complaints, healthcare, rants

Hey guys… periods are none of your bloody business!

Obviously, this post is going to be TMI for some readers. Proceed with caution.

A couple of days ago, The Atlantic ran an article about how menstrual periods are now “optional”. The article was entitled “No One Has to Get Their Period Anymore”, with the tag line, “Why Menstruate if You Don’t Have To?” As I sit here wondering where my period is, and hoping it doesn’t strike this weekend as I celebrate my birthday, I think back on the many days I’ve spent “on the rag”. Starting New Year’s Eve 1985 and continuing to this day, I’ve mostly been very regular. It’s only been within the past few years– 2017 or so– that my body has occasionally taken a month off. I’m pretty lucky, though, because my periods have always been mostly bearable. Yes, they’re messy, stinky, and kind of gross, but I’ve never been bedridden because of that time of the month. The most I’ve had to deal with is cravings, crankiness, and the occasional ruined pair of underwear.

Some of my friends have not been so lucky. I know women who have had to deal with excessive pain and lengthy menstrual periods. I know other women who are busy and don’t have time to deal with the monthly bill. Some of those women have decided that they would rather not menstruate. They visited their doctors and got help. From the article:

Today, any doctor will tell you there is no medical necessity for periods unless you’re trying to conceive. The body preps for pregnancy by thickening the uterus’s lining, like a bird building a nest for her eggs; hormonal birth control prevents pregnancy, in part, by keeping the uterine lining from ever building up. Many of the roughly 19 million Americans who rely on the pill, the shot, IUDs, implants, patches, or rings see a change in their period—often it’s lighter, but it can also disappear altogether. In clinical trials, more than 40 percent of the Liletta IUD’s users no longer menstruated by the end of the product’s six-year life. More than half of people who get the Depo-Provera shot every three months will become amenorrhoeic within a year, and almost 70 percent in the second year. And anyone using the pill, patch, or ring can safely skip scheduled withdrawal bleeding.

Sounds awesome! I have never used birth control myself. In fact, Bill has never even used a condom. He has never needed to. Again, my period isn’t really that onerous. I’m not a career person. It’s not a big deal for me to menstruate, although it can be inconvenient and annoying. But like I said– I do know women who have suffered a lot due to menstruation. And so, if they don’t want to menstruate, why should they? More importantly, why is it that some men feel the need to opine about such a personal decision?

In the comment section on The Atlantic’s Facebook page, I was surprised to see a lot of comments from men about this topic. One guy, who wrote that he has daughters and worries about their health, queried “How is this healthy?”

And my response was, “Men seriously need to STFU about periods.” I could tell by the reactions to my comment that a lot of women agree with me.

Fellas, I appreciate that you worry about the women in your life. I like that you want to know how her body works. But, unless you are a physician and it’s your job to deal with women and their periods, I think this is a subject on which you shouldn’t offer too much input. I, for one, am very grateful that my husband’s wonderful mom, Parker, taught Bill so well. When Aunt Flow comes knocking at our house, Bill comes home with red wine, steaks, and chocolate. And that’s all that needs to be done… except for a little cramp relief.

It’s been my experience that most men don’t want to know the gory details of the monthly menstrual period. They aren’t there to comfort their wives or daughters when they accidentally leak through their pants. They may not be too appreciative in the middle of the night, when their wife or daughter wakes up with a gush of bleeding that has pooled and leaked on the sheets. They don’t know the sorrow of a destroyed pair of favorite underwear. They don’t understand the special fatigue and icky feeling that comes from having periods… not just the actual bleeding, but also the bloating, sensitive breasts, sleeplessness, irritability, and odors that come from that time of the month. Some men love to joke about such things, but they don’t experience it, and they can’t fully appreciate the unpleasantness of it.

Another example of a man getting involved in a conversation about something about which he clearly knows nothing.
And another… There were more, but in the interest of not boring people, I’m not going to post them. You get the idea.

Now, in fairness to the guy who asked, “How is that ‘healthy’?”, I did see a few women also posting about how they felt it was better not to mess with Mother Nature. And frankly, I kind of agree with those women. I don’t have a need to mess with the natural process of things, so I don’t. But– just as I probably would never choose to have an abortion but support legal abortions for other women, I fully support the rights of other women to make the choice not to menstruate. That monthly ordeal is truly a pain for a lot of people. Unless a woman wants to get pregnant, there’s no need to deal with the mess.

Another thing the article points out is that sanitary products are potentially very expensive, plus they don’t do great things for the environment. Of course, if money is an issue regarding sanitary napkins or tampons or the other products available, then it would probably also be an issue in paying for birth control, particularly for those who can’t pay for health insurance. And for some people, not having a period is a medical necessity– people who are missing an intact uterus or vagina, for instance. Not having a period can also be a psychological necessity. The article mentions a transgender man who suppressed his period because he didn’t want the monthly reminder that he was “born in the ‘wrong’ body”.

