It is something talked about in hushed corners of the office, if it is talked of at all. Even I was blissfully unaware, or at least not completely aware, of how women must alter their lives for archaeology.
For my entire consulting career, I had been on the birth control pill. It wasn’t to control any possible birthing, but to control all the other female associated stuff. I was one of the lucky women who had been dealt the full deck of menstrual cards. The pill makes that all manageable. Archaeology consulting and the pill are a natural fit: being in remote corners of countryside, away from modern conveniences, consulting isn’t conducive to a heavy flow, manic mood swings, and toting around a box of bulky feminine products that need to be disposed of upon use.
Upon leaving consulting, I gave away all my archaeology textbooks, threw out my survey vest, and I also happily left the pill behind. And for two years I remembered what it was like to be female. Really female. It all came back with a vengeance.
I was now returning to consulting archaeology (discussion to come). However, I was quite adamant not to return to a life of prescription hormones. So. How the hell do women manage this? There had to be a way. Women have had to deal with this kind of thing for millions of years, without the luxury of a modern washroom within walking distance. I couldn’t imagine squatting half-naked in the bush, swatting mosquitoes and balancing precariously, paranoid that a stray man would stumble upon me as I changed my tampon for the third time that day.
A friend recommended a menstrual cup. It was a nifty little silicone device that needed only to be removed and cleaned every 10 to 12 hours. Fabulous! I had visions of prancing merrily through the bush and digging holes with all my previous gusto. Getting the cup in was no problem. Getting it out was a whole other story. It was then I realised that the lack of kids and sex-life was truly a bad thing (I knew the lack of sex was a bad thing, but the kid part took some convincing). The menstrual cup was the most action my cervix had seen in some time and was savouring it. A little too much, perhaps.
Attempt #1: 10pm. The cup had retreated to the interns of my body….somewhere behind my intestines maybe. No worries. The associated users manual assured me that the cup would drop when it fills. This was merely day one of my cycle so that shouldn’t take long.
Attempt #2: 2am. Worry had set in. Couldn’t sleep. Had visions of going to emergency and having a handsome young male doctor dig inside me with a long steel torture device. Arose and tried again. Second attempt failed. Started to search the internet for information. I was not alone. There really was solace in commiseration. Retry sleep with an action plan in mind for morning.
Attempt #3: 7am. Grey’s Anatomy (and Wikipedia) assured me that I did, in fact, have Kegel muscles. The trick is consciously employing them. I had become convinced that they were in kahoots with my sex-starved cervix. The menstrual cup retreated to the safety of my intestines every time I managed to find it. This was the game we played for 45 mins. I was determined. Finally, I got my Kegels to cooperate and hold the cup in place. I simultaneously relaxed and contracted those pesky muscles to allow enough room for my fingers to reach in and grasp the cup while keeping it from vanishing north yet again. It was an act worthy of Cirque du Soleil. Relief swept over me as I finally slipped the cup out (filled with much blood). I threw the damn thing in the sink and reached for a tampon. Childbearing and childrearing are definitely not for me.
These are the things that are joyfully absent from men’s lives. These are also the things that make women strong and resilient. Are good Kegel muscles the secret to consulting archaeology? Stay tuned!