Am emotional piece that's hard to shake -- I sat with this for quite a while. Below is a well written article by the always honest, Hugo Schwyzer. Schwyzer is a gender studies professor at Pasadena City College.
Posted on XO Jane.
On Digging Out My Wife's Tampon
by Hugo Schwyzer
“I need your help to get my tampon out.”
10 summers ago, my third wife and I went on a family genealogy trip
to Ireland. My father-in-law was one of those men whose life mission was
to fill in as many branches of the family tree as possible. He was
also generous, flush from a handsome payout from his recent retirement.
In the summer of 2002, he made his son, his daughter, and their spouses
an offer that couldn’t be refused: an all-expenses paid trip to the
Emerald Isle for a fortnight of eating, drinking, hiking and poking
When we boarded that flight to Dublin, “Elisabeth”* and I were just
14 months into our marriage. It was my third, but her first, and she was
already growing certain that she’d made a terrible mistake. We were
good friends, intellectually compatible and from similar backgrounds. We
looked good together; the kind of couple that elicits remarks like
“Seeing you two together gives me hope for true love” from single
friends. Our cordiality and ease together wasn’t an act. We liked each
Elisabeth and I had very little sexual chemistry. After making so
many impulsive choices based on lust when I was younger, I was ready to
settle for warmth over heat. Increasingly, as the marriage wore on,
Elisabeth wasn’t nearly so willing to settle. By the time we passed our
first anniversary, we were fighting daily, in that civil way that
involved a lot of anxious whispers and very little shouting. And by the
time we left for Ireland, we hadn’t had sex in more than a month.
Perhaps it was the return to the land of her ancestors that gave her
the courage to demand the divorce. On our third night in Ireland, in a
tiny room in a B&B in rural Wicklow, Elisabeth told me -- tearfully
but with resolve -- that she wanted out. I pleaded, keeping my cracking
voice low because my in-laws were on the other side of a paper-thin
wall. My wife stayed firm. We stayed up until dawn, talking and crying.
As the sun rose, I agreed to the divorce.
Because Elisabeth and I were both good WASPs (I’m half-Jewish, but my
demeanor comes from the Anglican side of the family), we decided to
pretend that nothing was wrong for the remaining 11 days of the family
trip. Though I later learned my mother-in-law suspected something was
amiss, we played the part of the still happily married couple (“We might
try for a baby next year!”) from Bantry to Ballycastle. When we were
alone in our hotel bedrooms at night, we watched TV or read, speaking as
little as possible and with exaggerated courtesy.
On our last night in Ireland, we stayed in Navan. After a last grand
family dinner, Elisabeth and I retreated to our room. She went to the
bathroom to shower. Half an hour went by while I waited impatiently on
the bed, leafing through a magazine, my bladder uncomfortably full. I
didn’t want to pee in front of Elisabeth anymore, and there were no
public restrooms in the B&B. Just as I was about to go outside to
whizz behind a tree, my wife came out of the bathroom. She was naked,
something she hadn’t been in front of me since we’d agreed to separate.
stuck. I’m sorry, but I think I need your help to get it out.”
Elisabeth’s face was red with embarrassment and frustration. “It’s never
happened before. I tried to change it before we left for dinner and I
couldn’t. I’ve been trying for half an hour but it’s wedged so high I
can’t get to it with my fingers. I can’t find the string. I don’t want
to leave it in overnight.”
Elisabeth and I may not have had much sexual heat together, but we’d
always had kindness and at least flashes of empathy. I thought of what
the last few minutes must have been like for her before she came out of
the bathroom, as the realization set in that she couldn’t get the tampon
out without my help. From her face, I guessed she’d tried absolutely
everything (including, she told me later, using her toothbrush handle)
to avoid having to ask for such intimate assistance from a man she was
determined to leave.
I told her yes, of course, I’d help. Awkwardly, I got up and began to
walk toward her. Without meeting my eyes, Elisabeth pointed to the
bathroom, telling me softly to cut my nails and wash my hands first.
When I came out, Elisabeth was lying on her back on the bed, an
unopened bottle of lubricant beside her. I’d packed it in the optimism
that the aphrodisiac of travel would rekindle our lukewarm sex life. But
it had never left the suitcase.
I opened the bottle, lubed up my fingers, and asked Elisabeth if she was ready.
“Yes,” she said, her voice resigned and certain. She drew her knees
up as if she were in stirrups. “It’s really up there. Go slow.”
I slid my fingers into her vagina, my heart pounding. Suddenly,
embarrassingly, I was erect -- more a conditioned physiological response
than evidence of real lust. I needn’t have worried that my
soon-to-be-ex-wife had noticed; Elisabeth was studying the ceiling,
trying to breathe deeply as I tentatively probed inside of her.
Somehow, the tampon had worked its way behind Elisabeth’s cervix and gotten itself wedged in there. I could feel it but couldn’t grasp it at first.
“I’m going to have to push a little harder,” I told her.
Her voice was tight and pleading. “Just get it out, Hugo. Be gentle but do what you need to do to get it out. If you can.”
I’m not sure how long it took, perhaps three interminable minutes as I
worked my fingers into places they’d never been when we were first in
love and playing at being passionate. At last, I found the string (which
had wound itself around the tampon), and pulled; it all slid out easily. Elisabeth gave a little grunt of deliverance: “Jesus.”
She jumped up from the bed, and we had a strange fumbling moment as she reached for the tampon
to go throw it away, and I didn’t let it go. I finally let her take it
from my fingers, we each whispered a quick and simultaneous, “sorry,”
and Elisabeth disappeared into the bathroom. I remembered suddenly how
badly I needed to piss, and I went outside to relieve myself behind the
parking lot. Strangely -- or maybe not -- my cock was still hard as a
rock, and I had to wait a painful while before my erection subsided
enough to let me urinate.
When I was finished, I stood staring at the Irish sky, feeling a
greater sadness and sense of imminent loss than I’d felt at any time on
the trip. I let the tears come.
When I came back to the room, Elisabeth was out of the shower, with
nothing on but the towel wrapped around her hair and a fresh tampon
string dangling between her legs. We looked at each other, and I knew
with absolute certainty that I was seeing her naked for the last time.
“Thank you for that,” she murmured.
“Of course,” I replied, biting back the “I love you” that rose instinctually in my throat.
Elisabeth smiled. “Well,” she said with the laugh she used when we both needed comforting, “we’ll always have Navan.”
*name changed. Duh.
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