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From our hearts and our heads

How to Ask Another Woman for a Pad or Tampon

BODYIt’s happened to all of us—the surprise period. Whether it’s your first ever period, or your 100th period, pretty much every girl or woman you know has been in this position: you go to the bathroom and look down to see blood-stained underwear, only to realize that you don’t have any period supplies on hand.

This can happen for so many reasons. Some women have extremely regular periods that they can set their watch by, but they’re busy or not aware of what day of the month it is, and forgot to pack pads or tampons in their bag that day. Other women have irregular periods that can show up without warning, or vary each time by anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. These kinds of periods can be really hard to anticipate. Whatever the reason, what do you do in this situation?

One of the go-to solutions is to ask another woman if they have a pad or tampon you can use. But this can be hard if you’re shy, or just feels plain awkward the first few times you do it, even if you’re usually a really outgoing person. So here are a few good rules of thumb to make the process easier:

1. If you’re in the bathroom, consider this a safe space where women help each other out. Menstruating is something that most of us have in common, and any woman you approach has probably been where you are and can relate. It’s very unlikely that she’ll make fun of you or make you feel embarrassed for reaching out.

2. Look for women who have purses or bags with them. A woman who’s not carrying anything is less likely to have supplies on hand.

3. Generally, it won’t be helpful to ask an older woman for help. Women stop having periods usually between the ages of 45 – 55—this is called menopause—so women in and above that age bracket are unlikely to be carrying around pads or tampons with them.

4. Practice some one-liners to ask for help, either to yourself in the mirror or with your friends, just to get used to going through the motions, so that if the time comes, you’ll feel more comfortable. Try, “Excuse me, do you have any pads or tampons? I just got my period and I don’t have anything.” If you’re uncomfortable, it can actually defuse the awkwardness by calling it out, so you could also say something like, “I feel a little awkward asking a stranger this, but do you have any pads or tampons?”

5. If you’re able, it’s always nice to offer to pay the woman helping you some nominal amount of money for the supplies she’s sharing, like $1. Pads and tampons are expensive to buy every month, and it’s a good show of faith to at least offer (she’ll probably decline, though).

Just remember that no matter what, you are not alone in dealing with your period, and you’re also not the first person to be without a pad or tampon, so as awkward as you may feel asking strangers for help, they’ve probably been where you are.