"You have to try it," insisted my hippie sister. The topic wasn't dyed armpit hair or making jam; she was gushing about her affair with menstrual cups—reusable, soft, silicone vessels (free of plastics, BPA, and dyes) that collect rather than absorb your monthly flow. I was skeptical—holding a cup of my own endometrial lining (then reusing the container) felt a bit skeevy—but I was also curious. Seems I'm not alone: Though cups have been around for 80 years, they're getting mad love again. Last year, The DivaCup saw double-digit growth in sales, and a recent Kickstarter campaign for the collapsible Lily Cup raised more than 4,000 percent of its funding goal within 40 days.
Why the sudden fascination with something so. . .swing era? "Until a few years ago, talking about periods was so taboo, even feminine-hygiene ads rarely uttered the word," says Sheeva Talebian, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist and fertility specialist. But these are the days of owning your period, as evidenced by the woman who recently ran a marathon tampon-and pad-free, and the anti-Trump #periodsarenotaninsult Twitter trend.
It was time to go with the flow.
I squatted over the toilet and spread open my lady lips with my left hand while squeezing the bell-shaped cup (it's about the length of a tampon, minus the string, and the diameter of a small banana) into a U shape with my right. But when I tried to slide the device in, it kept popping back into its original form in my hands. After six tries, I just shoved it up there, then twisted the stem on the end so that the cup sat just inside my vagina. I couldn't feel a thing, and by week's end, I could finagle that puppy inside in under two minutes. It takes me about 10 seconds to insert a tampon, but since you need to change the cup only once every 10 to 12 hours (even with a heavy flow, so say the companies), it still felt like I was saving time.
Worried I'd ruin my undies, I decided to remove it after about six hours on the first day. I was at work and too embarrassed to wash it out in the sink, so I brought a paper cup of water into the stall. I pulled on the stem and heard a loud suction sound, like a wet kiss mixed with a toilet plunger. Who else was in the bathroom—and what did they think I was doing? I let go, and the cup disappeared back into my vag. Three minutes and one emphatic smacking noise later, success!
I expected the cup to be at capacity, but it was only about one-third full. Being up close and personal with my period in pure, liquid form was a bit off-putting, but at the same time, I felt weirdly proud, as if the pool of blood was proof of how well things were going down there. I tipped it into the bowl, then rinsed it a few times with H2O. Although it was much less like a scene from Carrie than I'd imagined, I scheduled future cleanups at home, where I could wash the device with soap (the recommended procedure) and have complete privacy.
It was blissful not having to worry about whether I had a tampon in my bag (I usually don't) or when I'd changed it last (I always forget). My cup (I went with the Lena) never did runneth over—a huge relief since I've bled through tampons a few times. (Research agrees: Cups leak less than tampons or pads.) And I definitely didn't miss feeling a soggy string when I peed. In fact, I was shocked by how fresh I felt.
Still, I'm a girl who doesn't even like washing dishes, so I'll probably save my cup for long flights and camping trips. But don't knock it till you try it. Worst-case scenario, you're out a few tenners. Best case: You're up hundreds—and able to wear your prettiest La Perla thong all month long.