On the other hand, some people are comforted by the presence of their periods. For instance, some people use the presence of their periods to know that they aren’t pregnant. The period can also be a marker for recovery from an eating disorder or another health condition involving the pituitary or thyroid glands. When menstrual periods resume in someone who has had severe anorexia nervosa, that’s a sign that the body has healed from malnourishment and, perhaps, has regained fertility. Other people just like the rhythm of the period. It makes them feel “in touch” with their bodies.

Whatever… the point is, now that science has made a period free life possible for people who would ordinarily menstruate, it should be a choice that can be made without a bunch of chatter and mansplaining from those who don’t have to deal with having periods. I think the only time this should really come up with a man is if he’s raising a female child alone. I do have a male friend who is raising his daughter… and I don’t think he’s prepared for when she hits puberty. I hope he has some female friends who can help him out, because it’s just around the corner.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about periods… and how men really need to be quieter when it comes to discussing them. Back in 2017, George Takei shared an article about how menstruating women were being “price gouged” at an airport– $15 for a box of tampons. Lots of men were making stupid comments about that, too. Because that was an interesting post, here’s some of what I had to say about that situation reposted here:

An anonymous woman happened to be at Calgary International Airport when everybody’s least favorite aunt arrived.  She found herself unprepared for her period and the vending machine in the ladies room was empty.  When the woman went to a drug store to buy the necessary supplies, she was ripped off.  It was $15 for the tampons.  So the woman paid the money and left the box in the restroom for other women, along with a note of explanation.

A screenshot of the tampons Carlee Field found at the airport.

Carlee Field came across the box of tampons, snapped a photo of them and the note, and posted to Reddit.  Apparently, the outrage was enough to spark a response from airport officials, who promised to stock the vending machines.  The drug store, likewise, lowered the price of the tampons.

The story was interesting enough, although the comments were especially stimulating.  It always amazes me when men want to weigh in on subjects regarding menstrual periods.  To their credit, many men were surprisingly understanding and even empathetic.  On the other hand, there were quite a few comments from guys who felt the need to lecture us women about bringing the necessary supplies with us. 

Here are just a few comments from males who think they know what it’s like to bleed from the genitals every month…

Maybe she should be a responsible adult and bring her own…? Or should we treat women like helpless victims?

Airport price gouging is not unique to tampons. It’s a huge price gauging enterprise. It’s why I make sure I have what I need, along with “just in case” items, before I leave my house.

Oh please. This is the problem nowadays. People stop looking at reality in favor of talking points and PC bullshit. The topic was price gauging. My comment was that the gauging isn’t unique to this particiular item, and that planning ahead could prevent the expense. Am I really wrong about that? Really?  (someone should teach this man how to spell “gouging”– actually, this word is curiously misspelled several times by different people)

I’m confused. A lot of women are saying they have irregular periods, heavy periods, etc. as an excuse for being caught off guard. That just seems counter intuitive. I would think that if you had irregularities in your cycle and that you likely COULD have a surprise…. Isn’t that more of a reason to always be prepared and to carry fem Hy products? Because you know there’s a likelihood of having a surprise?

Of course the socialist thinks everything should just be given to her.

Fancy that.

I can see how youd assume most men take such a drug, your sex life must be dull.

Wait… Youre female and you said something logical…. My mind is about to explode! Welcome to the wonderful world of getting yelled at by the mob of women with pitch forks and torches!

Quit getting so butthurt because guys are calling women unprepared for not packing a few extra while traveling 🙄you know you’re away from home for days at a time and that it could happen at any point. Unpreparedness is just the truth here. Sensitive much?

I could probably sit here all morning and read the comments, but I’ll stop with the ones above.  

I have already written this story a few times, but I’ll repeat it for those who don’t want to read old posts. It was the end of November 2012. Bill and I were in Scotland on Hebridean Princess, a ship that generally caters to the elderly set. I had just gotten new luggage and, for whatever reason, forgot to stock my bags with feminine hygiene supplies. I usually have several tucked away just in case, but I guess I forgot to stock up in the excitement of packing.

On the last night of the cruise, we not only found out that our sweet bagel, MacGregor, was dying, but I had also started my period and was completely unprepared. Fortunately, the assistant purser, a very lovely lady named Valeria, was able to score me a few items from crew members to get me through the night. I doubt this is a problem they deal with too often, since most women on that ship are past menopause. Nevertheless, I will never forget that kindness.

