If I even mention my period, everyone around me flips out like I murdered a fucking kitten. “TMI!!!” they squeal. Pandemonium ensues. People dive for tables. It’s that serious. No joke: When I moved to Philly, I spent at least a month gently probing the people I met just to see if it was okay to mention my period to them. It’s my first test of friendship. Seriously.
Sometimes I forget myself and mention that I bleed once a month — what a calamity. On a particularly bad period day, I came in to work and a colleague noticed that I looked pallid. He asked if I was okay. “Yeah,” I responded, mistakenly thinking that that my coworker was, you know, actually concerned. “It’s just the first day of my period.” He immediately stepped away like I had a disease and said, “That’s gross.” I arched my eyebrow, crossed my arms and retorted:
“You think it’s gross for you? Imagine how I feel.”
He did not want to imagine how I felt. And that is the whole problem.
Most people who have not had a menstrual cycle don’t want to think about it. I don’t have that privilege. I am experiencing it. And you know what? It is gross. And miserable. And painful. And best of all, I am required to go about my day as if nothing is wrong.
This is unfair, because I spend a good bit of time listening to my friends and coworkers bitching about their ailments. This may come as a surprise, but I don’t actually want to hear that you mystified doctors with how many times you fractured your big toe. I listen and express sympathy because I care about you.
We who menstruate deserve that same courtesy. We shouldn’t have to be silent about our cycles because the rest of the world is uncomfortable with them. Besides, there’s no reason to be uncomfortable. There’s nothing mystifying about it: menstruation is the shedding of the uterine lining (or endometrium). Read up about it. It’s cool. There is absolutely no reason that I shouldn’t be able to talk about my pain and discomfort just because it has to do with my vagina.
…And my back.
…And my stomach.
Where’s my chocolate bar…?