Ripe That Smile Off Your Face

A holiday to Turkey in my early twenties changed me. Before getting on that flight with my friend, Jenny, I lived like a ghost, except I wasn’t a ghost. That holiday breathed life into me. There are many, many things that transpired in Turkey to contribute to this personality overhaul from a serious, bookish girl who did not know how to have fun to the much looser (not vaginally – well, maybe vaginally too) person I am today. Those are stories I will treat you to with relish in due course. However, I feel the post-Turkey aftermath is structurally a good place to turn to following the distressing memoir you’ve just read.
So as I said, Turkey left me feeling self-assured, confident and care-free. I was high voltage; I felt supersonic. I had suddenly realised I was masking myself with shades of grey to make other people feel less shit about themselves and it was finally time to remove the dour act and let the inner peacock ruffle his tail feathers. You know in those Vampire films when they finally succumb to the blood lust and it totally consumes their being for a time? That was me in my mid-twenties discovering that life wasn’t all about work and OCD and doing what made my imposing family happy. I ditched the 10mgs of Citalopram and I was totally ready to hit the fairground of life hard.
On our return to UK soil Jenny kept harping on and on about this gym she had joined. She said the trainer, Tom, was so hot you needed to wear sunglasses lest his beauty melt your cornea and, even better than that (according to her – I never saw evidence of this) he was also a genuinely decent guy who cared about body confidence. Pre-Turkey you would not have seen me in a gym – I’d have needed to research the etiquette, the machinery, the hygiene regimen. But now, in my newfound zeal, I reasoned ‘why not?’ I was young and everything looked better with a tan so what was the harm in making that further step toward self-improvement?
Surprisingly, I quite enjoyed the gym. I say ‘surprisingly’ because I loathe, detest and abhor anything like physical exertions so I had cemented my heart against working out in the long-gone days of Cross Country. However, here I now was, bronzed Goddess thinking I was something out of Mean Girls waltzing between the machinery like a Lycra wearing Head Cheerleader, Jenny working her curves at my side. We were sick – super sick.
The idea behind this gym was that it should feel more like having a personal trainer for a small group work-out. It was essentially a circuit training set up so exercisers worked round from one torturous machine to another while the baby blues of Tom luxuriated over us. Obviously, I was mainly there to show off my tan and my petite body so I put in minimal effort but the others really gave it some elbow grease. There was one guy perpetually present who stood under a fanlight window during a session and his head would quite literally steam into the sky above like smog from a boiling saucepan. I applauded his dedication, of course, but I never wanted to follow him round the circuits because his sweat splattered in great splodges over the equipment and floor; I hadn’t signed up to get my hands dirty.
Tom loved boxing, so the punch bags were a major part of any gym class. For that part of the circuit, we were instructed to wear boxing gloves. I purchased my own pair of gloves because the notion of putting my bleach-washed hands into spare gloves harbouring the body juices of Lord knows how many other gym-goers was barbaric. I would pose at the bags, knowing my upper body was next-to non-existent, and pretend I was pummelling with all my might when really I was just tapping them lightly enough to make my bum jiggle. I was convinced Tom would be transfixed as he watched me working it like a lava lamp on MDMA.
To provide you with an adequate mental image of THAT terrible, terrible day (that’s not hyperbole) I should now describe to you the circumstances in which Number Two of the most humiliating moments of my life occurred:
The gym was a relatively small, long room with black, rubber flooring. On entry, scaffolding towered intimidatingly above you, four punch bags suspended dominantly from the corners of the construction. Further into the room were rowing machines and a rope-pulley where the exerciser basically attempted to ‘climb-the-rigging’ while seated – I was absolute dog shit at this machine because you couldn’t pretend to be working harder than you were – there was a traitorous snitch of a little dial stating your efforts and outputs. Battle ropes extended like constrictors down the midsection of the entire room, halving it perfectly. At the back was an exercise bike and two power plates which you squatted on or did press ups over while it vibrated you into oblivion. The wall by the entrance was mirrored so you could watch yourself with mortification as you progressed around the circuit, cheeks transcending from pink to purple with worrying speed.
That day was hot – heatwave hot. To make the idea of a gym session even less palatable, at work earlier that day I’d had the misfortune of unexpectedly coming on my period. I have a heavy-flow at the best of times and this particular period was Mother Nature’s way of putting me back in my box. I’d grown too bold, too arrogant. My ego had to take a hit. She hit me in the womb and, by Jove, I paid the price.