Since that experience in 2012, I have been very careful to make sure I am ready in case Auntie Flow arrives when I’m on the go.  But even though I am now especially sure to pack the essentials, that doesn’t mean I won’t need to buy more, perhaps even in the airport.  The human body can be an unpredictable thing.  I’m sure it won’t be long before my hormones go haywire and I won’t know WTF I’ll be dealing with as I enter a “new season” of life, as Michelle Duggar puts it.  

Feminine hygiene products truly are a necessity.  In fact, some might argue (and a few did) that they should be freely available in public restrooms, as toilet paper generally is.  But, as a quick Google search shows, quite a lot of women lack the appropriate supplies for their time of the month.  If you’re poor and you have a choice of spending money on stemming the crimson tide or eating, you’d likely pick eating.  If you’re paying with a SNAP card, the choice to eat would be a no-brainer.  You can’t use SNAP cards on non food items.   

There are some communities taking notice of the need.  How progressive!  It seems like providing hygiene supplies to menstruating women would be a “win-win” proposition.  Women can spare themselves the embarrassment and humiliation of being caught unprepared and “price-gouged” at the airport, and everyone can avoid the sight of blood on furniture and clothing.  In all seriousness, though, this is a big deal.  There is evidence that not properly taking care of one’s period can lead to significant health issues.  Yeah… this is what is “unhealthy” about periods…

It’s also just really unpleasant.

As you can see, this is a world that biological men don’t have to worry about or deal with. But we used to have a president who made tacky comments about Megyn Kelly, saying “she’s got blood coming out of her ‘wherever’.”  I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised when I read stupid comments from men who think they know what it’s like to have periods and have the right to opine about what women should do to prevent being “surprised”.  The fact is, sometimes you get caught with your pants down, for whatever reason.  It happens to everybody.  It shouldn’t be a big deal to be able to access affordable sanitary products when that happens.  And men, who will never have to deal with the mess, expense, and inconvenience of monthly periods, should really be more sensitive.  Better yet, most of them should simply STFU on this particular topic.

And if a woman decides she’d rather not have periods at all, that too is entirely and solely her own business. I don’t concern myself with male-centric topics like the state of the scrotum or prostate gland. I think that men should keep quiet about periods unless they are offering support. They don’t have to deal with a monthly deluge of blood coming whenever and however long the body decides. I honestly think some of these guys who are opining are doing so because they like the idea of being able to get women pregnant. It’s a source of control for them, or something.

Anyway… I feel glad that pretty soon, this will no longer be an issue I need to care about as someone who is personally affected by it. But in support of my younger sisters, I want to go on record to say that women should have dominion over their own bodies without input from men. Periods are not fun. They’re messy, stinky, expensive, and inconvenient. So, if science can make things easier in that regard, I think that should be a choice available to all women. And men need to STFU about it.

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musings, nostalgia

Growing up and liking it…

A couple of days ago, I wrote about how I learned what enemas, prostitutes, and hemorrhoids are. Now, I’m going to share the story about how I learned about periods. Why? Because it has nothing to do with current events, and it’s kind of inappropriate. That’s how I roll. This post is kind of a rerun. I wrote about this topic on my old blog, but the post was from 2012, so I doubt anyone would have been reading it now, anyway.

So here goes… the story of how I learned about what it means to be a woman.

I was in the 4th grade and did not know anything at all about periods.  I remember finding my mom’s maxi pads and tampons and playing with them.  I had no idea how they worked or what they were for; but I came up with plenty of creative uses for them when I played.  It was a big surprise when all the girls in my class were ushered into a room called “The Pit” at my elementary school.  The Pit has since been filled in and is now used as a regular classroom; but back in my day, it was like a miniature indoor amphitheater.  It was oval shaped with ugly brown carpeted steps that went all the way around that we could sit on.  A teacher could stand in the middle of the Pit and facilitate a chat.  We used it for music classes or watching films… or getting our class pictures taken. 

I remember being surprised in the late 80s when I found out our high school, which was built in the mid 1970s, also had a “Pit”, only it was more like an actual amphitheater and had ugly puke green carpeting instead of brown.  The first time I ever saw it was when I was a high school junior and had signed up for a weekly class/discussion on sex.  I’m pretty sure I only signed up for it so I could get out of chemistry class. 

This is the cover of the edition of the booklet I had…

Anyway, one day in 1981 (or ’82… can’t remember exactly when) all the girls were brought to The Pit to watch a film called “Growing Up and Liking It“.  I remember the film looked like it was made in the early 70s.  It was all about puberty and how menstruation works.  They made it sound like it was sooo special.  Checking out the Museum of Menstruation and Women’s Health Web site, I see that the accompanying booklet “Growing Up and Liking It” was revised many times.  My friends and I got the 1978 version.  We could also buy little goodie boxes with samples of feminine hygiene products made by Personal Products. I’m pretty sure one of my friends ordered one of those boxes. It had a lot of different maxi pads and pantyliners in it, but I don’t think they included tampons.

