The One Tip About Womanhood I Had To Teach My Daughter
I finally realized the truth.
The rain looked peaceful as it fell outside my window. Inside my house, though, tensions soared. My 13-year-old daughter, facing a short walk to the bus stop, was agitated over the weather's frizzing effects on her hair. She had labored half an hour to straighten it that morning. When I suggested she put up her hood to protect her hair, my teen exploded. “Ugh!” she cried. “That’ll make my hair so much worse! Static electricity! Nooooo!”
The intensity of her reply startled me. That’s when I realized the truth. Gone were the days when my little girl didn’t care about her hair. My daughter was becoming a woman. And with that awesome honor came assorted everyday nuisances, such as how to preserve a hairstyle against the elements. Thankfully, I had another tip to save her style. I sent her out the door with a dryer sheet and told her to lightly rub it over her locks once she got to school. After she left I mulled over our exchange, thinking about what other handy tips I should share about womanhood now that she was a teenager. Not the advice she could get from her fellow 13-year-olds or some influencer on the internet, but the hard-won survival tips about being a woman that I could pass on.
Had I taught her about wearing a nude-colored bra under a white shirt? Or that she should always unplug her straight iron as well as turn it off, just in case? That it’s OK to buy the pricier makeup sometimes if it’s a perfect match to her complexion? Suddenly, one tip roared into my consciousness. It was a tip that I could not recall sharing before and needed to prioritize. When my daughter entered the house after school, I cornered her in the mudroom. “Don’t flush tampons,” I proclaimed as she hung up her backpack and started taking off her coat. (Her hair looked smooth, by the way.) “I mean, yes, you can flush them, and the box they come in will always proclaim it is safe to do so. But don’t.”
Then I told her about the time when I was 15, only a couple years older than she was. My older sister, 17, and younger sister, 13, stood in a line with me inside the bathroom we shared. Our ages were the only thing that differentiated us — the three of us rocking feathered bangs, electric blue eyeliner, and Esprit outfits. We donned huarache sandals that protected our feet from the cool tile floor but left us defenseless against the foe we faced in our bathroom. It was our dad, replete with a plunger and a sharp tongue.
The tampons that my sisters and I had flushed, whether recently or over the years, had clogged the toilet. My father was plunging the bowl with gusto while lecturing us never to flush tampons again. We tried to defend ourselves. We argued that the instructions on the tampon box said we could flush them. Our mom taught us to flush them, too. (Where was she, anyway?) All the while his plunging efforts proved futile. It was with defeat and strong curse words that he called a plumber.
One costly service call later the clog was liberated. “I never flushed tampons again,” I told my daughter. Flushing tampons doesn’t just lead to clogs in your own house, either, I continued, chock full of empirical evidence to share. Tampons can cause blockages further down the line, like at the neighbor’s house, as they try to make their way to a wastewater treatment plant. If they make it there, tampons go through the same chemical or physical filter systems as other nondegradable items to get broken down, which takes time and costs big bucks. Worse yet, some tampons and other feminine hygiene products like liners and pads can escape the filtration systems. When this happens, they end up intact in streams and rivers or even on beaches. Yuck. Septic systems suffer, too, just like sewer systems. Since tampons are nondegradable, they absorb liquid, swell and fill up a septic tank faster.
“So,” I finished with authority, “just wrap them in toilet paper and place them in the trash.” There. I taught my daughter the one tip about womanhood she needed to know. “I knew that, Mom,” she replied, shaking her head side to side, her sleek hair swaying gently. “But that dryer-sheet tip for my hair? That was awesome.”