My roommate found my rice sock in the oven the other day. I had to explain to her why a lone reindeer sock was sitting in a casserole dish ready to be baked at a low temperature.
In case you’ve never heard of them, rice socks are exactly that: socks filled with rice. When heated, the rice retains its warmth for a long time, so you’ve got yourself a cheap yet efficient heating pad. I use them for period cramps.
So when my good friend, Simon, WhatsApped me one rainy fall morning asking me how I was doing, I told him honestly, with details. Because you know me. I never hold back. And because Simon is a mature and caring man, he didn’t crawl away into cyberspace when I started talking about my bleeding vagina. He engaged himself in period chat, and humanity is better off because of it.
After explaining to him what a rice sock was, the menstruation conversation began. It started off like this:
Me: Simon! Can we trade uteruses for a day? I need a break from mine.
Simon: Erm. I can’t find mine.
Simon: Is that bad? It might still be lost in my previous life.
Me: It probably means something medically. I wouldn’t worry about it until you become symptomatic.
When I thanked my friend for humoring my menstrual comedy, he wanted to know what it was really like when my floodgates open every month. (And for that, Simon, I am truly grateful.)
Simon: Do you get very emotional during this time?
Me: Oh my God, I get everything. My bed and pants always look like I went out and committed a homicide in the middle of the night and then just slept it off.
And then I continued to explain to him the glory of my womanhood.
Me: And I get really cranky and extra irritable. And crampy. And back pain. And diarrhea. And nauseous. And dizzy. And clumsy. And tired. And can’t sleep. And I eat a lot more than usual, which is A LOT.
In other words, I’m like a bear about to hibernate but trying to fight nature.
And then he needed clarification on the homicide. I first had to excuse myself to change the tampon I’d just put in 45 minutes ago because I was leaking onto my underwear.
Simon: But all over the bed and pants?
Me: Sometimes I find a trail when I wake up in the morning. Into the bathroom.
Simon: Ok. So yes. I am reading this right.
Me: Once, I bled on my slippers. I considered that an accomplishment. Skills.
And then Simon wanted to know more.
Simon: Are there ways to not bleed on everything?
Me: If Old Faithful isn’t shooting out from your vagina, then most definitely. But I was blessed with a very heavy flow.
Simon: So do you like use darker sheets? Tampons? I heard some girls talking about a cup.
And then we discussed tampons and pads and cups and my bedtime period ritual to try not to stain the mattress. I had to explain to him that my cup would overfloweth, that I could benefit from a transfusion when I’m menstruating.
So now Simon understands that for one week out of every month, my period bloat makes me feel like a disheveled 55-year-old man with a beer belly eating Fritos on the couch with his hand down his pants. I really look more like a zombie from my sleepless nights and anemia. But I wouldn’t mind sitting on the couch eating Fritos.
However, I am forced to ignore the cramping, bundle up, and hop on my bike to head to work on this rainy day, where I cry when a dog looks at me because it’s just too much, and where I must paste a smile on my face despite my irritability at the fact that that table won’t stop getting in my way.
At other work places, I used to secretly dip into my backpack to grab a tampon and slither to the bathroom, hopefully camouflaged in my purple scrub top against the beige wall. Now I work at a place with all females, so when I get to the toilet and realize I need a tampon that I don’t have, I can confidently shout to my gal pal colleagues, “Help a sister out!”
But workforce period etiquette isn’t the only place where fully embracing our monthly apocalypse gets stifled. Culturally, there are contrasts in appropriate ways to deal with the red-headed Aunt Jemima.
Simon is from Jamaica. We discussed periods across cultures, because when I lived on a remote island in the Bahamas, I had to order tampons off Amazon on account of the limited grocery supply due to cultural differences.
In America, we are fighting for women’s rights. I’ve lived in, worked in, and visited many countries in which such a fight is centuries away from anyone’s mind. But that doesn’t mean the fight isn’t worthy. Hey, newsflash. Women represent 50% of the global population.
My sister is writing a book about the taboo of menstruation across cultures. So, we talk about periods in my family. My dad was the only male in a house of four females (unless you count the dog), so he’s pretty well-versed in feminine monthlies. When my period poem (yes, I wrote one) was published in Witty Bitches magazine, my dad apologized that I had to go through this every month. MY PRECIOUS FATHER. What a man, what a man, what a jolly good man.
I predict that few men will read, like, or comment on this post, because too many men are not drawn to a story that has the words “uterine” and “womanhood” in the title, let alone want to engage in commentary about the subject. But that’s the topic of this post, so I didn’t think I’d be doing it justice if I called it “Beer, Cars, and Sports.” (That’s what men like, right?)
Too few people are proud enough to call themselves feminists, because they forget that being a feminist is, perhaps, the single most caring thing you can do for your best friend, wife, girlfriend, daughter, or sister.
Really, we should all call ourselves feminists.
Men, this is your chance. Prove me wrong. Prove to us women folk that you care what goes on inside our bodies. Ask us what it is like to lament about not being able to wear white for one week every month, not just after Labor Day.
If you’re a man offended by this post, I will set a crazy pregnant lady upon you.
If you’re a woman offended by this, please open up a discussion about it. If we keep our mouths closed, we are just as guilty as Donald Trump throwing sexual insults at us from the podium.
P.S. Simon gave me permission to use his name and our menstruation conversation. That’s a good man, people.
P.P.S. Please do yourself a favor and google period memes. (I made the first one, and I’m pretty proud of it.)