Sunday, 3 March 2013

Reclaim The Curse.

The other day I glanced at my Tampax box (super plus in case you are wondering) and noticed that they were advertising another type of tampon on the side. This tampon was in a smaller applicator and they described this as 'discreet.' Being discreet about one's feminine hygiene products must therefore be a good thing.

I felt a surge of anger. Why do we have to be discreet? What is so shameful or embarrassing about having Flo come to town?

All of a sudden it was May '88 and I was in the back of Jeremy Hall's brother's car - getting a lift home from a party. I was 15 and I'd been naughty and glugged down some vile paint stripper type wine with two buddies before my mate Colin's party. The wine had hit me harder than I'd expected and I'd ended up kissing a boy sitting on top of a compost pile and my reward for such endeavours was him giving me a purple hickey on my neck, roughly the size of a 50p piece. Classy, I know.

But this all wasn't the worst part of the whole episode. No, that happened when I was sober in class assembly the following Monday. Jeremy, god bless him, subtly tried to return my Tampax holder (a long blue plastic case that I'd got free with a box of tampons at some stage) that held two Tampax. I'd left it in his brother's car. For some reason, I pretended it wasn't mine - just point blank denied all knowledge of owning such an item. Which was ridiculous, as it clearly didn't belong to Jeremy. Then my two so-called buddies pipped up 'But you had your period that night. It IS yours.' The whole class turned to see what all the fuss was about and suddenly I had 28 pairs of eyes boring into me - was the Tampax holder really MINE? Still I denied ownership. Thankfully the bell rang and we all scuttled off to class and I'd lost my Tampax holder forever. I don't think I stopped blushing until lunchtime.

'Tampaxgate' as I called it, haunted me for years and I vowed to be much more careful with my feminine products.

But this makes me furious. Where was I conditioned to believe periods where a thing to hide from view? A secret between a woman and her pants? God forbid someone sees us buying feminine hygiene products - and actually while we are here - why are they called 'feminine hygiene products?' It isn't about hygiene - it is about trapping blood loss. Let's not dress it all up.

Why all the shame and embarrassment? Bleeding is as natural as eating, and yet there is such a stigma attached to it. Only the other week a colleague lambasted me for brazenly opening my bag and lifting forth a Tampax on route to the loo. Here is my issue: we are on this planet because your Mother bled monthly (well anywhere between 26 and 42 days I'm guessing) and every other person on this planet over 11/12 (I was 14 when mine started) and under 55 (??) is bleeding monthly too.  So why the secrecy?

I wish I could get T-shirts printed : 'Beware, I'm on my jams.' I would happily distribute these to all and sundry. Although, I hate perpetuating the myth that all women are byactches on their periods. This is a fallacy. I am sometimes demonic prior to blood loss, and then become all needy and nauseating as soon as the curse arrives. But in general, women aren't mental on their periods - they have a better sense of smell, have greater sexual desire and are often more attractive then (and around ovulation. Mother nature was pretty clever).   

There's another thing - all the names for periods: Flo, painters in, red rag week, on my jams, the curse, on the blob, vampire's lollipops, BJ week and 'muff on a leash.' Clearly these have all been christened by a man. They all make a period something wrong, damned, a frustrating occurrence. Why the hate? I mean guys, trust me, it ain't no picnic for us - so why do you get to complain about it?

Menstruation is normal. All the pain, tiredness, sickness, backache, headaches, spots and other symptoms vary from (unlucky) woman to woman. But we should be able to talk about this much more openly than we are. Some women suffer so badly, they blackout with pain. Then there is the massive expense - all the products we use - with wings, pearl applicators (why pearl - you won't be wearing these things, will you?) different absorbency's etc - all cost a fortune. I have no idea why these aren't available for free - even a basic kind for those who cannot afford the more expensive brand. They are not 'luxury' products - they are a necessity - unless you want puddles of blood on the tube/bus/restaurant? I genuinely wish we could all rebel and (as my friend M suggested once) throw a 'period reclaiming' day where we all just openly bleed - and then once public transport have footed the bill, they would then decide to allow free products for all women.

And buying these 'luxuries' is (for some folk) an arduous task. What if a man is at the till? What if you bump into a friend/neighbour? (As I did the other week - buying sanitary towels, an orange, some nuts and a bottle of Woodford Reserve Bourbon - I fancied an old fashioned, what can I say? The neighbour said you can tell a lot about someone by their shopping. I guess that makes me a bleeding alchy. Fine). Here is the thing. Bumping into a neighbour buying nipple clamps or maximum strength pile cream - fair enough, is a bit well, cringy. But sanitary stuff? Husband was a bit mortified (he refuses to buy me such products - apart from the time I had his son - and then I demanded he bought me nipple shields and maternity pads (let's face it, it was the least he could do). I wasn't embarrassed at all. I bleed, what's the big deal? And, I drink quality bourbon. If he'd caught me buying Jack Daniels - now that would have been embarrassing.

I wish we shared more about periods, PMT, products, overflow (ruined sheets, or is that just me?) and all that jazz. Maybe if we did, we'd teach our kids not to be ashamed about something natural and normal. I'm not suggesting we all make cards by the full moon using our menstrual blood (as one girl I knew did) as that is just a wee bit icky. But striding to the staff loo, tampon in hand - should be utterly fine. There is no shame. We are healthy, we are bleeding. We survive.

And Jeremy, if your bro still has my holder - it'd be great to get it back. Thanks.

1 comment:

Rhiannon said...

I'm with you. I openly flop a heating pad across my gut at work when needed and have stained plenty of sheets. I mostly use a cup now since tampons hurt since birthing my beast. My son always wants to pick my products at the store and knows what they are for since he insists on following me to the bathroom (I kick him out now that he is 5) so hopefully he will be more helpful than his dad to any future girlfriends/wives. I just don't care enough to be embarrassed anymore.