By Gretchen Wehmhoff

It’s been awhile since I’ve stood in the feminine products aisle. There I was, on a mission for my 14-year-old granddaughter. She used the words “ultra” and “thin.” Did she mean ultra light or ultra heavy? Was it thin liners or super thin liners? I stared at words I recognized from years ago before my dream finally came true (menopause). There were so many choices for comfort, for the environment. I settled on a mixed package of tampons and light liners. 

Ultimately, I got the wrong stuff and took Alivia (she insists I use her name now instead of the generic granddaughter) and her friend to get what she wanted. I snapped a picture of the boxes for future reference.

You think I’d have a clue, but I’m also bad at buying doughnuts. I can’t eat doughnuts, so I usually settle for the pretty ones or the ones covered in frosting. Same thing with pizza. If you send me for pizza – another food I don’t eat – you had better be specific or everyone is getting pepperoni. Not because I figure it might be a tasty choice, but because I like saying the word – pepperoni, peppaROWneeee, PEP-aroni. It’s a great word.

During childhood when Mom or Dad said, “someone go downstairs and pick a package of vegetables from the freezer,” my siblings learned they should get down there or they would be eating lima beans and Brussels sprouts. I always brought up lima beans or Brussels sprouts. Not because I liked them, but I knew my sister and brother didn’t. I’d bring a package up and feign undying love for the frozen treats until I no longer had to fetch them.

I come by my decision making strategies honestly – sort of. 

Dad spent a great deal of time making decisions when he shopped for us. Thirty or more years ago my sister, Karen, and her husband were suffering from the flu, so Dad bought one of every cold or flu medication on the shelf because he wasn’t sure what they wanted. He didn’t want to disappoint. He also bought every flavor of jello so they had something to eat, two flavors at a time were in the refrigerator – for variety, of course.

Karen said his philosophy was basically, if in doubt, buy one of everything.

Years before getting married, when home on college break, she needed tampons. We wrote shopping needs on the paper attached to the magnetic clip on the refrigerator. Karen added tampons to the list.

Dad came home from the store after what must have been a grueling time in the feminine products aisle. And of course, because he wasn’t sure what she wanted, he bought one of everything. 

Karen’s friend Harry was visiting. Once things were hauled into the house and up the stairs, Dad called for Karen’s attention. He proceeded to pull a series of tampon products out of a paper bag and toss each on the table as he espoused the product’s unique benefits, often comparing them to the others already set out. “These have plastic applicators, these are cardboard. These are for heavy days, these for lighter days and I thought you might like these ….”  

Karen said Mom was doubled over with laughter on the other side of the room.

I’m sure Karen’s friend, Harry, was amused. I’m not sure if Karen was at the time.

Karen said she didn’t have to buy tampons for years.  

I asked her if I could tell the story. She enjoys the humor in this tale and gave me her blessing. 

It surprised me, however, when I asked Alivia if I could mention the tampon shopping incident from earlier in the week. Her face lit up and, with a wide grin, she turned to her visiting friends.

“Nammers is going to write about my period.”

“Are you sure you want me to use your name,” I verified.

She nodded, then followed her friends out the door.

“And I’m going to be famous!” she exclaimed.