Periods Are Ridiculous

I am on my period and I am Not Happy About It. You'd think that at the over-ripe age of thirty two, I'd be a little more prepared for this moment. Well, think again.

I remember the date of my first period because it come on the same day as the birthday of the boy my best friend had a huge crush on. She pursued him so passionately she eventually tripped, literally chasing after him, and broke her collarbone leaving her wrapped in a chunky foam sling for months. It felt symbolic and romantic, but then I was fourteen and everything felt tirelessly significant.

When I got my period, it took forever to build up the courage to tell my mother. It was the evening, and as my underwear darkened I eventually let myself fall sobbing into her arms. It felt like the beginning and the end of everything and despite the television being off, the dramatic Eastenders cliffhanger music rang in my ears.

In middle school, my best friend was obsessed with getting her period. We were ten or eleven, and when I visited her house we would sit on her bed in her small loft-converted room. We cocooned ourselves up there under the sloping ceiling, talking about things we weren't ready for yet; boys, kissing, makeup, bleeding. I would get up to stretch and stare out of the skylight window and turn the tape over on the cassette player, and she would keep reading from the book she read religiously.

(Side note: Not all women have periods, but this article specifical writes about the ones who do.)

After my friend moved schools we spoke on the telephone regularly and then occasionally, cradling each other's distant voices in our hands and wrapping the coiled cords of our respective landlines around our fingers. I can't remember when she eventually got her period, or if she even told me. Once the potential of our bodies became a reality, we learnt to hide them. We became secretive. I don't remember a single conversation with another girl about menstruation, but I remember my face burning with shame when a boy in my year smacked my butt and felt the hard lump of a sanitary towel against his palm.

Now I'm a seasoned old hag, there's nothing I love more than discussing the horrors of menstruation with other women or, if there's no women around, men. I am not embarrassed or ashamed of the perfectly natural hell my body puts me through on a monthly basis. I am content to lie down in green pastures and writhe in agony if my cramps get too much. I will loudly excuse myself from group conversations to go powder my cervix.

The reality in the late nineties and early noughties is that teenage girls like me didn't have the security of a thousand online voices telling us we were normal. For a quarter of our lives we lived like double agents; afraid of being discovered. I was raised a Good Girl; someone who didn't make a fuss over physical intrusionsm someone who wouldn't draw attention to herself. I found it very difficult to excuse myself from a room, bag-in-hand, to visit someone else's bathroom. The obviousness of it was appalling to me. It wasn't uncommon for me to leave it too late, waddling like a baby with a full diaper. As a pre-teen I imagined a perfect red fifty pence piece sitting perfectly on a white towel. Nobody tells you that "becoming a woman" is has more in common with being an extra in a slasher movie.

These are the questions my teenage self would have liked to ask, but was too ashamed to vocalise.

Is There A Specific Uniform I Need To Wear?

Periods have given me a lifelong aversion to wearing white jeans and sitting on white sofas. Fortunately I've genuinely only been confronted with the latter, although the memory of being sixteen and shifting uncomfortably on leather, refusing to recline for fear of leaking over the cream-coloured fabric has never left me. When I had a salaried job I treated myself to two pairs of "period pants", essentially a lycra diaper to be handwashed and left to dry unceremoniously on the radiator. The phantom itch of my tights becomes a trickle down my leg, and my normally confortable non-wired bras make me ache with every jiggle as I run up and down the stairs at work.

How Much Pocket Money Do I Need To Save In Order To Function As A Woman In Society?

Constant debates rage on Twitter, bleeding into the news cycle as a whole. Period Poverty. Foodbanks desperately needing donations of sanitary towels and tampons. The injustice of condoms sitting on clinic counters like lollipops, given out for free as we pass on Boots and Morrisons and swing by Quality Save to see if a package of pads is any cheaper there. You can definitely buy a twelve-pack of towels for 99p, and they will definitely and ungenerously refuse to absorb your flow. Cheap tampons in cardboard applicators will be too large to fit secretively in the pocket of your work blazer, or too small to insert without needing to essentially fist yourself every two to three hours. I am scarred from the month in 2006 when I had six pence in my bank account and had to ask my male friend to buy me supplies. Alternatively, you can squat on the unforgiving tiles of the bathroom fighting with a mooncup, which will save the environment but not your sanity when it gets stuck askew inside you, suctioned tight.

