My So-Called Life: All quiet on the menstrual front

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The Independent Online

The other day, I noted a new type of sanitary pad in Boots, the Kotex Ultra Quiet... Shhh!

The other day, I noted a new type of sanitary pad in Boots, the Kotex Ultra Quiet... Shhh! At last, I thought, an alternative to the noisy sanitary pad which, as we all know, is the most tiresome of feminine hygiene products; talking over EastEnders and running up the phone bill and always shouting: "Hey, you up there, you may well complain about cramps and bloat and the ache in the small of your back, but, let me tell you, it is certainly no party down here.

"Now, put on Emmerdale and pass the crisps while you're about it." A noisy sanitary pad, as every woman knows, can also be very bossy and demanding. (Mine, for example, always insist on Kettle Chips, rather than the cheaper crisps.) A quiet sanitary pad - it's just what women have been waiting for all these years.

I know I have. "Oh, how I wish they'd invent a quieter sanitary pad," I have so often said to myself and now here it is, with its "unique design" guaranteeing "the ultimate in discretion". The ultimate in discretion? Is this not, girls, a dream come true? I mean, I'd have settled for "the first step in a distinctly discreet direction" but the ultimate? You spoil us, you Kotex people, you really do.

Anyway, the "unique design" turns out to be a pouch of cloth-like material that does not rustle or crackle or make any of the usual tell-tale sounds that indicate you might be doing something in the toilet that probably has nothing to do with eating Quality Street or making hand-made greeting cards with tissue-paper roses and cellophane bows.

The silent sanitary pad will, I imagine, prove particularly useful in public conveniences where, it goes without saying, you have no wish to broadcast your menstrual state to other users, all of whom will be women who also menstruate every month, have done so since they were 12 and will continue to do so until they are 50 or thereabouts. So... shhh!

Truly, if I didn't know that a certain Kimberly-Clark was in charge of Kotex, I would think that these pads must have been invented by a man. Men fear women and their periods a great deal, possibly even more than they fear misplacing the remote control or being put in sole charge of a small person called "your child".

Indeed, as my own partner said to me this very morning, after asking me who the small person eating Shreddies might be: "If you write about periods, no man will read beyond the first paragraph." This is a shame, as it happens, because this week I was intending to print Claudia Schiffer's home telephone number and give away lots and lots of shiny red sports cars, but, I ask you, just what would be the point now? And I suppose all the really, really big plasma televisions made of 100 per cent pure plasma will have to be returned, too.

I don't know why men find it all so awful, but they do. I suppose we were initially desensitised by our mothers, who, as we approached puberty, would say something comforting along the lines of: "Darling, something wonderful and beautiful is shortly going to happen to your body and it's nothing to be scared about and it's called the curse, ha, ha, ha!" But men can't deal with it at all. I once worked in an office where all my bosses were male and if I were to say, for example: "Look, I've just been diagnosed with terminal cancer and my leg has fallen off as well, can I go home this afternoon?" they would say: "No, sorry. Just can't spare you." But if I were to say: "I've got women's troubles..." the response would be: "Go. Go. Take the rest of the day off. Take the week off, the month, the year. On full pay. On extra pay. Take whatever it takes, but just do not, we beg you, go into any details. Shhh!"

I think it would be rather different if men menstruated, as they'd transform it into a boastful event, and would probably sit around all day discussing how big and how long. "I went for nine days with no let-up last month," one will say. "Nine days with no let up?," the other will say. "That's nothing. I once went for a full fortnight and it was so heavy I never got off the Ultra Super Duper Maxi's with the Boeing 747 wings." There would be no "shhh" about it. Their sanitary pads - Kotex Ultra Loud... Bang! - would go off like firecrackers.

Still, it's always good to have more choice, particularly as the sanitary pads on offer only include: Mini, Regular, Maxi, Everyday, Every Other Day, Incredibly Thin, Incredibly Fat, Super, Super Plus, Overnight, Teatime, Elevenses, Long, Super Long, Extra Super Long - which can also be tied between two trees for a most absorbent and attractive summertime hammock - and wings. Big wings, medium wings, little wings, all of which will somehow end up gluing themselves to your inner thigh, so giving you an inadvertent Brazilian when it comes to removal.

I think that if the rustle doesn't give you away, then the "ouch, ow, eek" certainly might. Also, if you opt for a winged one, try not to mistake it, when rummaging in the depths of your handbag, for your new funky flip phone, as you will end up with a pad stuck to the side of your head. It's an unfortunate look, by all accounts, not that it has ever happened to me. Or maybe it has. I couldn't possibly say... shhh!

(If you are male and happen to live with me and are not reading this, can I just say that the shirt with the pink checks makes you look like a right old pouf, and it was me who stepped on the remote and broke it, even though I said I didn't.)