Category Archives: Health

CupTalk: To Stem Or Not To Stem?

You may remember my menstrual cup misadventures last month. A recap of my journey so far:

  • I started with SilkyCup, a medium sized menstrual cup with a stem (resulting in ‘vagitail’ in my early attempts)
  • I practised and found a folding technique that worked for me and I’m still learning about insertion
  • 7 months in, I discovered that the leakage that was happening was not normal. A menstrual cup replaces or should replace all other sanitary products like tampons, sanitary napkins and panty liners.
  • I bought a SheCup, a medium sized menstrual cup without a stem
  • Insertion was easier. I perfected the punchdown fold. Leakage vanished.
  • The SheCup turned over completely inside me in December.
  • It turned around 90 degrees in February. It also leaked out enough to stain my bed in my sleep.
  • When removing the SheCup, it fell out and into the toilet bowl.

I’m over the upset of all this and I have decided that this is just trial-and-error till I find the best cup for me. Reema is of the opinion that the SheCup’s firmer material makes it ‘pop’ open inside on insertion while the SilkyCup being softer, stays folded and leaves room for leakage. I am theorising that a stem keeps a cup from spinning. And both of us think that the two cups may not have been the right size for me too.

With these in mind, I’m back on the road to the perfect cup. I’m going to set aside time, some money and the determination to soldier through and not give up. The menstrual cup has too many benefits (financial, environmental, feminist) for me to give up on it at this stage.

I know a lot more women are using menstrual cups now and several others are taking notice and have questions. I would like to start a discussion. So here are some questions. Share your thoughts and comments.

  1. If you are a menstrual cup user, do you prefer one with a stem or without?
  2. Have you had any troubles with the unfurling? How do you address those?
  3. What fold/s do you use? Have you experimented with angles of insertion?
  4. Has anyone noticed any increase/reduction in cramps? Any other physical changes noticed?

Leave your comments below and let’s get talking!

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* If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

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Turn, Turn, Bleed: Menstrual Cup Misadventures

The menstrual cup chronicles continue. I started with a SilkyCup gifted to me by Reema. After a lot of teething pains (birthing pains?), I established a relationship with this piece of silicon and got used to putting it up my lady business every month.

A HUGE part of developing a comfort with menstrual cups is the safety valve that the stem provides, that you can just yank out anytime. No, not really, it doesn’t really work that way since after the first couple of months or so, my vag began swallowing up the entire cup, stem and all. I’m assured that is is quite normal, in fact the right way to wear it. Getting it out proves to be awkward but possible since when you reach the tip of the stem you can tugtug it out. By the time I got to this place with my cup, it had already discoloured. Also it continued to still leak.

Figuring it must be a size misfit and that I was ‘grown-up’ enough to buy one for myself, I bought a SheCup. This one was a real adventure because it came without a stem (thus nullifying the ‘vagitail’). The SheCup is also made of a slightly firmer material than the SilkyCup which means it pops open once inside you. I’ll admit the theory sounded fine and truly, in the last few months, I’ve sprung very few leaks if at all. I’ve even gone on all day, including outside with zero fuss (I even wore a thong once). The only trouble if at all was that it went in so snugly, I was always afraid I’d forget it was in there. So I’ve gotten used to placing an alarm for myself every few hours to ‘Remove cup’.

In December, I had one alarming episode where I reached in at the end of the day and found my finger poking into thin air. Thin air inside me? Am I actually a mannequin then? It turned out that the cup had turned ALL the way around inside me. It wasn’t actually as bad as it sounds. I had to get a grip on a side and slide/slip/scratch it out. Soreness around the vaginal area had also been noted around the end of Day 2. But well, nothing gained overnight, I was just glad to be rid of the pain of sanitary napkins.