I recall being so excited after watching that film.  All my friends were excited, too.  I used to go to my best friend’s house and we’d talk about how we’d feel when we were all grown up and passed that rite of passage that every healthy woman deals with. It didn’t even occur to me how horrifying it is to bleed from the crotch every month. 

I was sure that my first period was just around the corner and, once I got it, I’d be magically all grown up.  My mom got her first period when she was only ten years old. By the time I was nine years old, I already had boobs growing, so I was sure I’d be one of the first to go on the rag.  As it turned out, I didn’t have my first period until I was almost exactly thirteen and a half years old.  It was New Year’s Eve 1985.  And I didn’t have another period until July 1986.  Unfortunately, I have only missed two periods since, and that’s only been in the past few years, as I finally approach menopause.

But I do remember how giddy we all were after learning about menstruation, even if now I think we were nuts and actually miss those innocent days.  I wasn’t even grossed out about the prospect of bleeding from my privates every month.  I was blissfully unaware of how periods can make women feel, how they mess up clothes, and what they smell like.  I’m actually very lucky, though, because my periods are pretty low maintenance.  They rarely last more than four days and aren’t painful.  I don’t even really get PMS.  The worst I get is cramps, mood swings, and that icky, unclean feeling.  I have friends that have had to get hysterectomies because of their periods.

Seems like we had a couple more school talks over the years.  I guess they did them just to be sure that there weren’t any Carrie moments at the school and we didn’t have 17 year old girls freaking out because they’d never heard of menstruation.

Awww… poor Carrie. My mom never told me about periods, either. I learned in school.
I didn’t know Disney was in the business of teaching young women about their periods. The narrator is so maternal sounding.

My mom never had a heart to heart talk with me about periods. I remember telling her when mine finally started. Her exact words were, “Don’t go out and get pregnant.” And I never have, not even after I married Bill. I have three older sisters, and none of them talked to me about periods either, although one has had a frank talk with me about menopause. I haven’t reached that stage of life yet, but I suspect it’s just around the corner. Frankly, I look forward to it, because I don’t enjoy periods at all. And as my hormones start fluctuating again, like they did when I was in puberty, my skin has become a mess. Wrinkles and zits… not the most appealing combination! And I’m sure my hands will soon get talon like and develop age spots and arthritis. I’m also starting to get looser skin on my neck and hairs growing in weird places. That’s what happened to my mom.

One time, when my niece was a little girl, my mom was pushing her on a swing. My niece introduced my mom, her “Grammy”, to her friends. One of the kids said my mom didn’t look old enough to be her grandmother, but then her big brother said, “Sure she does. Look at her hands!” I guess the hands are the one part of the body that defy anti-aging efforts. Not long ago, I saw a video starring Christie Brinkley, whose face looked as beautiful as ever. But she wore a high necked dress with sleeves that conveniently covered her hands.

Check out the dress Christie wears! Christie’s younger daughter, Sailor, looks just like her.

I am grateful that I grew up at a time when personal products were convenient and relatively comfortable. I have never been able to wear tampons. They’re too uncomfortable for me. But I do remember that when I first started having periods, pads were very thick and uncomfortable, and they didn’t have “wings”, so they’d shift and bunch and sometimes I’d experience bloody “blowouts” because they didn’t stay in the right place. Today’s pads are much thinner, more comfortable, and offer more coverage where it’s needed. And the wings are revolutionary, because they help stabilize the pads and prevent messes. There are also other methods of dealing with that monthly business, too… like menstrual cups, which I’ve never tried. Some women take birth control and skip having periods altogether. I have never had a need for birth control, so I haven’t used that myself.

I think my older sisters had to deal with less sophisticated products that required belts and pins. And when they learned about puberty, they probably watched a film like this one…

It reminds me of Leave it to Beaver… only the beaver is between the legs.

Today’s kids probably might enjoy a film more like this one…

“The Red Badge of Courage” indeed…
You look forward to periods until you actually get one… and then you wish you could regress to childhood.
This was not the film we saw, but this one probably would have been more informative. They even show a woman on the toilet, changing her pad.

Well, anyway, it’s amazing how fast 35 years can pass. I, for one, am glad my days of having periods are going to be over before too long. No more “not so fresh” feeling ever month or bloody underwear and sheets. And some of you who are cringing as you read this post are probably glad it’s now come to an end!

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