodies and the science contained in them. I know Freud thought that hysteria (that vague, female-ish complaint) was caused by a ‘disturbance’ to the uterus, but I’m pretty sure somewhere in my 6th grade sex-ed class, I remember learning something different…

As I was moving out, I had an enormous amount of tampons that my roommate and I had hoarded like we were preparing for the apocalypse. God knows when we would be able to find tampons again, so every time we ventured out of the Islamic Republic of Turkey, we bought up the store like they were going out of style.

Not having space in my luggage for 47 boxes of Tampax Pearls, and with the confidence that I could pick some up any time nature called at my nearest pharmacy (that’s a chemist’s for you Brits), when back in the US, I decided to give them away. Because honestly, who doesn’t like free tampons? Apparently, Turkish women.

So that’s how I found myself, on my last day of work, sitting in a locked office with my colleague, demonstrating how to use a tampon. I unwrapped it, showed how the applicator worked, as she dissected the tampon I had handed her, checking that the string was in fact well secured at the center. I extolled the tampon’s virtues: you can go swimming! (Her face lit up, what do you mean? She asked in disbelief.) You can wear white pants with no fear! Thinking back to all those tampon commercials of my youth, you can go shopping with your fresh-faced friends and laugh to your heart’s desire while spinning around in circles to demonstrate your new-found freedom!

13 thoughts on “Turks and Tampons

  1. Wish I’d been there for the tampon giveaway. Especially because I know for sure those things don’t pop your cherry.

    Tampons are like a freaky microcosm offshoot of the sexual revolution. Off to play tennis in my white tennis undies without a fear in the world! Look at my crotch but don’t look, tee hee!


  2. Aah yes the night air thing, actually more worrying than the fear of tampons! Goes along with the absolute refusal to give cold drinks to over heated children because it will give them the grip and being told off for walking on cold floors because it gives you “womens problems” …..and that last one came from an English friend who had obviously been married to a Turk for far too long!


  3. Lower back pains are actually kidney aches, colds are caused by drinking refrigerated fluids, and lung cancer is caused by stray cat hairs wrapping themselves around bronchial tubes.


  4. …. and not forgetting the ladies “vest” as a peventative answer to all ills that should be worn all year round regardless of the weather.

    I remember many years ago when I was a fully paid up member of the menstruating and fertile ladies club treating the exercise of hunting the elusive little blue box down in every pharmacy in town to that of a treasure hunt. I remember finding one such chemist who stocked them and it appeared over time that I was the ONLY purchaser of such an item. My then Turkish partner had no qualms of purchasing them on my behalf from time to time when needed, which I thought very noble of him. He later explained to me that Turkish girls never went in for this form of protection as to do so would result in their loss of “virginity” hmmmmm. Now in later years I am still intrigued when supermarket shopping to see the “man” of the house when doing the weekly “shop” ponder over the feminine “pads” and purchase them along with the chicpeas, pilav and cooking oil without a bat of any eyelid! Cute!


  5. Alex – this is a great post – I so *hear* you on the night air thing – apparently that night air is quite powerful! We have this debate ALL the time. I wonder if you have initiated a tampon revolution? We’ll have to track it!


  6. My only real fear is that when I move to Izmir. I won’t be able to FIND tampons…. I often wondered if they were “legal”.

    It reminds me of the Sinefield Episode when Ellane was looking for the SPONGE contraceptive as they vanished from the shelves..


  7. Jack, I thought you might be amused by the fact that I found your blog via this post. I was on my first trip to Turkey (Gulluk) with my daughters when without going into detail we found ourselves in need of tampons…..problem! I googled ‘tampons in Turkey’ and there you were lol. But there also was this….www.tamponcrafts.com/turkey.html. Enjoy!


    1. Oh my God! A thousand and one things to do with Lil-Lets. Who knew they were so versatile? I feel a post coming on. As Christmas is coming up, I’ve got Liam working on a nativity scene. The Baby Jesus has never looked so absorbent 😀

      Despite your periodic crisis I hope you had a good time in Gulluk. And I hope you come back and read some more. 😉


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