February was an admittedly tough month for me periodwise and otherwise. What is otherwise? Any fusses and stresses you face in life show up in your monthly visitor. Your period is like your auditor of your wellbeing and health. February was very little of that, given a lot of things. It started on a high-stress sudden summer day when I was rushing out for an important client meeting. Anticipating the calendar, I plugged in the cup and off I went. Midmorning bathroom break revealed stained panties. In the middle of a makeshift office bathroom, I scrabbled around inside me only to find that the cup had moved around 90 degrees. This had to be the worst of the cup woes, I decided. It took me ten minutes, a sprained wrist and an almost injured pubic bone to get that damn cup out. That should have been it.

Then on the morning of day 3, I woke up in a pool of blood. Okay, a puddle. But still, after 20-odd years of periods, one has gotten quite used to managing the blood flow. It’s a wee bit embarrassing and annoying for this to happen. No, I kid. It’s bloody terrifying, pun intended.

Sheets yanked off in disgust, I trudged to the bathroom still mostly asleep. I don’t know if it was the grogginess or the cup misbehaving but I struggled to reach it. When I finally did – and I have no idea how this happened – IT JUST EFFING FELL OUT. Fell into the pot. I cried.

I spent the rest of the period with my leaky old SilkyCup and plenty of pads. So let’s just say that the cup isn’t the magical cure to all menstrual nightmares. I’m still soldiering on and going menstrual-cup shopping again. This time, I think I’ll pick up a cup with a stem again. I guess the SheCup was a tad too small for me, giving it play to move around. And its stemlessness probably  made it easier. A stem should prevent it from doing this bloody spinning thing

Wish me luck and here’s hoping third time’s the charm. I’ll post an unboxing video when the new cup/cups arrive.

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* If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Menstrual Myths and Products That Matter

Today is World Menstrual Health Day. I wonder if they chose the 28th of this month because of the 28 days that are a cycle average. Well, there is certainly a lot to be said about menstrual health and I think I do a lot of talking (and writing) about it already. But it appears to fall to the few of us to keep it going. So, if you are a woman or if you truly care about at least one woman in your life, think about what this means and contribute to the conversations.

There are a lot of myths around menstrual health. My favorite ones (to poke holes into, that is) are:

1. Menstrual blood is dirty! Heh, Adhyayan Suman anyone? Witchcraft and evil galore. Well, no. Menstrual blood is not shit or urine. It’s not ‘dirty’ in that way. If anything, menstrual blood is the raw material that makes up a human being. It’s what would have been left of you, had your daddy’s sperm not fertilized your mummy’s egg. It’s no more dirty than you are.

2. Menstrual health is about getting your period on time. How cute. That’s like saying a movie is about the two hours that you see it on screen. The female reproductive system is intricately organised (entirely internally). It is also self-regulating and self-cleaning. And it involves a lot of hormones, their production and their dispensation. Hormones are chemical and anything chemical is complex and involves hundreds of things that could potentially have concern areas. Honour the most important system in your body, ladies and know it.

3. Gynacologists are to be visited when you’re pregnant or when you’re about to get married. Really. And you should probably see an eye specialist when you’ve completely lost your eyesight. Look at point 2 and think about whether it makes sense to assume that everything is okay until something is drastically different?

I don’t want to talk about any further myths because most of them have to do with social beliefs rather than scientific facts. I’ve also created two videos that may be of interest, while on this.

The first is the unboxing of a new menstrual cup. Reema has decided to try a different brand, given they all come in varying sizes and shapes. I’m considering a new one myself, after the somewhat decent experience I’ve had with SilkyCup. This is the She Cup and the video shows what it looks like and what else the package contains.

The second is the unboxing of a parcel from CossetBox. They’re a new service catering to women on their period days. Take a look at the magnificent box they sent me to try out. It contains a lot more than the usual suspects of sanitary napkins and chocolate.

All these are commercial products but they cater to women’s health and it is in all our interest to talk about them. It’ll be a fine day when we can discuss menstrual cups, vaginal wipes (not ‘intimate wipes’) and female condoms with the same unblinking confidence with which we speak of shoes and lipstick. Happy World Menstrual Health Day, ladies!

