Recently, the manufacturer of the tampons I buy changed the packaging. For the record, these would be Kotex Security Tampons (note the clever use of "security" right there in the title - I mean, to me that suggests that they shoot mace from time to time, but the important thing is that we girls know we can count on Kotex), brought to us by the fine people at Kimberly-Clark. The package used to have kind of a purple theme going on - you know, the kind that says, "BOYS: DANGER. THIS PRODUCT IS FOR GIRLS. If you purchase it, you will immediately be emasculated by a team of top drugstore surgeons." Kind of unnecessary, because I promise you no male has ever accidentally purchased tampons, just on impulse or whatever, but I was used to it, anyway.
Now the packaging is white, accented with a single red tulip. The message is, "Ladies! This product is to staunch the flow of blood before it reaches your girlish white underthings, or, god forbid, pants." Apparently the manufacturers don't know that the last time any of us wore white during our periods was when we were 13, because frankly their products are not quite that reliable. ("Why is she getting married in red?" "Why do you think?") But, again, whatever. I kind of resented the packaging change, yes. I tried not to look directly at the box, yes. That tulip pissed me off at a time when I was, frankly, already really prone to being kind of bitchy, yes.
But eventually we all get over our resentments. So today, I read the box.
Let's just say the healing didn't begin, okay?
Why? I'm glad you asked.
Let's start with side one. It features the aforementioned tulip (note: not a rose, because they don't want me to start thinking Kotex Security Tampons are for red hot lovin' or anything), some text that indicates that somebody worked very hard - probably got a promotion for it, in fact - choosing fonts, and a thumbnail of the old box.
I'm not sure what that last part is supposed to accomplish. If I didn't know the name of something I'd been inserting into my body for the last few years - um. Actually, that would be just like high school was. My point is, I've grown past that, moved on from it. I know what I'm putting in my twat these days, Kimberly-Clark. I'm damn proud of that, by god! But if I didn't? I really don't think a thumbnail would help that kind of inattention problem.
Side two offers what we might term the "ad text" - in other words, it conveys no information anyone actually needs, and it is printed in a larger font than any information someone might someday need. It begins - and I will just set this off with a carriage return for maximum appreciation:
"Run, jump, play. And don't let a period stop you."
Thank you, Kimberly-Clark. Apparently you have confused me with my dog. My life? Does not so much involve the run-jump-play side of things, but then I also don't lick my own ass on a daily basis, so I'm good with the trade-off, really. My point is, if you asked me to describe my average day - or, hell, my ideal day - the words "Run, jump, play" would not appear. Jesus Christ. Why not just add "chase a spit-covered ball" to the end of that?
The ad text continues (and I'm going to spare you all the various trademark symbols, because I think they detract from the simple beauty of the words):
"Only Kotex Security Tampons are designed with Comfort-Flex blend. When you move, they bend with your body."
Um. Because as we all know, tubes of cotton are so very rigid under normal circumstances. Actually, you know, that could be a decent selling point: "Steel Tampons. For real women who want to ride a diamond-hard shaft all day long."
And the ad text concludes with those special words every special woman wants to hear during her special time of the month:
"So you stay comfortable and forget about leaks. Beautiful."
You're damn right. There's nothing more beautiful, I've always said, than a woman who isn't thinking about leaks. It's my main beauty secret. When I walk into the room, people are drawn to me. "Who is she?" they say. "Why is she so mysteriously compelling?"
And a wise woman answers, "She's not worried about leaks. That's why she's so confident and beautiful." And then she turns to the camera and says, "That's why I use Kotex Security Tampons."
But then the director yells "CUT" and we go back to the real world. Kimberly-Clark, let me just tell you - beauty comes from many sources. But never once in the whole history of man has anyone ever said, "That woman is gorgeous. I wonder what tampon brand she uses?" There is a very good reason for that.
So, by this point, I was - as you might well guess - compelled. This is my definition of can't-put-it-down reading, right here. I turned to side three, which contains the TSS warning. In three languages, Kotex warns me that tampons might kill me, under the heading "ATTENTION: Tampons are associated with Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). TSS is a rare but serious disease that may cause death." And there's some text afterwards, printed in itty-bitty type.
I think I can safely say I'm the only person who has ever read this text. I'm not so much thinking of the statement, "You may avoid the risk of getting tampon-associated TSS by not using tampons," which has to be one of the better pieces of advice anyone has ever given me. But, fine, whatever. I realize this was written by someone down in Legal, who probably sat up nights biting his nails and picturing a scenario in which a teenage girl sat on the witness stand, wept, and said, "I didn't know I didn't have to use tampons! And, yeah, the package talked about the disease, but it never said I wouldn't get it if I didn't use them!" Fine. Lawyers are sensitive people, and we have to cater to their needs whenever possible; I know that's a founding principle of our fine society.
