Thanks to Clue, my period tracking app, I can always tell just how many days I have left before Aunt Flo gets to town and sucker punches me right in my lady parts. Though I’m not the biggest fan of being ogled, worrying about my safety in dimly lit parking garages, or hovering over public toilet seats… for three weeks out of the month, I actually enjoy being a woman.
During my “time,” however, being a woman is about as fun as shaving your legs with a rusty cheese grater.
Periods just may be the biggest evolutionary flaw that ever existed, second to male nipples (of course). Not only do you bleed for one week straight, your hormones are out of whack, your appetite is insatiable, and nothing, I mean nothing, fits right.
All these years of suffering, so that maybe one day in the future you want to have a baby? SERIOUSLY?
It boggles my mind that at any given time, 334 million women around the world are bleeding, and, at the same time, also running countries, corporations, and marathons while barely making a peep.
Do men actually know how bad it is?
Why have we spared them the gritty details?
Sorry (not sorry), but I’m about to spill (some of) the beans. Why? Because I’m tired of men in suits making decisions on behalf of my lady parts. If you want to control my reproductive system, then you better go ahead and start controlling ALL that that entails, including supplying me with an unlimited amount of tampons, panty liners, breathable cotton undies, stain resistant bedsheets, chocolate, and ibuprofen (when the cramps are so unbearable I can hardly move.)
I woke up at five in the morning to use the bathroom. This was nothing unusual for me as I usually wake up at least once, sometimes twice, to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Because I had experienced a subtle aching in my lower abdomen a few days prior, and two shiny new pimples on my chin, I wasn’t the least bit surprised when I saw a streak of blood on the toilet paper after wiping. I was, however, extremely disappointed.
“Goddamnit,” I mumbled. Why today, of all days? It was the first warm day of the summer, a Sunday, and therefore a perfect excuse to go to the lake with a few girlfriends.
I haphazardly inserted a tampon, and then sleepily made my way back to my bed. I tried to fall back asleep but my cramps became increasingly more painful — like a warm radiator heating my lower abdomen from the inside out. I just couldn’t seem to get comfortable, no matter which way I contorted my body. I gave up and took two ibuprofen. When I woke up again a few hours later, the cramps were back.
Like most women, I still remember the first day I got my period.
My thirteen-year-old-self went to my mom and quietly muttered something like, “Mom? I think I started my period.”
“Why do you think that?” she asked.
“Because there was blood on the toilet paper.”
After hugging me and welcoming me to “womanhood” (and probably shedding a tear…I come from a long line of criers), she briefly explained how to insert a tampon.
You see, that day my best friend was having a pool party, and therefore I had no time to fool around with floppy diapers AKA “maxi pads.” Instead, I had to take the plunge (or rather, my tampon did), head first.
“Mom, it’s not working,” I shouted from the bathroom the door.
“Do you want me to come in and help?” my mom offered.
“OH MY GOD, NO,” I yelled back. I would rather bleed out on that bathroom floor than have my mom help me insert a tampon. I was a woman now, I had to figure this shit out. Lucky for me, and my severe FOMO, I got it in on the second attempt. There was no way I was missing that pool party!
Back to the moment at hand: even though I knew lake-day was going to be a pain in the ass now that I was “going with the flow," there was no way I wouldn’t go. I’ll be damned if my period ever prevents me from doing any of the things I love (like splashing around in the lake, receiving oral sex, or dancing into the wee hours of the morning).
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I decided to take an ibuprofen every few hours so that my cramps didn’t debilitate me. “I will try to maintain some sort of normalcy today, regardless of what is coming out of me," I assured myself. I packed a few extra tampons, even though I had no idea where I would change them. Luckily, my swimsuit was black, so if I leaked a bit, no one would ever know.
By some sort of miracle, however, I managed to make it through the whole day without having any accidents. By the time I made it home, it was time to change my tampon. I took a quick shower, washed the “lake” off of me, and threw on a change of clothes. My roommate and I weren’t done celebrating the first official day of summer, so we rode our bikes to an open air club and danced for hours. I didn’t feel anymore cramping the rest of the evening, but that probably had something to do with all the beers I had (and the surge of dancing endorphins).
Before falling asleep, however, I felt the cramps coming back full force. I decided to hold off on taking any more ibuprofen and instead decided to practice a little self-love. (For those who don’t know, masturbation is literally the most fun way to alleviate menstrual cramps.) After reaching an orgasm, I fell into a deep, drool inducing slumber. When I woke up at 5 a.m. to pee, I decided to go ahead and change my tampon as well. Even though I just wanted to crawl back into my bed as quickly as possible, the thought of bleeding through another pair of underwear made me change my tune.
And now I’d like to take a moment of silence for all the bedsheets I’ve stained, panties I’ve ruined, and pajama bottoms I’ve disfigured. Though you may no longer be with me, you are not forgotten.
In the morning, I could tell it was going to be a painful day. I woke up with cramps that felt more like I had been eating a giant tub of greasy food on a rickety roller coaster than shedding my uterine lining.
Some girls don’t get cramps. Others get cramps so bad they are doubled over in pain for hours at a time. Guess which group I fall into?
After a light breakfast and a cup of coffee, I hit the toilet fast. As if PMSing, bleeding, and cramping wasn’t bad enough, heavy periods seriously speed things up in terms of digestion. Today was off to a glorious start.
Days 3, 4, 5
The next few days were much of the same, though luckily the cramps had diminished to next to nothing. Even when the bulk of the bleeding and cramping is over, I still have to be careful about which underwear to wear since spotting is likely to occur.
And this brings me to a short ode to “Period Panties."
Vadge of Honor
Once upon a time, you were just a sexy pair of panties. When I bought you on sale at Vicki’s Secret, I had no intention of soiling you with my womanhood. Instead, I had other plans — like surprising my boyfriend after a long day at work wearing nothing but you.
However, after several poorly timed tampon changes, and annoyingly early flows, you are no longer just a sexy secret. Instead, you have graduated to the more dignified, more majestic “Period Panty.” I see you there in my drawer and I salute you, for I know that you’ve seen things that would make a grown man cry, and that even during my heaviest flow, I can prance around in you proudly.
And that brings me to those 334 million women who are bleeding right now.
I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge your DEXTERITY— If you’ve ever tried to balance a clean tampon on your knee, while pulling out the used one, while also being careful not to drop the clean one on the bathroom floor, or get blood from the used one on your hands, thighs, toilet paper roll, or toilet seat, I salute you.
I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge your STRENGTH — If you’ve ever laid in a fetal position on the cold bathroom floor when your cramps feel like someone is squeezing your guts or stabbing you in the abdomen or anus (from the inside out), I salute you.
I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge your RESOURCEFULNESS — If you’ve ever had to fashion a pad from a wad of paper towels or toilet paper when you were caught without, I salute you.
I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge your PREPAREDNESS — If you’ve ever stuffed tampons in your purse, glovebox, junk drawer, or desk drawer, just in case, I salute you.
The other day my boyfriend was complaining about how bad he felt after eating Chinese food for dinner the night before. “For 30 minutes, I couldn’t move. I felt so bad, it was like a shooting pain in my stomach and ass.” I quickly dismissed his desperate plea for sympathy.
“Oh that sounds familiar,” I told him, “that’s exactly how I feel every month during my period. Every. Single. Month…For the last…” I pause for a moment to add up the years, “17 years.”
He started to make a rebuttal but then hesitated once he saw my pursed lips/furrowed brow combo. “Fair enough,” he said. I smiled, gratified. "It's the small victories," I tell myself.