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* If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

The Menstrual Cup Month: There Will Be Blood

I’ve received and given a few strange gifts in my time but the most unusual one was Reema’s birthday present to me this year. For context, Reema showers me with gifts of books, food, makeup and pretty objects year round so she managed to take it up a notch even further for the special birthday gift. She gave me my first menstrual cup.

So what’s a menstrual cup? It falls under what our world likes to call ‘feminine hygiene products’. In a nutshell (or a silicon cup), it collects period blood. Menstrual cups fit inside the vaginal passage, somewhat the way tampons do. Except tampons absorb the blood while menstrual cups collect it so you can take it out and empty it.

The benefits of this method are multifold. Tampons end up being blood soaked fabric bolts, which lend themselves to infections. The menstrual cup is made of silicon which as we all know gets put into people to enhance their curves (so presumably, it doesn’t react negatively with the body internally). Tampons are thought to contain bleach and other chemicals which could irritate the sensitive insides of the vaginal tract. No such issues with the menstrual cup. Of course all of this is academic, because I’ve never used a tampon, having been cautioned by the doctor who detected me (as a foetus) to avoid them for fear of infection.

Why menstrual cups over sanitary napkins then? After all, sanitary napkins have evolved (barring the ‘Have a Happy Period’ glitches). They’re more absorbent, don’t require itchy elastic belts, don’t slide out of your panty and have even gotten flatter (no unsightly bulges on the back of your pants). But any woman who has used them, knows about rashes and chafing, the inconvenience of having to find a place to change every three-four hours, the trouble of discarding used napkins in a private as well as hygienic and environmentally-conscious manner (don’t flush them down the toilet, yo!). Not to mention they’re an ongoing cost, EVERY DAMN MONTH. Anybody who thinks this is a trivial matter has never bought a sanitary napkin in their entire life. Menstrual cups are supposed to last for about 10 years.

None of this however, prepared me for the thought of sticking a strange foreign object into my body, especially in the time of cramps, low blood pressure, nausea and fainting. Oh Reema, the things you push me to do! But in Reema we trust and nothing she has introduced me to so far, has ever been regrettable. I did some reading up on menstrual cups online myself. I also asked my gynecologist about them. She didn’t seem too keen on the idea but she didn’t give me a firm no either.

“Maybe not because you’re putting a foreign body into yourself, you know?”

were her exact words.

As circumstantial luck would have it, for the first time ever in my perioding history, I fell short of sanitary napkins this month. My period arrived early, I was busy and then too exhausted to go down and buy some. Otherwise, I probably might have delayed the trial infinitely and the little silicon cup would have lain unused for years. Nothing to be done about it, I reached for the silicon cup.

120px-Coupe-menstruelleThe next three days were rich with experience and learning of all sorts. I’m going to condense it all into what I learnt.

