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Bad Blood

For the first time ever in my life last night a man (my man) bought tampons for me. This month I have the worst period I've had since I was about 16, when I used to faint regularly in church because I was so weak from blood loss and anaemia. Last night after watching a film on the sofa, I had the mortifying realisation that my period was so heavy, the blood had leaked through my Super-Duper-Mother-of-All-Tampons tampon, my knickers AND my jeans. Luckily the sofa escaped looking like a scene from Chainsaw Massacre and I managed to leg it to the bathroom without further damage.

Then as I sat on the loo, the panic set in as I realised I'd used an entire box of tampons that day, and that I didn't actually have enough to get me through the night. Surely all the chemists where I usually buy the Extra Super Plus Plus (!) variety that my Day 1 required, would be closed at this time of night. 

I went downstairs and burst into tears.  My lovely man was soothing, telling me this was a particularly bad month. I felt vulnerable and embarrassed.  My insecurity goaded me to ask if any of his ex girlfriends had it ‘this bad’ to which he sweetly replied No.  Great, now I was filled with worry AND huge shame as well.

Then he valiantly declared that he would go to Tesco, even though it was 9 o'clock at night (in my brain fog I’d forgotten that unlike the supermarkets in NL, over here they’re open till Stupid O’clock AND there is an ENTIRE aisle full of Sanitary Products! ) Wow what a man! So he went and even returned with a bar of Dairy Milk.

So why did I feel embarrassed?

Image result for rupi kaur period

A while ago, this image above of Photographer and Poet Rupi Kaur’s fully clothed woman lying in bed with a period stain was deleted twice by Instagram because it didn’t 'follow their community guidelines', which prohibit ‘sexual acts, violence and nudity’ and apparently menstruation related pics.  Rather fabulously, this ridiculous response from the Social Media site only grabbed Rupi more attention (hurrah!) and the photos were reposted with an apology, and indirectly more exposure all over the world.

But when I saw the image - I remember also feeling shocked and a bit scared, I suppose.  Like ‘I can’t believe she just did that’.  It was closely followed by the delayed reaction ‘Good on her’, but my initial feeling was definitely shock.  And shame, since this was an image that I could have personally posed for hundreds of times over the 27 years I have been having periods. I’ve seen it all before. I’ve changed outfits and bedclothes and scrubbed mattresses, as I’m sure ALL women have, but I’ve never spoken to anyone about it and I’d definitely never seen images before Rupi’s.  So why is it so shocking ?

I guess in any other situation to have that much blood coming out of a part of your body WOULD be shocking ! Christ, we would probably ring an ambulance or at the very least head over to A&E to get stitched up.  But this is something that’s happening internally on a monthly basis.  That we have to just GET ON WITH. Periods are meant to be invisible. And I also want to keep mine invisible. I do an extra check of the toilet after I’ve flushed to remove any trace of blood, that God forbid another human might witness. I hide tampons secretly in my jeans’ pocket if I am going to the loo for a change.  Once on the bus whilst rummaging in my bag, a tampon fell out and rolled down the aisle towards the driver and I did nothing! I just sat there with my cheeks getting redder and redder, hoping no one had noticed.  What the fuck?!! 

And even now, in this relationship with my loving boyfriend I felt relieved that he hadn’t seen any blood and was only witnessing the aftermath of my pants and jeans soaking in the kitchen sink, which was bad enough. And HE didn’t give a shit (in a nice way) - he wasn’t bothered.  It was ALL me. I felt the shame, the embarrassment. I was the one who tried to block him seeing me scrubbing the red stains as he came in the kitchen. I was the one avoiding eye contact as he left for Tesco.  And then on his return I was so over-the-top grateful to him - profusely thanking him and apologising for ‘having to put up with me’ ! What ? Like it was some sort of traumatic ordeal for him to buy tampons. But certainly he was the first man who has ever ‘done that’ for me.  I couldn’t even ask him - He was the one who offered and wasn’t the slightest bit fazed! So clearly it’s ONLY ME making it out to be a Big Deal.

Or is it? Are there other women out there who feel the same? I have no idea! Cos we don’t talk about it !!

