For the majority of women, menstruating for the first time is a rite of passage, it denotes coming of age. To many it is the start of a difficult, painful and challenging journey that sometimes leads to a birth, sometimes doesn’t, but at the very least is an indication that the internal workings are playing their part-doing their thing.
Of course, not all women will menstruate, some cannot, others will suppress it via hormones and for others those days have passed and they are in a different phase of womanhood. Whilst menstruation is an oftentimes little-discussed topic, with women left to “grin and bear it”, there are a remarkable numbers of adverts, products and clichés associated with our “time of the month”. I decided to write about my ”curse” for the following reasons;
- Allied Men on Twitter and beyond bigging up the women who are comfortable enough to talk about their menstrual experiences
- It is painful, for me it is debilitating at times and it’s unpleasant. I don’t celebrate it-in fact I hate it and if it weren’t for my aversion to hormone supplements I would have banished the thing for good long ago
- It’s shrouded in mysticism and it needn’t be. It’s a bodily function, that’s all
So, my first point. I grew up with 3 brothers, one was very close in age and he was fascinated when I started my period. I remember him shyly asking my mum what it was and she explained, he was ever so sweet about the whole thing. My partners over the years have come to understand what helps, and what doesn’t-but none of these males who have had contact with me whilst I’ve been menstruating have wanted to hail my glory, or crow about how wonderful I am. When I hear it, it just sounds so false. By all means step in when someone is being a prick to me, help a sister out, but don’t behave like we are the goddess of the earth because we bleed every month. It’s what the body does. I know there are women who will disagree, who hold much more weight to the experience-and it may be hard to believe from my tone, but I do respect that. However, personally I find the whole process of glorifying it troublesome. It’s a waste-product, it’s telling me that I’ve not conceived this month, let’s refresh and move on. It doesn’t need a cheerleader-and sorry, but it REALLY doesn’t need cheerleading from a guy.
My second point, I suffered from terrible pain for most of my teens and 20s, I had fibroids and would bleed heavily, I would be caught out, while out and about as it was never regular. I hated it. It’s definitely regulated as I’ve got older. But for these reasons alone I really don’t think of it as something to be praised. I tried for a very long time to fall pregnant, every month that new bleed would break my heart. This feeling has never really left me, even though I’m no longer trying for a child. But again, it’s really not something I see as wonderous or amazing. The only time I can see this is being the case is for those who are starting to menstruate for the first time, it is such a fundamental change to the body, it holds such significance and for me it was a feeling of belonging, of fitting in. It’s worth remembering of course this is terribly tough for those growing up who start later than the norm, or don’t start at all, the focus on it is no fun for those people.
Thirdly, it is the lining of my womb falling away. That is all. There is blood, there are clots, it hurts, it’s sometimes smelly and it’s really, really unpleasant. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it, absolutely not, but let’s take away the mystery. Most guys have no idea how much blood can be lost by some women. Take the pain, the emotional distress, the hormone fluctuation and the impractical nature (and no I don’t just mean not being able to wear white trousers) and it all adds up to a pretty crappy experience. In my opinion it’s OK to admit this. We don’t have to say “oh we just get on with it”, “ooh look, it’s pale blue and clinical and fits neatly and discreetly in your purse”. We don’t have to sing and dance and pretend we’re fine when we’re not. By the same token, we won’t all get “moody”, we won’t all hate it, nor will we all suffer every month, some women (shock horror we’re not all the same) really aren’t bothered by the process at all.
So I guess my point is this. It happens, to most women. It’s not to be ignored, but it’s also not to be heralded as the great divider. Women who do not menstruate are not after all NOT women because of this. I just wish once in a while we didn’t have to have all or nothing as women – singing from the rooftops to ensure we’re heard or hiding behind a closed door whispering into our hands to make sure we’re not.