No. The part of the text I really object to is the bit where it says, "IMPORTANT: PLASTIC APPLICATORS ARE NON-FLUSHABLE."
First, why was that the only sentence that called for all caps? I notice there wasn't the same urgency about warning me about my possible impending death from tampons. Also - and I think you'll all agree this is interesting - what the fuck does that have to do with TSS? I mean, I'm no English professor, but I have to say I think Kimberly-Clark's transition could use a little work here, maybe some additional discussion to tie it more closely into the theme. And the title - it needs to be reworked to be more inclusive. My suggestion: "ATTENTION: Tampons are associated with both Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) and Big Plumber Bills (BPB). TSS is a rare but serious disease that may cause death. BPB will just really piss you off."
And then we have side four, which contains what we might term the practical information. Assuming we have a very generous definition of practical, because one of the things this side has is an "absorbency chart" that asks us to measure our output - output of what is not precisely specified - in terms of grams. I tell you this, and tell you true: any woman who is measuring her period to this degree needs more help than a tampon can provide.
Plus, that woman? That dream customer who did industrious things with beakers and scales before she even considered investing $7.00 in a jumbo box of tampons? She would hate this chart, because it doesn't give a time range. There's no indication of how much time they expect you take to put out, for example, 9-12 grams to qualify for the "Super" range of product. An hour? Your whole period? A month? A year? It doesn't say. Thus, your dream customer - a woman who enjoys thinking of herself as a dog and is incredibly obsessed with her own bodily fluids - will not buy your product, Kimberly-Clark. That is a sad, sad indictment of your product packaging design team, folks.
And then we move on to the instructions, where we discover that the right woman for Kotex Security Tampons is, okay, possessed of her own digital metric bathroom scale (with a sensitivity in grams, naturally), yes, and capable of doing all possible volumetric measurements and calculations, yes, but she is, absolutely and completely, a total moron. Because the instructions feature some amazing. advice.
"Wash your hands first. Take off the tampon's plastic wrap and throw it away, but DON'T FLUSH IT!"
Yes, indeedy. Thank you for the all caps, there. I do hear that some women can only understand things if you shout at them. Of course, those women will have missed the rest of the instructions and will still be staring helplessly at the plastic wrapper, but at least, by god, when they toss that unused tampon and go back to - I don't know, rags, maybe - they'll toss it in the trash. The toilets of this world thank you, Kimberly-Clark. Another case of BPB avoided!
Another choice instruction (and these aren't numbered, just bulleted, so apparently you should feel free to do them in any order you like - if you want to take the tampon out before you put it in, that is fine with the manufacturers):
"To put in the tampon, find a comfortable position either sitting (with your knees apart) or standing with one foot elevated."
I'm not going to criticize the non-parallel construction there. No, I'm really not, though good Christ how I want to. Instead, I'm going to point out that a woman who needs to be told to sit with her knees apart in order to stick something into her vagina - located, as any qualified health professional will tell you, between her legs - is not ready to be using this product.
You know what? Let's just draw a veil over this whole sorry thing. Let's not go into the part where they tell you to "gently glide it toward your lower back," which is the worst description I've ever heard of an action that could best be described with, "insert it the fuck into your cunt, bitches." Let's not discuss the way one of the instructions says, "Gently [And, oh my god, what is with this adverb? Do they really think that we'll be stabbing ourselves with forks down there unless they warn us not to?] remove both tubes, making sure the string is outside your body," and then don't tell you how to make sure the string is outside your body. Good joke on anyone who really needs those instructions, but then, maybe this just indicates that no one in fact does. They're writing for their own amusement, maybe? That would explain why they threw in the last line, which is: "If you have trouble getting the tampon out, see your doctor or clinic for help."
Because, seriously, anyone who is nervous enough to read the instructions is going to stop dead at that last line. This is actually probably why it's in there; it's another clever legal ploy to keep undesirable consumers from using the product. "It could kill me," that person from Legal keeps hearing, "and I might need to go to the doctor after I use it. No, no. This tube of cotton is too dangerous for me!" And another lawsuit is - thank you, Jesus - averted.
So, really, I think we can all give a major round of applause to the team down at Kimberly-Clark, located in Neenah, WI. Maybe we should even call 'em (1-800-335-6839) and let them know they're doing a bitchin' job. Obviously, they could use some hearty thanks for a job well done.
And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go insert a tube into my vagina. (Don't worry, folks! I'll be very gentle. I probably won't feel a thing.)