I think I first remember the embarrassment when the ‘Tampax Lady’ visited our school in the 80s and took all the girls into a room separately.  I don’t remember it EVER being mentioned again!  I like to think that no longer happens nowadays and the boys are also included too in the Period Talk.  But maybe I’m wrong as perhaps that would still be embarrassing for the girls?  I’m a 43 year old woman and clearly I’m still embarrassed. 

My fella told me, on his return from the supermarket, that there’d been a small gang of 20-something women sniggering as they overheard him on the phone, checking he’d found the right tampons.  Is it that unusual to see a man buying sanitary products ? I guess so.  But then I have never asked a single ex-boyfriend/friend/work colleague or even my Dad/my Brother in the past. So what do you expect?

So women of the world - perhaps it starts with us. To talk amongst ourselves. To the men. To our kids.  Boys and girls. This taboo will only change if we speak out. And normalise our monthly cycles.  And NEVER EVER talk in code about ‘Auntie Flo coming to town’ or pronouncing the word ‘Period’ like Victoria Wood’s classic sketch !

And to perhaps take the lead from our men, who would be happy to pick you up some Lil-lets next time he’s in Boots. Because HE doesn’t care. He just wants to make you happy. And feel like he’s needed. And appreciated.

The final part of Rupi Kaur’s statement to Instagram (to see her response in full click here: https://www.instagram.com/p/0ovWwJHA6f/?hl=en) was this: 

“In older civilizations this blood was considered holy. In some it still is. But a majority of people, societies. and communities shun this natural process. Some are more comfortable with the pornification of women. The sexualisation of women. The violence and degradation of women than this. They cannot be bothered to express their disgust about all that. But will be angered and bothered by this. We menstruate and they see it as dirty. Attention seeking. Sick. A burden. As if this process is less natural than breathing. As if it is not a bridge between this universe and the last. As if this process is not love. labour. life. selfless and strikingly beautiful."

She uses the word BEAUTIFUL ! About periods ! Pppffff what the fuck ? That is certainly NOT a word I would use! So apart from Rupi, perhaps it’s some of us with the problem.  The Women. We’re the ones judging our own cycles. We hate our PMT. We hate feeling weak. We couldn’t possibly call in sick at work because of ‘Period Pains’. We cry in the toilets away from The Boss (male or female). We hide away. We compare ourselves to our friends and their cycles. We shame ourselves ‘So-and-so doen’t get it THIS bad’.

There’s also now Women judging Women for STILL using tampons and wasting MORE plastic when they ‘should’ be making their own recycleable sanitary pads. So we buy a Moon-cup off Amazon then start judging ourselves again for not being able to get the bloody thing up there. We judge other people talking about their cycle.  Perhaps you’re judging me? And on and on it goes...

Feeling shameful. Keeping Quiet. Staying Invisible.

And I almost didn’t write this post. My ego was telling me I’m attention seeking or that I’m being a Victim trying to get sympathy for my ‘Bad’ periods. When actually it just didn’t want me to write about it because its still a taboo topic.  I have always felt weird and uncomfortable saying the words bleeding and blood in relation to menstruation. Yet I’m happy to post about the more ‘mental’ aspects of my cycle - trying to normalise PMT and educate myself (and others) about this PMDD which some of us suffer from (which ALSO shockingly my female doctor had NEVER heard of!..I digress).

So perhaps the root cause is that (some of) us have a problem embracing our feminine, celebrating our cycle and reminding ourselves that this is a sacred process.  

I invite you to look at this photo again. Did you also feel the shock factor? Did you find it confronting even just for a minute?  Imagine if it was a photo of YOU that had been posted.  And acknowledge how YOU might feel about that. Would there be some shame and embarrassment? Disgust ? Or could you see it like my new hero(ine) Rupi does - that it simply represents love, life, beauty?

So next time, there’s an ‘incident’, I shall be repeating her beautiful words - “My womb is home to the Divine” as I’m scrubbing my pants in the sink. Or perhaps I’ll ask my Man to do it whilst I go to Tesco..... Too far ? 


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