What am I talking about? Periods. Yup those 3-5 days out of the month when we're supposed to bleed out of our vagina. I've realised as a woman that I feel uncomfortable talking about it. I can freely talk about sex, most bodily functions and have been know to let loose some particularly sulphurous farts. But periods. It's as if I can't even 'go there'.
I'm not sure why, perhaps it has something to do with my upbringing (Hindu)? When I was younger and started the whole bleeding cycle, I would ruin family trips to the temple because I was 'unclean'. And because my parents had never spoken to me about this sort of thing, I only had a very very vague idea of what was going on - thanks largely to yearly sex-ed lessons at school. My family does subscribe to the whole 'unclean' thing though (never mind that it's natural) But even then, periods were described as a one size fits all sort of affair.
- Girl grows up.
- Girl hits puberty
- Girl starts periods
- Girl will have periods until she's pregnant
- Girl will stop having periods when she hits menopause.
Done. Nothing about the crippling stomach cramps. Absolutely nothing about the fact different girls will experience different periods. It was taken as a given that we would all graduate to tampons once 'your flow regulated itself'. WTF. I know a lot of girls that have never used anything but a tampon (you lucky SOBs). But myself and many other girls have only ever been able to use pads because there is just so much bleeding. And in recent years the mooncup has become an option. Environmentally sustainable and actually seems to be a good way to connect with your body (I'm not sure what that means, but I can get behind not having to carry those 'cutely designed' flatpack pads around with me).
But here's the rub, no one ever tells you that your vagina/womb/cervix does not come as a one size fits all. Guess what? Much like a boy's penis, we don't all have the same equipment. Some girls have such small vaginas that getting a tampon in there is hard enough, let alone a bloody penis! Or women with oddly shaped wombs and wonky cervixes that using the cup would be an exercise requiring an instruction manual. In short, periods are a whole lot more than just the bleeding.
Having a period is an integral part of being a woman because it's intimately tied to our ability to reproduce. I have a cousin who didn't start her periods until she was 16 years old. Her mother thought she was 'damaged'. There is an awful inconvenience of having it happen but also the sense of relief that comes with having it (especially when you're waiting out a pregnancy scare). That being said, some women get (maybe) 2-3 periods a year. Yup you read that right. To my ears as someone that goes through it once a month like clockwork, only having to deal with a few times a year sounds like a blessing in disguise.
All this knowledge has come with age. When I was 11 and dealing with my first period. I had no idea. None whatsover. And I think that's the point I'm trying to make, so many people don't. For some reason sex education doesn't cover things like this for either boys or girls. I grew up knowing that boys had wet dreams but that's about it. I shudder to think what boys were taught in relation to girls. How does this prepare boys and girls for the realities when they do decide to have sex or start getting periods either before or during marriage? I mean is your boyfriend/husband expected to leave you along for 5 days?! (Think Anna Chlumsky in My Girl)
It's my opinion that both men and women should know more about periods. Why they happen, how they happen and the fact that everyone woman has a different reaction. Put it this way - if you know what to expect when it's your g/f, wife, partner etc. It can only make life easier right?