Admittedly, I'm not a vodka drinker. I drink gin in the warmer months, Scotch in winter. I'm particular about the glass my drink is served in. The right "vehicle" seems as important to the taste and pleasure of the drink as the right amount of ice or mixer. Which is why it never occurred to me until now to serve my drink in a tampon.
Yet reportedly vodka-in-a-tampon is the new rage among under-age drinkers. Just Google it -- everybody agrees the trend is huge. Here's our own HuffPost suggesting the practice is a full-blown trend amongst teenagers. Boys can apparently achieve the same effect by something called "butt chugging."
Soaking a tampon in vodka and then... re-inserting it somehow... is supposed to produce the "ultimate body shot" -- a fast, intense buzz (the alcohol is allegedly absorbed more quickly than by mouth), with no tell-tale alcohol breath for mom or the police to detect.
I first heard about this trend a couple of years ago from another mother: She said her teenage daughter had heard about it from one of her friends, who'd heard that another girl they kinda knew had done it, and OMG how gross was that?
I was repulsed but credulous. After all, you have to credit teenagers with this: They are Nobel-level geniuses when it comes to figuring out stupid things to do, especially stupid things involving booze.
After our HuffPost report last week, I asked my 18-year-old son whether he had ever heard of anyone doing the tampon trick. We were driving to school at the time, and he answered with his usual early morning vocabulary of monosyllables punctuated by grunts: "Uh uh. No. Wait. [Cousin] told me bout it. Once. Some girl. At his school. Maybe. Dunno."
Now I was getting suspicious. This had urban legend written all over it. I mean, just think of the sheer logistics of it (Gentlemen, you may want to skip down a paragraph): When you soak the tampon, it enlarges (duh). How then do you reverse engineer it back into its applicator to "toss it back," so to speak? And without the help of the applicator, wouldn't it be like trying to shove an unfurled umbrella back into its cover? Ok, so maybe you don't remove the tampon, but soak it in its applicator: Just stick it in a martini glass like a swizzle stick. Classy! Still, how does it absorb the alcohol if it can't expand?
Then there is the question, of course, of what size of tampon to use. Let's say you somehow overcome the insertion issue (Sorry, gentlemen. Skip down one more). How much vodka will you need to feel drunk? I'm guessing a "regular" tampon would equal one shot, a "super" would be a double, and "super plus" -- fasten your seat belts!
The more I Google searched, however, the more I couldn't find a single article verifying that the "vodka-soaked tampon" actually worked. Grimly, I realized there was only one way to settle the mystery. I couldn't assign it to someone else (just imagine trying to pitch that to a writer!). In the interests of science and parents everywhere, I decided that I would have to test the rumour myself.
Thus at the next cocktail hour, I reached for the bottle of Poland's finest in my freezer. (Of course I keep vodka in the freezer. As Jack Donaghy would say, "What am I, a farmer?") Staring at the frosty bottle, however, caused flashbacks to Unpleasant Speculums I Have Known. Instead, I rooted around in a kitchen cupboard for some cheap (but warm) vodka left over from a party. There it was, in a jug. Not even my kids would sneak sips of this stuff. And I didn't think that that particular area of my body would be especially fussy about brands.
I lined up three martini glasses: my beakers, if you will. In the first I placed a regular tampon still in its plastic applicator. In the next, I put a super tampon in a cardboard applicator (on the principle a cardboard applicator might absorb more than the plastic one). And in the third, I went for the "super plus," out of its applicator. To allow for the probability that my alcohol tolerance exceeds that of the typical teenager's, I established a control experiment: at an interval after the tampon experiment, I would toss back the same amount of vodka the traditional way.
Carefully, I poured one ounce of vodka into each glass. Here were the results:
I. Regular tampon in plastic applicator
Notes: At first glance, this looked like a cocktail you might be served at your gynecologist's Christmas party. No need for a garnish. My concerns about the plastic applicator, however, proved well-founded. It drank up a little, maybe half an ounce, before it could hold no more. Not even a 13-year-old would get tipsy from that. I moved on to the next beaker.