By the time I got to the gym to meet Jenny that evening I was sweating pellets thanks to the heatwave and the period and I had bled through my last ‘just in case’ tampon. Unperturbed, I changed into my teeny-tiny gym shorts and rummaged around in my bag for that one spare tampon girls always have laying forgotten, covered in a myriad of fluff, pencil shavings (for some unknown reason as I hadn’t sharpened a pencil since Year 4) and other unspeakable Pseudomonas in the graveyard of their handbag.
No tampon…but there was an ancient sanitary towel. How long had it been in there? Who knew! But it was my lifeline. I unpeeled the dilapidated turquoise plastic blanket it was cocooned within and pulled down my shorts and pants – only to remember that I was wearing a thong that day! Still, I was a strong, independent woman and I could be resourceful here. I stuck as much of the unwinged sanitary towel as I could to the scant material available and fleetingly noted that it wasn’t all that sticky, especially when gluing it to the crusty brownish-red stains on the undercarriage of the pants that had so surprised me at work earlier. I folded the flaps of the towel that overhung my knickers in on themselves, creating a thong-shaped liner and hoiked those pants so far between my bum cheeks my sphincter felt like it was having a cotton hug. Mission complete, I picked up my boxing gloves and swaggered into the gym, resplendent in my ingenious creativity.
Some way through the work out the small room had begun to feel like a sauna as we perspired and sweltered through the session. The mirror had completely steamed up and condensation ran down the walls. Luckily, my tan was on point so I reassured myself that my rosy cheeks and moist glean were still attractive. Tom instructed me to move to the punch bags. I took a swig of water, secured my boxing gloves with their Velcro strapping and made my way over to the bag dangling closest to the door.
I began punching the bag with a renewed energy, focusing on the same spot to plant my frail thumps with rapidity and agility. When, all of a sudden…
That is the exact, onomatopoeic sound of it. It cut through the house music and the clouting of the bags and the grunting of the other workers to assault my ears. I knew what had made that noise but I couldn’t bear the thought -nay, the horror – of looking down to visually capture what now lay between my legs. I was statuesque. A million thoughts raced across the Serengeti of my traumatised mind.
Painfully slowly I lowered my head. Eyes travelled down the Everlast punch bag, declining further to the dark floor. There it was, languishing there like a rolled out white sock exposing me for the arrogant fool that I had been. The sanitary towel, sunny side down. The weight of the womb-lining sponged within it had caused it to spin and flip over in the air as it bungeed to the rubber mat below. I could see the fibres of my knickers in a tell-tale V shape running through the middle, the bottom sides beginning to arch themselves inwards towards each other in a lovers embrace, muscle memory from the time they had spent swaddled between my glutes.
Sweet Jesus. Did anyone see that? I didn’t think so…it felt like it had been hours since the sanitary towel and I had been locked in a death stare. No one had come over; no one had stopped what they were doing to gawp. I was now morbidly aware of a delightful breeze cooling my throbbing lips (the period throb, not the sexy throb), a breeze that had been allowed forth when the sanitary towel had unstuck itself from my vulva and made a bid for freedom. And now my haemorrhaging vagina was protected by the thinnest layer of material and nothing else.
Instinct began to take over. I had to get out of there. Now! I had about 30 seconds, maximum, before the circuits moved again and Trisha from Staines came over to expose me for the bleeding wreck I was. I had no time… I was wearing boxing gloves; biting off the Velcro locks ensnaring my hands would take too long. But my hands inside the gloves were positioned like an arthritic old lady’s so there was no way I could grip the towel. There was only one option open to me.
I drew my arm back and punched that sanitary towel so hard I felt Hulk-like in my adrenaline-induced strength. I swiped the glove across the floor, ensuring the remaining gum on the underside of the liner had affixed itself to my right boxing glove. And then I ran.
I left my drink, my work clothes…everything. In my haste, brandishing the bloodied sanitary towel bonded with my boxing glove ahead of me, I didn’t have time for such frivolities as collecting all my worldly goods or checking for visible blood smears on the floor. I disposed immediately of the liner and the gloves in a waiting dustbin outside. Retrieving my car keys from the wheel of my waiting steed, I turned the key in the ignition and I vamoosed home.
After cleaning leaked blood off my car seat I text Jenny to find out if anyone had seen the depths of my humiliation. She confirmed they had not, but she had told Tom I had shit myself and had to leave because poo was running down my leg. Not sure that was any better, to be honest. I never returned to the gym.
Moral of the story – no matter how ballsy a holiday makes you, don’t think balling up a sanitary towel and hoping the strength of your arse cheeks will keep it in position is EVER a good idea.

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