Growing up, I was given to understand that the terrible experience of menstruating was to happen once a month for most of my adult life. It sounded like a pretty shitty deal to me, but whatevs, being a woman sucked sometimes. Or most of the time.
In my naive youth I had thought I was only going to get my period for one day every month. It still sucked. But I could deal with it for 1/30 of my life.
My parents never talked to me about it. Not surprisingly considering the sex talk I got. Not one of my four older sisters talked to me about it either. Also not surprising considering how much older they were than me and that we all kind of hated each other.
I didn’t get my period until I was 14. The same year my little sister got hers. I was seriously underweight and that probably delayed it. Also, I was pretty sure I had been delaying it through sheer force of will which was the same reason I never had a pregnancy scare before the procedure (at least in my mind). I may be overestimating my will here.
I was wholly unprepared for the immense shame I would feel in getting my period. It didn’t matter that I rationally knew every woman menstruated. It didn’t matter that I logically knew I had done nothing wrong. It was gross. And bad, somehow.
I didn’t tell anyone for the first few months. I threw away my ruined underwear when it caught me off guard. Which happened very frequently at that age. I used up the feminine products my sister had left when she moved out. Then used the little money I had to buy my own. Then just used toilet paper for one awful month.
One day my parents were in my room. I don’t know why. But they went through my closet and found a bag of used feminine products. I would keep them in my closet until it was over and then sneak them down to the trash can outside. The perfect crime.
I was found out. My mother sat me down and tried to have the menstruating talk with me. I wanted to die. If it was possible to die from shame and humiliation I would have right then. I was nauseated by my shame. My face was burning, my heart was pounding. I just wanted to say whatever needed to be said to end the conversation. I couldn’t even hear her over the sound of my heart beating and the blood rushing to my face and neck. She could have literally said anything to me.
Besides, I had already been menstruating for months and months by this point. She had nothing useful to tell me. Except that it would hurt and that I wasn’t allowed to wear tampons till I was 18. (I have no fucking clue why).
The thing was, it didn’t hurt. I was so thin that I hardly ever even got my period for many years. And even when I did, it was short and painless.
Little did I know, it was biding it’s time. Because I believe my period is sentient. And it hates me.
I know there is supposed to be a 28 day cycle. Bullshit. My cycle is: when do you have something important planned? Good. That day.
Going to a party? Have a date when I finally decide to sleep with that dude? Going out of town? Getting hijacked by pirates? Having heart surgery? I’ll be on my period for that.
Think I am exaggerating? I’ve had 5 heart surgeries. I was on my period for 4 of them. That is not a coincidence. I’m sure I will even be on it during my honeymoon (if I ever have one). Or if I am ever hijacked by pirates.
Once, during my heart surgery phase, I went up to see my mother. I was on blood thinners at the time. Yes, they do thin all your blood.
I was already having issues with my blood. I wasn’t building red blood cells properly. I was bordering on anemia. I kept losing so much during my surgeries. And I was a vegetarian.
I had planned to get my period up at my mother’s (which I did, thank you). By this time I was using the Diva Cup. Which is really going to be a wonderful story for another post coming soon.
Diva cups are awesome. I can’t recommend them enough. Blah blah blah. Read about them here. (And no, they aren’t paying me for that glowing endorsement, but they should. Maybe by the next period story).
But being on blood thinners meant I needed two lines of defense against the enemy. The cup and the pad.
My mother and I went out for a day of shopping. We went to one store and I “refreshed my defenses”. Then we drove to the next store. It was about a 15 minute trip.
As soon as I got out of my mother’s car, I suspected something was wrong. You know how you just get a sinking feeling in your stomach and just know? Like when you let your best friend cut your hair in sixth grade and even though you hadn’t looked in a mirror or seen the look on her face, you knew something was wrong. It was like that.
I walked straight to the bathroom. Dreading each step that brought me closer to my doom. Hoping I wasn’t going to find what I thought I was going to find.
In the bathroom, I pulled my pants down and saw it. The horror. I had bled through. Everything. It was like the final scene in Carrie. (Shoutout to Stephen King!)
I took my pants off and then my underwear. I didn’t know what to do. I rinsed my pants off in the sink. They were beyond hope, but I had to wear them out of the store. Thank god there was a handicapped stall with a sink or the other shoppers would have gotten quite a show.
I threw my underwear away right then. They were too wrecked to even put back on. I didn’t want to put my pants on, but I had little choice.
Have you ever gone to the bathroom while wearing a wet bathing suit? Not in the suit, but in a bathroom? And then you have to pull this cold wet thing back on you. And it feels so gross and clingy. I hate the way that feels. And as you already know, I hate not wearing underwear.
I found my mother in the store. She looked at me horrified. “What happened in there? How did you get soaking wet?”
And I for a brief second, I felt that burning shame from all those years ago. My face began to flush and my heart rate increased. And then I thought, fuck it. So many worse things had happened to me by that point. This was nothing. This was fucking hilarious. I explained to her what happened and we laughed.
We ended up walking down the strip mall to a Bed Bath and Beyond to buy the darkest towel possible so I would have something to sit on for the drive home.
Everytime I use it, I think of this story and laugh a little to myself. Even more so when someone else uses it. So if you ever come over, now you’ll know why I have that one brown towel.