July 7, 2010
I was relaying the ins and outs of my day to my mother, when I got to the part about having to admit to my professor that no, I was not running a fever or suffering from some contagious disease–my problems were probably menstruation-related.
My mother’s response? “You didn’t actually say that, did you?” (“That” being “I think it’s menstrual-related.”)
Right. So, after an afternoon spent telling myself, “No, it’s okay, he asked about your health, you don’t have to be embarrassed,” it turns out that, yes, actually, I should be embarrassed about it.
Apologies for the rant, and Mom, if you read this, you know I love you, but I get really frustrated by the attitude that menstruation is some gross, unmentionable thing, something it’s acceptable to discuss with fellow women in hushed tones but HEAVEN FORBID it ever come up in conversation with men. I don’t know, maybe I’m just grosser than most people, but…come on. I’m not saying I like going around sharing the details of, I don’t know, my dirty pads or whatever with everyone I come across, but this is something that happens every month, to many, many women and quite a few trans men. With some of us, like me, it results in palpable physical symptoms, symptoms that I’m occasionally hard-pressed to hide from people. I’m not saying I don’t–I’ve spent many a class period silently telling myself not to throw up or to breathe deep and not to tense up, because it makes the cramping worse–but sometimes, I’m in a lot of pain, and when people ask me about why I can’t stand up straight with pain and I feel faint, why do I have to make up an excuse? Why is it so inappropriate for me to say, “Don’t worry, I think it’s menstruation-related” and leave it at that?
Perhaps the lady doth protest too much. But honestly, when I’m having my period, it weighs pretty heavily on the brain. Not every period is as bad as this one–in fact, I’d say only about one in every four qualifies as “really bad”–but just about every period for me involves some physical discomfort and a temporary change in my lifestyle (how and when I bathe, what I eat, what I wear, what I do between my classes or on the weekend). It’s something significant that happens in my life on a regular basis, something that affects me not only in the bathroom or when I’m in my bedroom alone, but when I’m in class, when I’m walking out and about, and when I’m hanging out with my friends. And yet–okay, you read my journal, so you know, I talk about my period on a not infrequent basis. I’m pretty open about it, and some of you who ate lunch with me in middle school know that I wasn’t too proud to beg a quarter or an extra pad when I needed it. And yet, for years as an undergraduate, I felt embarrassed about buying myself pads at the Walgreen’s, and I can’t even say how many times I’ve explained to people that I need to lie down because I’m just vaguely “not feeling well.”
Great blog post – a really well-thought out article on what women deal with during the menstrual cycle. To hide or not to hide – that is the great conundrum.