Wednesday, March 25, 2015

That Time Of The Month, Aunt Flo, Shark Week, Exclamation Points, And Other Things People Don't Like To Talk About

I was eleven years old when I got my period.
Getting your period was a big stinking deal when you were eleven. It meant you were one of the first ones to get your period, making you infinitely cooler than everyone else.
It meant your friends would ask you questions in hushed whispers at recess or in lab or at sleepovers. Like, “does it hurt?” “do you feel different?”
No, and no.
Well, back then it was no and no. Now it’s yes and no.
My mom bought me pads, and I hid them in the furthest corner in the bathroom closet so nobody could see them.
Minus the annoyance of bleeding for four days a month, I didn’t really see the big deal in getting my period. Wasn’t like I was going to be having any babies anytime soon.

Summer.
An all-girls sleepaway camp in the Catskills.
If you were cool, you left your pads in the bathroom.
If you were EXTRA cool, you left your tampons in the bathroom and taught your friends how to use them.
If you weren’t cool, you hid your pads in the bottom of your suitcase and made excuses as to why you suddenly didn’t want to go swimming.
There was at least one girl in my bunk who pretended she had her period, and really didn’t. She wore pads for a few days and didn’t go swimming then.
I wonder what happened to her.
We nearly suffocated under the weight of the excess estrogen, but somehow managed to survive.

I read my first romance novel in seventh grade.
I was twelve.
It was by accident, but I was hooked.
I don’t think my parents were really all that thrilled.
Okay, I lied. I know they weren’t.
There was a pregnancy scare in the book, and her getting her period was a relief.
I read more romance novels.
And more.
And a few more.
Nobody in any of those books ever had their period.
Or shaved their legs, or waxed, or had cramps.
Maybe that was a thing that went away when you got older. Maybe if you shaved your legs enough all the hair would just stop growing.
Maybe your period just stopped when you were twenty one or something, because all those ladies in the books were over twenty one.

One Saturday night, eighth grade. Staying over at my best friend’s house.
After we went to Blockbuster (RIP), we walked over to CVS to get a bunch of things.
She needed more pads.
Her mom wasn’t around that night, and I hadn’t brought any with me.
But heaven forbid should she actually buy pads, because then people would know.
I didn’t think that was all that strange, because even though at some point, I *knew* that all ladies got their periods, it was still embarrassing.
I honestly don’t even remember what ended up happening that time, but that scenario happened far more than once.
Eventually, I would be the one checking out instead of her because I was less embarrassed of buying pads. But only if it was a girl cashier. If it was a guy cashier… well, I don’t know. It depended.

More romance novels.
Still no body hair.
Still no cramps.
Still no uteruses mentioned unless it was in relation to someone getting pregnant.
A lot of happily ever afters.
A bunch of babies.
But no periods.

High School.
All girl’s high school.
Small class.
“Ugh, I have my period early. Who has a pad?”
Pad critiquing.
Discussing tampons and TSS.
Whining about cramps.
An emergency chocolate stash.
But only in the classroom- never in another class.

More romance novels.
Starting to notice how all heroines have mysteriously perfect bodies.
I don’t.
Why don’t they have cramps? Buy pads?
I wish I could identify with them, but it’s getting harder and harder to.
Unlike romance novel heroines, my period keeps on showing up.
I’m better at buying pads now.

After High School.
Live in a dorm with over 100 girls for two years.
Shit gets REAL.
Pads, tampons, cups, Advil, Tylenol, Motrin, and heating pads are everywhere.
We revel in our femininity.
I still feel weird about buying pads.
I still read romance novels.
They still don’t have their period outside of pregnancy scares.

I am not ashamed of my body.
I am not ashamed of getting my period.
It takes me a long time to get to this point.
I’m not always there.

I wonder why having your period is like some dirty secret.
It’s not like people don’t know you get your period.
Most females get theirs.
It’s not like I was the only one who does.

I read more romance novels.
I still look for periods and cramps.
I wonder why we gloss over the things that make us female.
I wonder why we are ashamed of the potential of creating life.
I wonder why we have let ourselves become ashamed of who we are.
I wonder why we let parts of ourselves be erased in the books we read.
I wonder why it makes me so angry.
I wonder why I’m sometimes still ashamed.

I start writing romance novels.
I realize I like to write ones that don’t feel like pipe dreams.
So I don’t write pipe dreams.
I write messy.
I write heartbreak.
I write periods and cramps and body hair and awkward flirting.
I write happily ever after.

I’m on my way to meet a friend.
I’m bent over on the train from cramps, and have no pads on me.
There’s a little bodega at the corner on the way to the restaurant.
The guy working there is super friendly.
I look around for pads, and realize they’re behind the counter.
Which means not only do I have to buy pads from him, I have to ask him to get me some.
I ask.
I am not ashamed.
He asks me what kind I want.
I tell him.
I am not ashamed.
I buy the pads.
I buy some Advil.
I am not ashamed.

I read another romance novel.
There still aren’t any periods mentioned.
I write another period scene.

I am not ashamed.
I am not ashamed.
I am not ashamed.

2 comments:

  1. This is gold. I completely relate. The romance novels, so unattainable! Now, I purposely seek out the male cashier when buying tampons- it's good for both of us. Thank you for writing this!

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  2. Good for you! I like it when a romance novel I'm reading keeps it real. Whether it's periods or a virgin having sex for the first time and not orgasming because it's painful, that makes more sense to me than not. Do I still read books that aren't realistic? Yes, but I appreciate the ones that are so much more.

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