In the sixth grade, my best friend Ilene and I -- both living with single dads -- would go to the grocery store together and try to ratchet up our courage to buy a box of tampons. Made desperate by our own treacherous bodies, we would nervously pace the store as if casing it for a robbery, eyes peeled for young and sympathetic female cashiers. We would then walk up and down the aisles, placing a few superfluous items in our basket to make it look as if the tampons -- snatched from the shelf in a bold, heart-pounding rush after we had assured ourselves the aisle was completely empty -- were an afterthought. Then, too horrified to giggle, we would pick our best bet cashier and stand in line, sweaty and anxious. The moment we had paid and the tampons had been slam-dunked into a paper grocery bag, Ilene and I would rush from the store.
I shudder to think how many other young girls have suffered this same nightmarish experience.
But those days -- already likely made scarce by Amazon.com -- officially ended yesterday with the release of Hello Flo's new advertisement "Camp Gyno," which inarguably stands as the best tampon ad in the history of the world. In the ad, a 12-year-old girl gets her first "red badge of courage" while at summer camp and becomes the haughty "Camp Gyno," sole distributor of tampons to her fellow campers. The power trip goes to Camp Gyno's head. When a fellow female camper lies on her bunk clutching her stomach and moaning, the out-of-control Camp Gyno whispers "This is life now" into the suffering little girl's ear. But Camp Gyno is toppled from her throne by Hello Flo's "care packages" that arrive for the campers every month and include tampons, AND panty liners, AND candy. (Ladies, let me hear you say, 'Hell yeah!')
"It's like Santa, for your vagina!" Camp Gyno snarls. But it's even better than Santa. A tampon subscription service is: Pure. Unadulterated. Genius.
Now we all know that historically, ads for tampons and panty liners have, shall we say, skirted the down and dirty realities of menstruation. I mean, how many of us have seen a tampon ad featuring a woman wearing white pants and decided to put that kind of ill-placed faith in a "feminine hygiene" product? Here's my guess: zero, thank goodness. And while the ubiquitous "blue liquid" ads at least weren't as insulting as the "Are You Sure I'll Still Be a Virgin?" Tampax ads that seemed to run in every issue of Seventeen magazine for my entire adolescence, they were so off-target as to cause confusion. Tina Fey may have summed it up best in her memoir Bossypants when she wrote,
I was ten. I had noticed something was weird earlier in the day, but I knew from commercials that one's menstrual period was a blue liquid that you poured like laundry detergent onto maxi pads to test their absorbency. This wasn't blue, so... I ignored it for a few hours.
It's 2013. Way past time we had some funny, delightful ads about tampons in general and the vagaries of impending womanhood in particular. So let's all give up a grrrl round of applause for Hello Flo, a company that doesn't just deliver the goods to our doorstep, but also breaks decades of some seriously stupid advertising precedents.