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Extra Padding
Grey Jones (she/they/he)
|
7.21.2021

I’m not the only one who believes carrying around pads is absolutely obnoxious, right?! Right. I’ve spent my whole life looking for ways to cleverly take along those neatly wrapped squares. After pads falling out the sleeve of my coat, revealing themselves in the lining of my bras, and embarrassingly unwrapping it’s loud plastic wrapper in a quiet restroom stall… I truly thought I’d seen it all. You eventually have to run out of ways to feel totally exposed. But friends I happened to discover a new level, a top tier level, a - this should be a SNL sketch level moment that actually freed me of all concern around anyone knowing or noticing that I had a pad on me and dare i say it... my period. I mean a pad is not some sort of secret weapon and thanks to TSA I now don’t treat it like it is one.

Catching a red eye from California to North Carolina as a kid was always such fun for me. I loved planes and aviation embodies everything I am as a person. That doesn't really matter but the point is I love flying and have never had any issue with airports or it’s security - until now.

This was going to be a long stay away from LA and my mom made sure that we had everything we needed. We had bags full of clothes and shoes, snacks stored in our carry-on, and of course our period care items of choice. Now, I was a kid who found very great comfort in fashion and at this time in my life I loved hats; wide brimmed hats that a mobster might wear to a wedding. I had placed those hats in my suitcase taking up a lot more room than I had intended them to. Somehow I was able to fit most of my clothes and shoes in my suitcase with these hats, but my pads were still sitting in the Target bag.

There was no way in hell I was walking through the airport with a pack of pads visibly showing. I was exploring my masculinity and focusing on embodying and embracing that side of myself through my presentation. I didn’t carry a purse, I didn’t own any dresses, I was one step away from being Mr. Universe in my mind. I had to now figure out a way to bring the items that brought my body joy and the items that aid my body's natural processes. I tried to rearrange everything to no avail when all of the sudden it dawned on me that I was bringing my guitar with me on the plane as a carry-on item and that guitar was carried in a guitar case! My guitar didn’t take up all the room in the case sooooo it just made sense.

I quickly put this genius idea into action and stuffed each pad strategically around the guitar like extra padding, some were also in the guitar: which was now essentially a big pack of pads. By the time I was done my guitar case was swelling but it zipped shut which is all that mattered to me. It looked just like a regular guitar inside a guitar case. I had achieved the impossible and to add a cherry on top, I decided that my bras and underwear could also be stuffed in the narrow corners left unfilled. How did I feel? Like a goddamn genius, I really did but that only lasted about 24 hours, does it even count?

It’s now morning and it’s time for us to catch our flight. I’m sleepy but I’m also excited. My grandparents always spoiled us and we’d get to see our cousins and do really silly southern things like eat grits and gawk at deer in our backyard. As soon as my mom checked us in we started heading to TSA. I was already dreading the fact that I’d have to take off my shoes and yet little did I know that today was my day to go toe to toe with TSA.

I went through the metal detector and nothing beeped, I was clean. I waited for them to lift my guitar and place it on the X-Ray belt. It took them a few tries to get it to fit but they finally did and as they had struggled it hit me that they’d be able to see everything that was in my guitar case. My face felt hot and red, I had to turn away and pretend to be preoccupied with tying back up my converse. All of the sudden alarms go off and they stop everything. I remember thinking that maybe just maybe they were not setting off an alarm for this random guitar case but of course they were.

I’m then asked by a woman to step to the side and spread my arms and legs so she can pat me down. Pat me down? I couldn’t figure out what I had even done. I saw behind her a few people had come to drag out my guitar case from the X-Ray machine, they put on gloves and began to unzip the very tightly tucked guitar case. After my pat down they brought me over to the case and asked me what was inside because their system detects something they can’t identify unless they open the case. I whispered, mumbled, barely breathed an audible word out that I had pads in the bag along with my guitar. Frustrated with my lack of volume one TSA man decided to fight his way into the tightly packed bag and opened it fully only to reveal and spill out my pads, my bras, my underwear, and almost my damn guitar!

At this point my mother had intervened and helped me recover slightly from the embarrassment. Now all these LAX fliers knew what was in my guitar case. I didn’t know how to act or what to feel, I just stopped looking up at the people passing by. Everyone was giggling under their breath and felt awful for making such a big deal out of such an innocent act and they each helped me pack up the case again. As I dragged my guitar case away from the scene of the crime I felt myself slowly shifting from wanting to die to wanting to laugh my ass off. No longer embarrassed but instead extremely amused. I think everyone not really caring too much afterwards helped me not care as much.

I guess I’d always had so much hurt and pain around my periods that I never found it funny or something that wasn’t super serious. Even Though the TSA workers did inform me that improper packing of carry-on luggage can always be searched and to next time disclose what items may seem suspiciously placed. My mom told me that I had made those workers' day by being and in a way they changed my approach to how I lived, I didn’t have to hide the tools that help me, I didn’t have to hold it so close to my heart like a secret, what was I hiding for in the first place?

All that shame could've gotten me in even more trouble than I had gotten in. When I flew back home to California I did the same guitar trick but this time on purpose. Before they put my guitar on the belt I told them that there were pads inside and myself and the TSA people chuckled, they scanned my guitar, and I went home. I still do this to this very day anytime I’m traveling with my guitar I make sure to add a little levity in the lining of the case!

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