by Jane Doe
Finding out about Mary using rags instead of Kotex set me off on a new tangent of research. Now I really needed Jane-Friend. She would have debated with me the relative merits of the savings by using rags against the wastefulness of all that cotton that American women let slip through their legs each month.
Was the convenience of the waste better than a horrid, putrid bucket in the bathroom? Perhaps Jane would be disappointed in me when the bucket became my stumbling block on the way to conservation. At least with Jane I could have expressed my doubts and stopped see-sawing back and forth. I'd have to decide this question before my period
I wondered what poor women used. Surely there were people who couldn't afford the 39 cents a month for all that sanitary whiteness. I wished someone would do a survey on "What Women Use" instead of only asking them about who they were voting for governor. To me this was a lot more vital information.
Thinking about people in other countries, I wondered what they used. My mind got a little boggled when I thought of the millions of women the whole world over all bleeding, all needing something to catch it in. Were there Kotex in Tibet? Women living in the Sahara desert did they have the buckets of water to spare for their rags? How do they manage?
In running my mind around the world asking these questions, I ended up back in Indiana with the Indians. They didn't weave. They had no rags. What did they use? I wracked my brain for soft, natural materials available to them. Feathers? Sounded like a ticklish situation. Old cattails from the swamp? They were only soft in the late summer and fall. Did an Indian woman have to gather a year's supply and stack them in the back of the tepee? How would that feel to put a cattail between your legs? Like it did in the garage when we used sticks and candles?
Oh, I missed Jane. She would have figured something out. I wanted to write to her, but such words don't fit into envelopes.
Why didn't books about Indians tell us about such things? Another question. In stories no one ever goes to the bathroom. Indians on the trail had no toilet paper, what did they use? Leaves? And people in the desert where there were no leaves? Sand? And no water to wash your hands afterwards? How did they manage? Why didn't the books tell us information like this?
Perhaps there were books that did tell all this and it was just that I was too young yet to read them. I decided to start my own research. I took some empty pages from the loose leaf school notebook, tied them together with red yarn. Across the top of the first page I printed the title, "The Role of Toilet Paper in American History." My goal was to enter here each reference to what the various peoples of our great country used after relieving themselves and record in which book I found the information and a list of authors that concerned themselves with this subject.
I read every printed page that crossed my path. I read some unbelievable daydreams about sex but nothing about bathrooms toilet paper or sanitary napkins. I wondered whose fault it was that this great gap in our recorded history was allowed to exist. Was all this knowledge already lost to us? Not even in archaeological finds was evidence of this aspect of prior humanness ?
Should I give up wanting to be a missionary to take up archaeology to solve all these questions? It would be a lifetime commitment for Jane and me. How different would have been the world if I hadn't moved so far away from her?
Copyright © the Estate of Jane Doe 2010