  • You may not be able to sterilise it by boiling the cup in your kitchen, owing to social/cultural norms. My mother won’t even let me stand in the kitchen while she’s doing her puja and I’m on my period. I doubt my ‘dirty’ menstrual things would find any place in the kitchen. I got around this by using a face steamer. The basic plastic variety you get for 100 bucks at the chemist, that lets you steam your pores or sinuses. Silicon bends easily so it flattened into a corner of the steamer cup.
  • Inserting the cup is THE BIG CHALLENGE. I followed the instructions to fold it into a ‘C’ and I struggled for over 45 minutes before giving up. Then I tried again after I’d had lunch and this time I managed to get it in. The next time I put it in was difficult too but it took me 20 minutes. I imagine at that rate, I’ll be able to slip it in easy-peasy in another two periods or so.
  • Figuring out how to position yourself during insertion is part of the challenge (I wonder if reading the Kamasutra would help). I tried squatting over a toilet or just the floor, as they recommended but nada. The only way I could get it in both times was when I sat on the floor, one leg splayed out and the other raised so the foot was resting on a chair or the toilet seat and slouched back about 45 degrees from the ground.
  • On my second trial, I realised it slid it much easier when I angled it slightly to the left. I guess that’s just my body structure but it’s important to remember that our bodies are all different and none of them conform strictly to biological diagrams. A couple of degrees to the right to correct, made it very painful so I moved it back and it went right in.
  • I put in the menstrual cup twice during the period, the first time for about 3 hours and the next time for about 5 hours. The instructions say that you can easily go 12 hours before having to empty the cup out. The first time I was freaking out worried that it would get lost in there. So I yanked it out in the early evening. Just in case it didn’t budge and I had to see my gynecologist, I wanted to ensure I’d be able to catch her. You might want to do this as well. All the literature assures you that the cup can’t possibly get lost inside you. But this is an intimate, big thing you’re doing and you need to do it at your own pace and with whatever support (emotional and otherwise) you need.
  • The second time was sort of funny. The first time, I had put the cup in and sat in one place working. The second time, I decided to walk around to see how it felt. It was strange, very strange. After about 15 minutes, I had a sudden feeling like I needed to shit. But it passed in a few minutes. I guess the cup may have been resting on one of my internal organs and shifted slightly. Does that make you a bit sick? Yes, well, you’ll have to deal with it to go through this. A little later, I felt the urge to pee. When I went into the toilet though, nothing would come out. It was the strangest unpee I’ve ever had. It wasn’t like having a urinary infection where you burn as the urine passes through you. It was just as if I had a full bladder but nowhere to let it out from. I stood up and jiggled the cup around a bit and it started to come out. And immediately after that I was able to pee right. The stem of the cup must have been resting against the urethra blocking off the pee passage. Gross I know, but such a relief. I thought my urinary passage had closed up and I might have to pee through my mouth or something.
  • There was no pain really but inserting the cup was an arduous process. If you’ve ever had a gynecological examination, you’ll know that the vagina isn’t like a straight tube where stuff just slides in and out. It has all sorts of angles, it’s bumpy and it expands and contracts. And finally it’s all soft flesh with hundreds of nerve endings so you feel every little poke and pinch. Taking out the cup was not painful either, just very awkward. Squat a little, tug on the stem of the cup hoping it doesn’t break in your hands, rotate or jiggle a little all the while feeling that strange tickly-rubby feeling that isn’t altogether pleasant and then WHOOOSH suddenly it’s like you sneezed and you can breathe again.
  • The literature actually said to insert it so even the ‘stem’ was inside but I didn’t dare shove it up that deep and risk losing it to the vast unknown (isn’t it interesting how the insides of our own bodies are as scary and unknown as outer space?). So both days I had a little vagitail. But it’s not long enough to get in the way or even irritate your skin. Only you know it’s there because, well you know and not because it causes pain or discomfort.
  • All the literature warns that it will be messy. I’m not sure why since it wasn’t more or less messy than changing a sanitary napkin after a hard day. You can’t really do it without getting some blood on your fingers. And if you’re on a heavy flow time, there’ll probably be a splotch or two of blood on the floor in the time it takes you to change. Get over your grossed-outness if that scares you. It’s your body, it’s natural. And finally, menstrual fluid is not shit or urine. It’s not really ‘dirty’ in the same way. The vagina is self-cleaning so you’re really not going to catch any germs from getting some stuff on your hands. Wash well with soap and water afterwards and that’s quite enough.
  • I used a sanitary napkin along with the menstrual cup both times I tried it. I think both times and especially the first, the cup didn’t really unfold all the way, leaving a little way for leakage. It was better the second time, which might be because it fit better but also because my flow had reduced. But Reema suggests using a pad along with the cup for the first few times. I guess I’ll figure out a comfort level with going pad-free after a few months.
  • And finally, a good intimate wash is worth investing in – to clean yourself and the menstrual cup. I used V Wash, which is available at all chemists. Regular soap irritates the skin so get the special one for yourself.

