I had my period for the first time during the summer vacation after finishing 6th grade. It happened relatively late compared to other girls my age. So, I’d been listening to scary stories about girls having their periods for the first time for quite some time before I got my own period.
Girls were telling me about how scared they were not to have their periods in the most inappropriate place or moment and stories about when it had happened. Hearing their stories always felt like they were trying to hide something that everybody knows exists but pretends it doesn’t. Then I started asking myself why should we be ashamed of being women? Fifteen years later, I keep asking the same question.
When I saw blood on my underwear that summer morning, I felt relieved and a little excited. It was like a new beginning, like I’m finally officially a woman who could join her friends’ conversations about what type of sanitary pads are the best or tell funny stories about how one time… girl, you know the rest. But becoming a woman officially also came along with involuntary membership at the secret not-so-secret I-bleed-but-I-don’t-die club.
And here comes the shameful moment – whispering with your lowest voice ever, praying not to be heard by any man who happens to be around, “Hey, does anyone have, like, a tampon or something?” At this very moment, it’s not only our pants that are red, our face is red too.
Most of us are literally praying not to have our menstruation when we least expect it. One of our worst nightmares is to have it unexpectedly when we are wearing our favorite white dress and we don’t have tampons in our bag or drawer at the office.
My biggest frustration about this situation is how we’re whispering because God forbid someone, probably a man, finds out we are bleeding and calls the ambulance.
The sublime moment of when one woman saves the life of another woman in distress, “I’ve got you, girl, here’s a tampon to save your life. Calm down everyone, there’s no need to call the ambulance!”
Of course, the reality is different. The passing of a tampon from one woman to another happens with the discretion of an experienced street drug dealer – no one noticed how the small package appeared in the other person’s hand.
To me, all this has always been ridiculous and unnecessary. Why should we feel like suspects of a crime we haven’t done? And we already know the whole blood situation is unpleasant. We are the ones experiencing it. Hiding it like it’s a sin might help man imagine that this doesn’t happen at all, but it happens, and it’s a bloody CODE RED situation!
As Michelle Wolf says in one of her Netflix specials, “Women know that periods are gross. We get it. There’s never a time we wake up, and we are like, “Oh I am so excited to clean up a crime scene.”
Not talking about the red thing doesn’t make it less gross. In fact, it is even more gross than you can imagine. We just spare you the details because we want you to think that women are these perfect creatures, unicorns, or fairies and nothing gross comes out of them.
And when you ask what that stain on my pink pyjamas is, I’ll tell you that I accidentally dropped my strawberry jam toast on it. I don’t want to ruin your perfect illusion of me being perfect.
Society has done a great deal to condition us to hide our menstruation from the world at any price:
- Don’t mention the word menstruation out loud!
- Don’t talk about it especially in front of men!
- Don’t dare to leave bloodstains anywhere even if it’s an accident and even if it is in your own house!
- Don’t ask men to go buy you tampons!
- Make women feel guilty for not being able to control their menstrual cycle!
The list can go on, but it’s pointless because even the people who care don’t talk about it.
Like it’s not enough that we have to bear the excruciating pain, the mood swings, the extensive amount of chocolate we eat for a few days each month. But society expects us to smile and pretend like we are totally fine, even though we feel like someone is stabbing our vagina with a knife!
When I was still in high school, living at my parents’, I remember feeling ok to tell my dad I needed someone to go buy me tampons. I don’t know how he felt about this back then. But it wasn’t about how he felt. It was about me being ok to talk about my period freely.
I think the root of this ridiculous problem is our sensitivity about how men feel when we are mentioning our periods. It’s like women want to protect men from finding out the ugly truth about our imperfections. We don’t want to cause them any distress because they can’t handle a little blood. Respect to all men who are not afraid to sail the Red Sea.
We should normalize the menstruation talk, make it ok to say to others you just got your period out loud. I’m not saying to scream it from the top of your lungs, nobody needs that. I just want it to be a trivial part of our conversations like discussing the weather or what we are going to eat for dinner.
I know I want too much, but I’ll keep mentioning women’s menstruation in conversations without feeling guilty! I’ll keep asking my friends to lend me a tampon using my normal voice and not whispering. I’ll keep telling my father, brother, or boyfriend that I’m bleeding right now, and it fucking hurts!