Last week Mia* in my Class 7 asked me if I’m living in Germany. For how long? Where? Why? She then asked if I’m living in Germany “ 636 more words
When it comes to menstruation, I know a lot of girls who’ve had it worse than me but I’ve also had seemingly more than my fair share of periods from hell. I didn’t even realise that not everyone got a stinging numbness in their legs that made it hard to walk. It was only by talking about it that I even knew there was something kind of wrong. Armed with a set of painkillers and the words ‘engorged blood vessels’ and ‘perfectly normal for some women’ I continued on.
But as women we are taught to keep this stuff to ourselves, well at least to our gender. I remember the faces of my male comrades draining of all colour when as eleven year olds they discovered what us girls already knew, about the physical trials and tribulations a female’s body goes through as part of the reproductive cycle. They looked almost as terrified as us girls had a year before when we were told. But unlike us girls who had to knuckle down and get over it, the guys didn’t have to – they were disgusted and didn’t have to get over that. Just more proof that girls were as icky and different as they thought.
I spent a lot of my teenage years, refusing to feel ashamed. I was a nerd, I had spots, I was hairy, I sometimes let myself be hairy, I was a virgin, but none of these were things I felt I should be ashamed of – these were just aspects of myself that I either had little control over or frankly quite liked.
And so for the next ten years, I – a lady who to piss off male friends would flash a bit of leg hair at them and would frequently point out there misogynistic quips and quandries – tried to keep my ‘woman’s trouble’ to myself. Not that it was something I wanted to talk about particularly, as I don’t on the whole like talking about my weaknesses (such as my crippling phobia of butterflies and moths) but I did feel that I should keep it to myself. My pains were ‘stomach cramps’ relocating my discomfort to the much more universally acceptable digestive system, or generic ‘back pain’ I had acquired from trying to prove I was tough from lifting heavy things (lift the patriarchy with your knees, Georgina, goddamit).
And if it wasn’t misplaced shame or a desire not to bring up something so ‘unsanitary’, not bringing it up in front of my male friends, also avoided my feelings being hurt. When I would express my opinion with even the slightest edge of strong, negative emotion – be it anger or sadness – I have had guys (and my mum) ask if I am on my period, as if I am incapable of being logically dismayed, merely at the whim of those pesky lady hormones. Or without any preamble , I would be confronted with the “if I bleed for seven days”, I’d die’ (Good? Bad? I don’t know how to react to this). This was in stark contradiction to the protective bubble of my all girls high school where hot water bottles, painkillers and sanitary towels were openly shared around. All in all, I decided it was just better to keep it to myself and my fellow sufferers.
But one day, whilst at university, as I wandered around my shared house in a second hand maternity-dress (another story for another time) with one hand holding a sloshing water bottle to my mons pubis and the other clutching my lower back like the heavily pregnant women I had seen on TV, my friend Arjun asked how I was. I said I was fine just, you know, ‘stomach cramps’. He asked if it was something I’d ate. I looked up and could see he was not getting my subtle lady social cue.
“No, just you know…” He still wasn’t getting it.
“It’s that time of the month…”
“Oh it’s your vagina”
The sudden, loud guesstimation at which female organ was causing me trouble was, initially, jarring, but not as much as his apparent okayness with the fact I was menstruating.
“Technically it’s my uterus that’s causing me pain but yeah that”
“Ok well I hope you feel better, let me know if you need anything”. Slightly amused, I rearranged myself on the sofa and continued attempting to read, mildly tickled by Arj’s atypical approach. And how refreshing it had felt – this wasn’t a shameful secret or something I needed to protect guys from, it was fine.
What really amused me was what followed. With no sense of irony or attempt to humiliate, Arjun repeatedly over the next day or so, independently and around others, asked how my womb pain was and how I was doing, was it normally this bad, had I been to the doctors. And do you know what, my womb and I had never felt better.
As with any taboo, talking about it is usually a good first step towards normalising something or at least reducing some of the fear around it. So whether it’s openly admitting that the reason you feel crappy is because it feels like your womb is attempting to strangle you from the inside, or including tampons when your male friend asks if there is anything you want from the shop, talking about your experiences, or lack of, with periods will stop a fair share of the population feeling socially, as well as physically uncomfortable, that time of the month.