Before leaving for Brazil with BSU At The Games, I just couldn’t shake the bad feeling in the pit of my stomach: I would be the only male member for the culture class.
Some friends joked that the ratio of women to, well, me, increased my chances a hundredfold, but I know enough about both math and women to understand that 0 percent times 100 is still not a chance in hell.
Despite my fears, I’ve found a place in the group. I also earned some respect (or at least pity!) after the bouncer at the club found a tampon in my pocket.
To celebrate our first week in Brazil, our hosts — they hate it when we call them guides — Victor and Rebecca got us on the VIP list at a club.
We were advised to leave purses, coats and hats at the hostel because there was a charge to store them in the coat room.
This wasn’t a problem until the girls made me their de facto purse, as my pants had pockets and their dresses didn’t. One of them even asked me to stash a tampon.
I didn’t mind carrying it. As long as it stayed hidden nobody would even notice. So I tucked the tampon into my back pocket, climbed into the Uber and left the hostel.
After sitting quietly in the car while the three women I was with were discussing their hopes of making out with some hot Brazilian dudes, we finally pulled up to the club and met up with the rest of the group. The joke was on them: The event turned out to be a drag show with a LGBTQ-heavy crowd.
Regardless, I needed to heal my bruised ego. I wasted no time leaving my soon-to-be-heartbroken group to join Victor at the back of the line.
Inside, there was a security check that included a full pat-down. The steely-eyed male bouncer found two suspicious bumps in my pants and said something I didn’t understand because the only thing I know how to say in Portuguese is não tenho namorada (I don’t have a girlfriend).
His gestures, however, made it clear that I needed to empty my pockets.
I pulled one girl’s inhaler out of my front pocket, and the bouncer nodded, and I put it back. Just as I thought he was going to let me go, he reached around and touched the slender, cylindrical object in my back pocket—the tampon.
Confusion spread across his face as he took it from my hands.
At first I thought he was wondering why a 6-foot-3-inch, 275-pound man had a tampon, so I tried to explain.
“For friend, for friend!” I blurted out in English before switching to Spanish in hopes that it would be close enough to Portuguese for him to understand. “¡Para amiga! ¡Para amiga!”
It wasn’t until he rolled the tampon in his fingers and sniffed it that I realized that he had no clue what he was holding.
For a split-second, I reveled in the fact that there was at least one man on earth that knew less about women than I, but then I realized I had no way to explain the situation. He didn’t speak English, and I didn’t speak Portuguese.
My eyes scanned the room for either Victor or the women I deserted earlier. I spotted Victor, but he had his back turned.
I looked back at the bouncer, watching him hand the tampon to his female counterpart.
“Well, this is embarrassing,” I thought to myself. But she didn’t know what it was either.
It was later explained to me that Brazilians don’t use large American-style tampons because somehow it affects their virginity. Instead, they use either pads or smaller tampons.
I’m not entirely sure what that meant, and I didn’t ask for clarification.
Finally, Victor turned around to look for me. He asked the guards what was going on in their native tongue and broke out what seemed like the biggest belly laugh ever let loose south of the Equator.
The female bouncer started cracking up when Victor explained the situation. Her counterpart, however, turned into a 5-year-old that had just discovered cooties. He forced the tampon into my hand with a disgusted look and waved me through. He probably realized that he had sniffed a tampon minutes earlier.
As Victor and I head into the club, he explained that they didn’t know what it was. All they knew was that I was carrying a wrapped, cylindrical object that I didn’t want to explain. Naturally, they inferred it was weed. I couldn’t help but laugh at the thought of smoking a tampon as we caught up with the girls.
While I hope that’s the last time I ever have to stuff feminine products in my pocket, at least I can take solace in the fact that I have a somewhat-legitimate reason to deny similar requests in the future.
More importantly, it wouldn’t be long until I was let off the hook. The rest of the guys finally arrived for Games class, so I’m no longer alone in my male ignorance.