And before I knew it, the period was over! One article I read, said that using a menstrual cup actually reduced cramps for some obscure biology-based reason. Reema says it also reduces the period cycle by a full day. Apparently menstrual discharge takes a full day to seep down from the uterus to the vagina. If you know your dates, you can insert the cup even before you see blood and it’ll catch it all midstream. Ergo, you’ve saved time on the externally bleeding cycle.

If I have anything else to report on my next few period cycles, I’ll write more. If you’re looking for a menstrual cup, here are some places you can buy it online for India: Amazon, PrivyShop, ShyCart, Mooncart, SilkyCup

Write to me at ideasmithy at gmail dot com, if you have anything to share or ask about menstrual cups and I will answer your question if I’m able to. I’m not a doctor or qualified to give any kind of medical advice but I’m happy to share my experience and listen to yours.

5 Things Every Woman Should Do For Her Body

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Image courtesy tiverylucky at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Empowerment begins with taking responsibility for yourself. Reema​ points out some common misconceptions around women and fitness regimes. If you’re a woman, take charge of your body. It has been your prison for so long. It’s high time you make it your personal vehicle into a better life.

1. Get yourself a gynaecologist you trust. You probably already have a trusted hair-stylist. This is just as important, if not more. Visit them for routine check-ups (and not just pregnancy scares or UTIs). Ask them how you can care for your body better. There is a reason there’s an entire branch of medicine devoted entirely to women’s bodies. Use it.

2. Monitor your menstrual cycle. This doesn’t just mean knowing when your next period should happen but also tracking how your moods, your energy levels, your blood pressure and your blood sugar fluctuate during the month and during the period. PMS is a real thing but if you know your body’s downtimes and special-requirement phases, you’ll be able to plan and work accordingly.

3. For the love of whatever God you believe in, if you are sexually active, use protection. The consequences of unprotected sex and all the so-called solutions are too horrific for you to put your body through. Emergency contraceptives are harmful if used often. Sex without condoms can spread STDs (not to mention pregnancy). You’d treat your car nicely, even if it was second-hand. Why settle for less with your own body?

4. Eat right. Nutritionists, doctors and the Internet exist for good reason. I won’t preach about smoking, drinking or drugs, if you enjoy those. But remember your own body is a factory that produces potent, mood-altering chemicals. Be prudent about mixing intoxicants (see point 2.)

5. Find a fitness regime that matches your body type, your schedule and lifestyle. I’ve tried yoga, aerobics, swimming and the gym and I find my body’s needs have changed and evolved over the years. Exercise in some form has always helped, not just to keep me slim and flexible but also sane and grounded (endorphins, watay drug!). A body that is kept physically active enough to balance out its 18-hour mental activity, is better looking and more productive.

Remember that women’s bodies go through many more changes and far more dramatically through the course of our lives than men’s bodies. We also live lives of greater pressures and scrutiny than our male counterparts. Keep yourself prepared to meet the challenges of being a woman, by having a healthy female body.

Why Are Period Jokes Okay But Period Talk Not?

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*Image courtesy Simon Howden on FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When I was in college, a guy leaned in and asked me,

“Why was there blood on the dance floor?”

These were the late 90s, Micheal Jackson was still alive, already white and not yet branded a pedophile. I shrugged. I had not understood the song anyway.

“Because Susie had her period!”

he guffawed as the boys around him erupted laughing. I frowned. I still don’t get it. The song and the joke.

If the idiot had any sense, he’d know that Susie would know to wear a tampon or a sanitary pad during her period. Even if by some miracle, she forgot to wear panties (no woman does that outside of porn films), the blood would not gush out of her and land on the floor in a  puddle. It would cake around her groin, with a trickle or two lining the insides of her thighs. I very much doubt it would even get as far as her knee before it congealed and dried up. It’s menstrual blood after all, not red wine. But how would he know? He was a man. What did he know about menstruation, after all?

