When I hear that some American girls and women lack self-esteem, I can’t help but wonder. How can a young American girl have low self-esteem or lack confidence in this country of abundance?
I never liked when my parents used phrases like “When I was your age, I walked to school five miles, under the snow.” I rarely tell my story because it starts very similarly, “When I was your age, I had no Tampax during my periods!” This is when I get the sympathy that my father was looking for but never received from me. It is easier to imagine walking on snow than a period without pads or Tampax.
“That can’t be true! Everybody has Tampax!”
“We did have pads, but we had to make them out of cotton ourselves.”
“Were you poor?” One girl finally began using her brains.
It didn’t matter how wealthy or poor we were - our drug stores were empty. It was a lucky day when you could get one or two rolls of pressed cotton or bandages to make those pads at home. Very seldom could we buy something specially designed for those challenging days.
The trick was not just to find sterile medical material but to find the right one, because not all cotton was equally absorbent, making the blood flow around the pad rather than going into it and staying there.
That was half of the problem; the real problem was to make those pads stay in place, especially during the warm season. American pads not only stick to the inner lining of the pants, but even have wings. Our self-made pads were bulky and long and didn’t want to stay between our legs. Dressed up as ladies, we had to move from one building to another, making an emergency stop at the first sense of a pad sliding down and adjusting it quickly under the dress.
When I listen to the whining of a seventeen-year-old that her Dad isn’t buying her a new Mustang, and because of that she has no confidence, I want to tell her about walking on high heels and being possessed by fear of losing a huge pad between the legs.
It is not just about pads but, at the same time, it is. Our beautiful, educated Russian women and young girls had to walk like ducks, trying to hold those hygiene items with their thighs. How much self-respect, confidence, or self-esteem is left after that? And still, we had confidence!
When I visit young mothers in American hospitals, I am amazed at how fast they start laughing after the horrific experience of pushing a huge baby’s head through their vaginas. Maybe the difference is in after-delivery care? In Russia, we were handed an old baby wrap, folded into a huge “pad” the size of a small pillow. We were expected to get around the hospital with those pillow-like pads between our thighs sticking out from underneath our extremely petite hospital robes, covered with hospital seals and old blood spots so that no one will try to steal them.
It was summer of 2007 in my new Shawnee home. I opened a package with female pads one morning and I noticed that every pad had a sticker, “Have a Happy Period!” You won’t believe it – I was walking even prouder that day. No, I was not walking. I was flying, jumping as a girl - I am having a happy period!
How is it that girls here lack self-esteem, I do not grasp.