6.14.2021 | Monday

that time I thought a tampon was a pen

category: Army Life, Blast from the Past
1 Comment

reading time: 4 minutes

If there is one thing I’m good at, it’s putting myself in embarrassing situations. It’s a gift. Or a curse.

This particular event took place in 1989, when I was a young girl of not quite 19. In the present time, I am just two months shy of 51. What you should take from this discussion of age is that, even now, some 32 years later… I’m still shook. Triggered. Humiliated. Flushed with embarrassment.

I’m also willing to open myself up to ridicule, so let me share my tale.

Let me set the stage… it was the summer of 1989. Right about now, in fact. I was a young US Army Reserve (I was later active duty) soldier at AIT (Advanced Individual Training, aka job training) at Fort Jackson, SC. My fellow classmates and I were in the classroom one day, and the instructor had directed me to help another soldier who was having issues with whatever it was we were doing at the time, which I’ve long since forgotten. It’s not germaine to the story of my humiliation.

The soldier I was helping… I don’t remember her name. I’m pretty sure my mind activated a coping mechanism by blocking most of my memory of her because of her advanced level of bitchery. Let’s just call her Private Bitchy Mean Girl, Private BMG. What I do remember was that she was… well… completely uninterested in learning whatever it was. She was far more interested in openly ogling the cute boys. I mean, girl, yes. There were some pretty boys in our class. But time and place, soldier. Time and place. Plus Private BMG was a straight-up bitch about, well, everything. Which was super fun for me.

And she was full-on aggressively resisting the learning, literally. To the point of shoving the books and notebooks off the table more than once. Also super fun. Twatwaffle. In reality, the only reason she was having issues was because she just didn’t do shit. As I said, zero interest in actually putting in a single moment of effort. She’d rather I cheat for her. And I sure as hell wasn’t down with that. Even if I had been, it would have been impossible, due to the way the block of instruction was structured.

All of this is important because it lends itself to my state of mind.

I was one frustrated bitch. Exasperated. Annoyed. OVER IT.

I was mid-passive/agressive argument with the twatwaffle, after having picked up my stuff off the floor for at least the third time. The guy sitting in front of me, one of the aforementioned pretty boys (a young Rob Lowe, for reals) turned around and asked me for a pen. My state of mind being what it was, I was exasperated at the interruption as it gave Private BMG a chance to slip out of my control, even if only for a second. So in an effort to keep the bitch on track, I reached into my cargo pocket and pulled out a pen without looking, slapping it into his hand with no effort to hid my annoyance.

Okay, so I gave away the climax of the event already. But still… there’s more.

I promptly forgot about Private Hottie Pants and went back to Private BMG. Until I heard the following words.

“Um, thanks. But I don’t think this is going to help me much.”

I looked up, still annoyed, and saw a neatly wrapped, regular-sized tampon resting in the palm of his hand.

I died.

I’m convinced that time stopped in that moment, if only for the universe to really get one in on me, lengthening the humiliation for as long as possible. I’m equally convinced that my face burned, literally bursting into a conflagration of epic proportions.

I’d just handed the cutuest soldier in class a fucking tampon, outing myself on a fairly personal subject. Awesome.

So what did I do?

Made it worse, of course. I snatched that fucker out of his hand, tried to shove it back in my pocket. And failed. Instead, I tore the wrapper, and the whole damn thing popped out and fell on the floor. Fantastic. I reached down to snatch it off the floor… lunged too hard… and fell on the floor. And Private Hottie Pants stood up, helped me up, gathered the fucking offending object, and handed it to me. In return, I mumbled syllables. Not words. I shoved the whole mess in my pocket and retrieved the fucking pen.

I gave it to him and sat down, praying fervently for some type of worm hole so I could go anywhere but there.

But the best part of the story?

I married Private Hottie Pants and we lived happily ever else.

Totally kidding. About that last part, at least. I don’t even remember Private Hottie Pants’ name, and I haven’t seen him since July of 1989 at our graduation.


I saw one of my classmates YEARS later when I was stationed at Fort Lee, Virginia. It was 2001, years after AIT. I was active duty by then, and he was a warrant officer in the Reserves in Puerto Rico, in Virginia for training. He recognized me instantly. And during the course of reminiscing, he told me that story. So cool. So glad it stuck with others.

And he was another one of the pretty boys, too. One I actually had dated during school. So awesome.

And that is the tale of the time I thought a tampon was a pen.

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