When I was eleven, I asked if chickens had a period. I’m still not completely sure of that answer; I’ve never felt the urge to further investigate. Unfortunately for me, what I did have to investigate was my own period, and it was an investigation I conducted all on my own, which is pretty mean feat for a girl who’s mum still supervised her Calpol intake.
Yes sure, I had a lesson on it in primary school, when some unforgiving and abrupt nurse came to inform us all of our ‘delicate time’. Yet even with my misguided focus on the reproductive cycle of chickens, I still remember walking away feeling completely confused:
“What on earth is a period? I don’t see why I have to have one, they sound dreadful. I’d much rather have one of these wet dreams the boys are talking about. They sound a lot more fun.”
Firstly, there was the word: Period. What the hell was a period? It’s was terrifying to be told as a child that you’d be forced to bleed out of your nunny every month for the next fifty years. All I knew of bleeding is that it bloody well hurt; your mum would usually be required to kiss it better, stick a plaster on and give you a biscuit. I mean, why hadn’t my mum told me about this mysterious “period”? Did she not want to help me? What was I supposed to do on my own? Did I put a plaster over it? Like, what if I needed to wee?
SO MANY UNANSWERED QUESTIONS
And why Mrs Nurse, were you so scornful of my chicken question? If you weren’t talking about chickens then why were you talking about eggs? There were no eggs in my body: I had a heart, lungs, and bones. I got a 5 in my science S.A.T.S, I knew my stuff. You’d think my blatant chicken confusion would ring alarm bells. I was a child, I didn’t know my reproductive body. Instead in the midst of confusion, I was desperately trying to relate her words to the world I knew.
Because to make sense of what she was saying, I’d have had to know even a scrap of biology, which I obviously did not. Especially not my sexual anatomy, I was barely out of the uterus myself; it would have been an alarmingly alien thought to know I was capable of pushing out my own baby. My mum didn’t even think I was responsible enough for a baby Annabelle for Christ’s sake.
Not that the woman even attempted to gently explain these foreign sexual concepts to us. Not once did we learn about why menstruation is necessary, not once did we learn about sex, not once did we learn about ‘how a mummy and daddy love each other’. I mean, the woman didn’t even say the word vagina. Instead, the blood would be flowing from ‘our bits’.
FROM OUR BITS!
So, for apparently no reason whatsoever, we were all abruptly let know: “hey girls, sorry about this, but from now on, you will bleed out of your ‘bits’ for the rest of your life.” No questions. No explanations. Just get on with it. This is your life now. And it was never discussed again.
I was left to my own devices; confronted with a pool of blood in the most inconvenient of places, staring at a tampon instruction leaflet in absolute dismay. (Do you know how confusing tampons are for a twelve year old? DO YOU?). I had blood trickling out of my vagina and I was fucking pissed. Not that I could tell anyone, because my ‘bits’ were abnormal and my bleeding was gross.
I needed some support but instead I was left alienated, confused and ashamed. No one was prepared to talk about it and help me through the process, because somehow it was ‘dirty’. Half the frickin’ world has periods, yet nobody uttered a bloody word.
Now that I am officially a grown up (in the eyes of the law at least), I’ve become a bit of a period advocate. I’ve finally got a grip on quite how to deal with this monthly nightmare to the point that it is almost not a nightmare, but just a norm that I may wave at as it passes by. It is not this dirty, tremendous secret that no one can discuss.
IT’S JUST A BIT OF BLOOD
And it’s manageable. We need to stop making a taboo over periods, and help our fellow sisters learn to deal with them. They’re confusing when they need not be and growing up is hard enough as it is.