I once had an argument with a friend over this. He thought joking about things made it possible for people to not take them so seriously. I see where that might make sense in some things. But not here. Most men are terribly uncomfortable with the notion of menstruation. This discomfort is indulged by a society that makes it okay to not talk about it and silences girls and women about a natural, bodily process. Making a joke of it, especially in an information-deprived environment actually propagates wrong notions. It also increases the shame factor that keeps the silent zone in place.

I think the heavy silence that lies around menstruation is dangerous. It gives men (and women) all kinds of wrong notions. I know men who think that having sex with a menstruating woman will kill her. I know women who use iPill as a regular contraceptive and I fear that one day they will bleed to death. (iPill is an emergency contraceptive that basically induces the period. Having a period more often than normal is not normal or good for the body.) I know men and women who think that painkillers can ‘solve’ the period. And I know men and women who think that contraceptives will ruin a woman’s child-bearing capacity.

Periods suck. They’re awful. I hate having them. Why should I not be allowed to rant about them? Why must I not be able to expect sympathy for strong nausea, blinding headaches, backache, stomach cramps and aching joints (on account of weakness due to blood loss, the doctor says)? Everyone gets sympathy when they face any one of these, don’t they? Why, when I have to have all of these together am I not accorded the same, just because it’s on account of my period? Never mind getting a day off to rest. The only people who will grant me that will also treat me as an untouchable, not allow me to pass by places of worship and create a huge hullabaloo if I reach for a bottle of pickles. Yes, this happens, even in 2014 Mumbai. It happens to me.

You know what talking about the above gets me? PMS jokes (which are period jokes in douchebag clothing, pun entirely unintended). I think PMS jokes are even more offensive. They don’t just spread ignorance like period jokes do. They also actively propogate demeaning women for natural body functions. They reaffirm the idea of women as shrieking banshees incapable of logic, sense or responsibility.

I have no problem with humour. But humour is only really funny when everyone (and not just the the person who makes the joke) gets that it is not serious. In the Susie joke, I think a lot of my classmates actually believed that a woman dancing during her period might leave puddles of blood behind on the floor. Think about what their attitudes would be towards the women in their life undertaking physical exertion during their periods?

So yes, we need to be able to talk about periods. What about period jokes? I’ll say they are okay the day it is permissible to sit around talking about menstruation as normally as we discuss Arnab Goswami and the next Salman Khan movie.

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Update: I challenge every man reading this post, to go through this list. It’s creatively designed as a humour/horror quiz but is closer to the truth than most factual articles I’ve read. Go on, I dare you to read it through to the end.

Fifty Shades of Foolish Females

Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey (Photo credit: ellebnere)

I’m reading the Fifty Shades trilogy right now. It took me about 24 hours to get through Fifty Shades of Grey. It is that kind of book, that kind of story and maybe I just have that kind of time at the moment.

To be honest, I wouldn’t have bought this book myself. It’s been making such a splash on the media and I never quite trust products that need such hardsell marketing. Someone said it’s like Twilight again and that was enough to put me off.What’s more the books are in first person narrative and present tense, two things that tend to put me off in fiction. But someone else bought these books and they’re standing on my bookcase right now. They’re there and everyone’s talking about them. How could I resist the lure of that?

So, now about Fifty Shades of Grey. It is a romance…sort of. It’s not girly or comforting or silly-funny the way chicklit is supposed to be. It’s not even fantasy-level unrealistic & beautiful, the stuff of romances. But it is about a relationship between a man and a woman so it falls short of the Thriller & Psychology aisles. I think men would like reading it too. It never gets soppy and it’s oozing so much sex that in the first 100 pages, I thought I was reading porn/erotica. Let’s just say that it uses sex to illustrate some very dark corners of the human mind.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers because I believe I am going to be recommending this series for readers. Let me just say that it is about an extremely disturbing character, a very fucked-up relationship. Mr.Darcy looks like a sulky boy as compared to Christian Grey, the (anti?) protagonist.