Can I Bleed Out In My Sleep?

How much blood is too much? There have been many occasions throughout my life where I've thought "this seems excessive". I have remained sitting down for as long as possible, avoiding the inevitable tsunami that inconveniences like getting up to make a cup of tea can trigger. I've woken up expecting to hear police sirens and lights flashing through my window, and I've thrown numerous fitted sheets away. My mother, famously lacking in empathy, regularly warned me not to ruin the expensive mattress she bought for my bed. How long will this last? Do I have to go to P.E class today? Are my legs meant to feel this numb? It's difficult to gauge what is normal during a period, especially when nobody is talking about it.

When I began regular sleepovers with my first university boyfriend, I didn't sleep for a week. I learnt to snooze with half my brain alert to the position of my body, careful to keep my legs pressed together like I badly needed a wee. The idea of waking up in a pool of your own blood was bad enough, but there being another person beside you during this nightmare was more than nineteen year old me could handle. So I strapped myself in to a hazmat suit made from thick winter pyjama bottoms and Always super long winged nighttime pads and hoped for the best.

Will I Get Fired For Having A Period?

Apparently there are women who experience light periods, who exude flowery sighs and delicate scarlet teardrops every 28 days which don't massively derail their lives. Who are these women who don't need to tap out from life for a couple of days to lie in bed with a hot water bottle against their stomach and a damp flannel holding their migraine in place.

Sadly we live in a capitalist world and that means hoisting your squelchy, broken body upright and pouring it into smart-casual clothes. If you're on a precarious contract, there's no calling in ill. For a handful of days, life becomes an endurance test on not groaning in front of the customers or snapping at jovial colleagues.

I remember a particularly day at work where I couldn't focus on my computer screen because the room was swimming and every synapse in my brain was channelled into managing the stabbing sensation in my gut. Let's be real, if all humans had periods we'd bloody well have paid sick days for every shark week. If you have a heavy period and you still manage to get up and carry on your life as normal, you are a fucking superhero and don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise.

Isn't Menstruation Basically Like Shooting Yourself With A Cotton Bullet?

It took me ages to pluck up the courage to try tampons, but I finally managed it in my first year of university. It was also the worst time to start, because I was prone to drinking too much and passing out. I remember sitting on one of the two disgusting toilets I had to share with roughly 25 other women in my halls of residence, pushing the end of the orange applicator as I exhaled and thinking, "I've done it!"

From then on my life revolved around a lingering fear that I would someday die of toxic shock syndrome. I had a panic attack on a campsite because I was paranoid that part of a tampon had snapped off inside me. I was convinced I was going to die. I was hot, sweaty and dizzy; symptoms all definitely on account of my imminenet death rather than a stifling European summer. If you're prone to rampant hypochondria, periods are a riot.

Can You Be Loved And Covered In Blood? 

From age 21 to 28 I was on the depo provera shot, which stopped my periods altogether. Imagine, living your most cavalier years without the added barrier of blood. The emotional freedom of peeing on a pregancy test in a public toilet and knowing deep down that you're fine and you've just eaten too much pizza that month. The freedom of being able to go swimming whenever you want (in theory) and falling asleep in strange places without ruining any bedsheets (in practice).

When I returned to menstruation after a seven year depo provera break, I started having one of the most unfeminist, embarrassing thoughts that I've ever had to admit to myself. I worried that my boyfriend would like me less if I had periods. We had just started dating and I worried that in the four or five days I was 'unavailable' would cause him to lose interest in me.

Forget toxic shock, the real killer is toxic thought. But the bar is set so low for heterosexual relationships, and it's a lottery whether you're going to get a man who tolerates or detests the idea of blood. Then there's the pre-feminist insecurity, the throwback awkwardness of having to deny someone's desires by admitting you're on your period. In 2020, knowing I once held these thoughts in my mind feels supremely fucked up.

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I doubt I'll ever have kids, but if I find myself in the Plan B situation of being the Cool Aunt or Fairly Go(o)dmother, I'll be sure to explain in graphic, gruesome detail that whilst periods can feel at times like an unfair biological disadvantage, being a women is also synonymous with endless strength and perseverence in a society that can often make it difficult for us to feel human. We are amazing.