It's bigger on the inside.
I have never been one of those women who has a hard time with tampons.
When I first started getting my period I used pads, because those were what they handed out in school.
But a family trip to the beach was all the incentive I needed. So I mustered up the courage, lay down on a towel on the living room floor and gave it a try while my mom barked instructions at me. I've never looked back.
Tampons, all the way baby.
That doesn't mean my entire experience with tampons has been all daisies and chocolate peanut butter cups.
There have been mishaps.
The worst thing that ever happened to me while using a tampon happened in college. Yes, I'm one of those people who has forgotten a tampon in my vagina. And then the tampon was stuck.
On a day like any other, one where I did not happen to have my period, I noticed a strange smell coming from my person.
I'm not a shower fiend, but I'm not a total monster, so I figured, best to take a shower.
I thought that handled whatever was going on, but then, the next morning I smelled the aroma again.
It was definitely coming from my vagina.
A cursory examination revealed nothing, so I casually polled my friends.
"Has like, your vagina ever smelled like a rotten pork chop before?"
The answer was a resounding no.
Eventually, the smell dissipated (or I just got used to it) and I stopped thinking about it.
Two months passed and I got my period like I always had.
At the end of my second cycle I felt some pain deep inside my vagina, it almost felt like a prolonged cramping of the cervix.
I became convinced I was dying of AIDS or of vagina cancer.
The smell began to come back, only this time it was worse.
Now it smelled distinctly of a dead body that was also sweating.
I did kegels throughout classes in the hopes that no one would smell my decaying womanly organs.
Of course, I didn't tell anyone. That would have made way too much sense.
Faced with the unfairness that my virginal vagina was going to kill me before I even got to use it, I took a dramatic course of action and began reaching out to convents throughout the nation thinking that if my vagina was going to kill me, best to cloister myself now.
I don't know what I was thinking.
Then, just as suddenly as it had started, the pain went away.
The smell remained and I became like a teenage boy who has just discovered masturbation, showering twice, sometimes thrice daily.
It was during one of these showers that it happened.
I felt something slither down my leg.
I looked down heart racing and something near the drain caught my eye.
I looked down and spotted what looked like a thin earth worth.
Upon closer inspection, I realized what it was: a nearly totally desiccated tampon string.
I picked it up and it basically fell apart in my hands.
I didn't need to lean in to smell that horrible smell that had been following me around.
Then I was struck dumb with panic:
If the string just fell out, the tampon itself must still be inside.
THE CALL WAS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE, AND THE CALL WAS A THREE MONTH OLD TAMPON AND THE HOUSE WAS MY VAGINA.
I jumped out of the shower and scuttled to my room. My roommate was deeply asleep, and I fumbled around on my dresser looking for tweezers.
Unable to find any I settled for two hair chopsticks (look, it was the early aughts, okay).
I returned to the bathroom and went into a handicapped stall, locking the door firmly behind me.
Then, hovering above the toilet I tentatively poked at my vagina, giving it a wake-up call with the two sticks.
It didn't take long (though it felt like hours) for me to find the rotten tampon.
Unfortunately, much like the string, it was falling apart. I removed the biggest chunks with the same level of cringe-inducing panic you might have killing a cockroach.
That done, I threw out the chopsticks (I'm not a total monster) and got back in the shower.
Brown liquid trickled out of my vagina along with some lingering clumps of the tampon as I tried to frantically douche my vagina back to wellness.
Cleaning my hands afterward I felt like Lady Macbeth.
Nothing would get this stench and blood out.
I went to bed resolved to never tell anyone of this tale, and until I got my next period I was convinced that I had made myself infertile.
Surprisingly, there were no negative effects on my health.
When I told a gyno about it recently she literally waved her hand in dismissal saying, "that happens all the time" leaving me to wonder what, exactly, I would have to say to shock her.
Turns out you can just pull it out with clean hands, and give your doctor or health clinic a call. It's no big deal, and as my doctor reassured me, you're FAR from the first woman to forget a tampon in her vagina.
Surprisingly, I still wear tampons.
Perhaps less surprisingly, I now obsessively check to make sure there isn't one hiding out inside me that I've forgotten.
Ask my boyfriend, he's been enlisted in the hunt often enough.