Maybe because I’ve just ended a rather toxic relationship, it feels like the right time to speak about this. Book 1 ends with the couple breaking up (and that is *not* a spoiler, see the blurb of Book 2!). I am becoming painfully aware of  things that I thought I knew but never really internalized. We live with fanciful notions of life and love and relationships and men. We want it so much, we need so desperately for it all to make sense in that way that we set ourselves up for disappointment over and over again.

Why do so many of us have a Mother Theresa complex? And does it occur to us that there isn’t a male equivalent of that? (Not that there haven’t been male do-gooders & martyrs but none of them have lent their names to any male-specific complexes, have they?). We are drawn to needy, incomplete, even toxic relationships and we stay there. I think something inside each of us is still repeating nonstop,

“You exist to serve. You exist to nurture. You exist to take care of. You have no needs or rights of your own.”

I’m very angry right now. I’m so pissed, I’m practically seething and crying lava-hot angry, angry tears. I’m angry because of the compassion and nurturing instincts that have only proven to be bad for me. I’m angry because it was never supposed to be this way. Do good and good shall happen to you is a myth fed to keep human beings subservient and who’s a better example of that than us – the weakened sex? To every foolish woman (including myself), I’d like to say,

“If he says he can’t give you something, maybe he means it. It’s not ‘I can’t’ where he means ‘I won’t’ and just needs to be coaxed out of it. In fact, if he needs coaxing, he’s not worth it. Really. Let his therapist or his mother deal with his issues. You are NOT here to sort his life out. You deserve a good one of your own.”

To come back to the book, my rant will make a lot more sense when you read the book and I hope you will. That is to say, I hope you’ll read it after you turn 20. I don’t believe in censorship but some things, like sex for example can be damaging if they occur too early in a person’s life. Fifty Shades is a bizarre story with some horribly disturbing characters. It’s also engaging and a powerful story, the kind that could influence thought and action. Which is why I have my fingers crossed that the next two books resolve the story in a way that’s powerful and not disempowering.

I take heart in the fact that the main female character, Anastasia Steele is a strong one. Not conventionally so, she’s shy, awkward and by her own admission, scruffy. But she has good instincts, is brave enough to take chances and doesn’t confuse self-preservation with selfishness when she decides to walk away from a situation that’s bad for her.

I think too many of us have gotten trapped in a Superwoman complex, acquiring male egos while trying to compete with them but with the nagging self-doubt that they don’t have. It’s harder for us to walk away, burdened as we are under guilt, pride and fairytale notions of ‘Forever’. The other end of it is our generations-old conditioning of caution. We don’t take enough of risks, we don’t play enough and once we’re in, we sign away our right to get out and save ourselves.

Anastasia Steele is breaking many of those norms in the first book and I hope she will in the two to come as well. I’ll report back when I’m done with the series. There are some interesting Twitter conversations happening over at #FiftyShades and #50Shades.

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Update: I’ve finished the second book Fifty Shades Darker and I revise my opinion. They are morbid, miscategorized, deviant and badly written. Do NOT waste your time on them. If you’d like a more detailed explanation for my strong turnabout, read my review.

Prolife Product launches 18 Again

 

* This is a sponsored post.

Prolife Product Limited announces a revolutionary new product for women as a natural answer to intimate feminine concerns. The product will be marketed under the brand name of 18 Again.

18 Again has been tested on sensitive skin under dermatological control. It contains a blend of natural products like Centella Asiatica, Woodfordia floribunda, Punica granatum, Almonds, Alum, Aloe vera, Vitamin E and Gold.

This is a product for any post-pubescent woman. Each age group of women, puberty upwards, is expected to have different reasons to use this product. 18 Again stands for women empowerment. Their most recent initiative is Women on Top, which honours powerful Indian women.

Connect

Twitter: @18Again, #WomenOnTop
Facebook: 18 Again
Website: 18 Again

Event

18 Again will be launched by Celina Jaitley, former beauty queen, actor, activist and new mom. Emcee Kubra Sait will moderate a panel discussion on women empowerment. The speakers will include prominent women like theatre artists Dolly Thakore & Mahabanoo Mody.