II. Super tampon in cardboard applicator
Notes: At first I was concerned the applicator might unfurl or dissolve, but this did not happen. The tampon slurped up the vodka a little faster than the one in the plastic applicator, but then seemed to pause at exactly the same point -- at half an ounce or so, before giving up. It looked slightly more engorged at the tip, like it was about to be sick. I tried stirring it around to see if it would seep up a more that way, but it didn't. Clearly, this tampon was not going to be able to hold its vodka either.
III. Super-plus tampon, no applicator
Notes: Poured it a double, on the assumption it could hold more than the others. Dropped it in the martini beaker like a bleached tea bag. It immediately tossed back one ounce... an ounce and a half maybe... swelling quickly with pride. Then it stopped. Wait, a super plus couldn't handle a double?? I swished it around, trying to mop up some more, but it was finished.
Conclusion on methodology: My experiment showed me that the soppy, unfurled tampon was the only way to go.
First I had to wring the damn thing out a little. I didn't want to lose too much of the vodka so I kind of shook it above the glass and gently squeezed it. I would estimate that about a half-ounce was lost. Then I looked at it a little despairingly. Well, friend, how were we going to do this?
I repaired to the bathroom and -- without too much information here -- managed to wad the thing up and push it in where it was supposed to go. (Did it help that I've had three kids? Possibly.) Girls, don't do this in your best party dresses: I think I lost another half-ounce in the process as it splattered on to my clothes and the floor. No need to say "Bottoms up!"
Oh sweet mother of Jeez----
Absolut... firewater!!!!!!! Holy sheeeeeeeee...
It felt like someone had thrown a lit match in there. I began hopping around and breathing in the rapid, short puffs I'd learned in birth classes, so long ago, before I realized I didn't need to breathe like that if I took the epidural.
I could really use a frikkin epidural right now.
The burning didn't let up. How long was I supposed to leave it there?!
I waited. And waited. If this was supposed to get me in the mood, it wasn't working. It did get me lying down though, because both standing and sitting proved to be excruciating.
Gradually I felt... what? A small buzz? Certainly a definite, if slight, lightheadedness. Maybe it was the onset of toxic shock syndrome. Or intoxicated shock syndrome...?
I gave it a full 10 minutes before I raced back to the bathroom and dispensed with the test unit. Immediately I felt better. Part of me did anyway.
Testing against the control sample
The next day I poured myself a shot of the good stuff from the freezer and tossed it back the traditional way. I wanted to see if my "tipsy" levels would correspond with the soaked-tampon results.
The first thing I discovered -- or rediscovered -- was how much I dislike straight vodka. Seriously, it tastes like something you should use to sterilize an open wound.
But then, after a second, came the burn. The familiar, pleasant burn. It lit up the insides of my chest and spread through my limbs. It felt warm. After a few more seconds, I grew convivial. Witty, even. Life was GOOD.
First, anyone who tries to get drunk off a tampon deserves the punishment; it's like coughing and throwing up after trying a cigarette. That'll teach you for smoking!
Second, if there is any smidgen of effect, it's notional, and probably only psychological. Overall, vodka-in-a-tampon seems a very inefficient, not to mention unpleasant, way to get drunk. I suppose the positive is that there is no danger of a second round. And I can't even imagine trying to do this at a party. You'd be walking around all night looking like you'd wet your pants, with a pleading expression on your face that said: Does anyone have a fire hose?
In fact, maybe this is the way to kill this urban legend once and for all: Parents, I encourage you to urge your teenage girls to experiment with vodka tampons. Hey Lisa, this is how the hip kids do it! Really, I'm cool, it's fine. We won't tell your dad. We used to do it in my friend's backyard in the '80s. Crazy times. Go on, try it. I'll even give you one of mine. I rolled it myself...
Then sit back and laugh.
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