Date – 7th August 2012
Time – 11.30 am
Venue – Sofitel, BKC, Bandra (East), Mumbai.

I’ll be covering this event on Twitter today so watch the #WomenOnTop hashtag to find out more about 18 Again and what this product is.

Marvin’s World: My Daily (And Nightly) Health Nags

And now that I’m a self-confessed Android junkie, I’ve progressed from games to the other delights that the Market offers. Out of curiosity, I went looking for what this ‘techy’ bazaar had to specially offer a woman. I was hit by a barrage of menstrual-cycle linked apps. Of course, a mobilephone is a daily companion and who knows the value of a calendar better than a woman who has to figure out clothing, commute, food, grooming and schedule by predicting her body’s cycle?

Of the apps I looked at, WomanLog Calendar appealed the most to me. The app begins with a 5-step process (of which 2 are the ‘Welcome to this app’ and the ‘Congratulations, you’re in!’ announcements). The only really key part of this process is step 2, where you enter your average menstrual cycle length and the average length of your period, both in days. After that, you pick the beginning day of the week, set language and you’re done.

The app then opens up into a pink * cringe at the stereotyping* calendar. You enter your period cycle by clicking on a date, which takes you to a push-button screen. Here you can select the start & end dates. In addition you can also include details such as birth control pill consumption, Basal Metabolic Temperature (BMT), sexual activity, weight and notes. Other features include charts tracking weight and temperature.

Thoughtfully, a password-protect feature has also been provided to keep those prying eyes (or fingers) away from such intimate details. This is particularly interesting since a mobilephone is open to far more scrutiny and non-secure access than a computer.

Once I got over the pinkness of this app, I realised it was probably a must-have addition to Marvin. I’ve just added it so I can’t tell how good the charting will be, as yet but I see no reason they shouldn’t work right. The paid version, WomanLog Pro Calendar also lets one enter mood, cervical mucus (presumably to track infections) and provides notifications, which sound like great features to add to an already decent app.

WomanLog Calendar is a product of Pro Active App and is available for download in the Android Market and the iPhone App Store.

I haven’t been particularly health-conscious but the past few years have made me painfully aware that I’m not a teenager anymore. I spend most weekends catching up on a massive sleep debt accumulated during the week. The Android Market had something to say on this.

SleepBot Tracker Log sounded like it would be a stern mommy-figure type, wagging its finger in admonition at the unhealthy lifestyles of today. But instead, it turned out to be a sensible, easy-to-use app for the sleep-deprived advanced smartphone user segment of today. On installing the app, the first thing you can do is take a Sleep Debt Index Quiz, which looks at how sleepy you are likely to get in the afternoons, during phone conversations, commuting and other such drowsiness-striken situations. Based on this, you are given a Sleep Debt Index which tells you how sleep-deprived you are.

You use the app to track your sleeping patterns by clicking ‘Sleep’ when you fall asleep and ‘Wake up’ when you do. Alternately, you can also manually input the times of these two events. SleepBot logs the hours slept & napped and tracks the sleep debt you accumulate. You can change the settings to reflect what you think is optimal sleep amount for you.

Over time, the app graphs your sleep records to show you the fluctuations in your cycle. Other features include auto-flight mode (avoid calls in sleep), auto-silence during sleep, WiFi off when sleep button pushed, idle threshold (to determine when sleeping) and sleep/wake reminder text.

There is also a wealth of handy somna-related resources such as a Caffeine Content Chart, Sleep-inducing foods and a Bedside Necessities list. SleepBot also offers information on the nature of Sleep Debt, Sleep Disorders, Diagnostic tests and associated health problems. And finally, it offers quick tips on sleeping well.

All in all, SleepBot feels like a comprehensive sleep-related app and a very relevant one for the typical target user of smartphone. SleepBot Tracker Log is a product of SleepBot and is available for download in the Android Market.

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* This is a one-off app review on XX Factor since it involves women’s health. For more, see Marvin’s World.

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