The Menstruation Myth

Period, period, period, period, period. Are you comfortable with it yet?

When I was 17 years old I tried to send my brother to the local pharmacy because I needed tampons. Before he could step out of the door I could hear a mumbled conversation and then a resounding WHAT, before he was loudly told to get upstairs and my father stormed into the living room to give me a piece of his mind.

 Little had I known that my insensitive request had nearly turned my brother gay, or worse, transgender.

I was astounded by the ignorance flowing out of the mouth of someone I respected. A well educated, well read individual, and one who had no problem discussing fashion and makeup with me, hardly the manliest of conversations.

The line was drawn at periods.

The attitude towards periods he had experienced growing up was one where they were treated as a curse, a sign of uncleanliness, a burden women had to endure as discreetly as possible without tainting any innocent men with it. In the later years we managed to educate my father away from the fears borne from menstrual ignorance; he no longer handles a box of tampons at arms length, nor washes his hands compulsively afterwards.

My mum remains quite sheltered on the topic, like many Indian women of her generation. It was something whispered behind closed doors. Uttering it too loudly may cause your uterus to explode. She was taught that it was something to be ashamed of, something women suffered.

Maybe it was a good thing that she wasn’t around to give me the talk. I had to rely on my sister and PSHE for my information. My dad’s only recognition of the event was adding sanitary towels to the shopping list and then promptly reminding me I had to help him buy them, else he be considered a pervert by the rest of London. By the time she came home, my dad was now privy to my cycle, and I was using tampons.

Revelations that garnered an “Oh lord, the shame!” and an afternoon of praying.

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“They attract bears”

The ignorance surrounding the menstrual cycle used to really anger me as a young woman. Periods make women ‘unclean’ in my culture. You are not meant to enter a holy place when menstruating, nor are you meant to touch a man about to pray, or give offerings to god, and a whole other list of things you can’t do because you are tainted by your own biology. The most embarrassing part when I was a young teen, was you would be asked whether you had your period. I could understand this from a doctor, but not when all I wanted to do was step into a building. My mother would discreetly inquire if I had my period and if I did I didn’t have to go to temple, or religious events, or partake in religious ceremonies.

Needless to say, I was always on my period during such occasions.

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Yeah, he’s not convinced

For some of the men I dated ‘that time of the month’ was a punchline and an inconvenience. Periods meant sex was now a hassle. Ignorant fears of fathering a brain damaged baby, or seeing tampax in the bathroom were too much for a minority. In fairness these comments were made by the Bricks of this world who believe periods opened them up to bear attacks.

Most men my age aren’t that ignorant.

But that isn’t to say they are well informed, or that they want to be. An ex once asked me how I was able to be in the swimming pool of our local gym if I was on my period. Confused, I replied tampons. He continued to look at me awaiting an explanation. Why would he know the difference between a sanitary towel or a tampon? Why would he care? The Bodyform woman’s roar was obviously a signal to put the kettle on for him. What he could do though was wipe the terrified look off his face and stop scanning the water for Sharks.

A uniquely female experience doesn’t have be seen as a curse, or unclean, or a negative.

 Man up. It’s just a little blood.

 

Biological Duty

Having a womb isn’t a good enough reason to have kids

I once dated a guy who informed me it was my biological duty to have children.

Yes. He said that.

Think of my uterus, if you would, as a bread maker that came with my ‘kitchen’.

The kitchen is great, but wouldn’t it be more of a kitchen if there was a rising heap of dough in that breadmaker? Wouldn’t that bread make me happier in the long run?

I mean you can’t have a breadmaker and not use it.

How am I still meeting people in this century who have this take on females and procreation?

I was never someone whose womb wrenched when she held a child, nor have I longed to feel life grow inside me. I’ve always been happy to hand a baby back, and get a burrito.

I’ve had the occasional flash panic, and stood in front of the freezer section in Sainsbury’s, frantically texting friends about embryo storage, whilst cooling my ovaries. But it was no bigger a panic than the undercut/no undercut dilemma of 2014.

I love the little humans.

Not because I have a uterus, but because I find them amazing. The incessant questioning, stubbornness, creativity and boundless energy is something I’m on board with.

We get on well.

As a result, I’m often told to have some of my own. Funny, because I’m also told I’m great with pets, but that ‘A puppy is for life, not just for Christmas’ campaign really did a job on folks. That’s something I should consider carefully.

I’m at that age where all my friends have had, or are having children. Some as I type. I am often told there is nothing like the joy of motherhood. That it’s the best thing I’ll ever do.

I think a more realistic description is that motherhood is a completely different kind of experience from those I have had to date. No one is making it look like ‘the best thing’ when they are wrestling a pound of ‘pick n mix’ out of a screaming child’s hand, handling a flooded bathroom, or being bitten.

My trip to Vegas measures up better.

That being said, the love my friends have for their children is contagious. Their relationships are rewarding. The way their children love them is moving. Good people are being raised in the world and it’s a beautiful thing to see.

But from a distance.

For me.

For now.

 

Vicious Cycle

The only person you can change is yourself

Einstein once said that the definition of madness was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

You can fall into unhealthy patterns with certain people. I always thought if I tried harder, compromised and practiced patience, things would improve.

But people show you what they’re about. Ignore what they say. Mute and watch.

You’re not supposed to call it. You’re not supposed to change. You’re meant to perpetuate the cycle.

My relationship with my parents is a vicious cycle I have often tried to escape from. The stuff that Grimm Fairy tales are made of. I’ve always been quite wary of people and their intentions as a result.

If it was still socially acceptable to dump a daughter in a forest for not agreeing with you, my dad would be all over that, and my mum would blindly second him.

Why it’s like this is a mystery to me. My parents have always seen me as a troublemaker. My mother says it’s because I was a horrible child. Always crying. Having to defend why I cried as a baby was a particular low point.

I talk a lot. I have a fiery temper. I stand up for myself. I sing in the shower.

Not everyone likes that.

I was always pleasantly surprised by people who enjoyed my company. Growing up, being me was something I was told was offensive to others. The friends with ulterior motives, cheating partners, and bullying exes were to be expected, if I believed what my dad had to say.

It was easy to leave home. But cycles aren’t broken by walking away. You find a way to continue them.

If I kept asking people who didn’t value me what I was worth, I would keep on getting the same miserable answer and feeling bad about myself. There were better people to ask.

Saner people too.

I have had nothing but time on my hands in the last few months. Time to sort out my affairs, make plans for the future and readdress relationships I have had that have been one sided, disrespectful and disloyal.

It’s made me happier, albeit a few friends lighter.

There is no winning at home. If I’m not there I’m ungrateful, if I am there I wasn’t welcome in the first place.

You can’t argue with that.

You can put on headphones on and look for jobs abroad, or somewhere else to live.

It’s nice to be supported and liked by your parents. But not necessary.

My sanity and happiness, I can’t live without.

 

Main Image courtesy of Gratis Photography.

The long road to insanity

The phenomenon of having to live with your parents again  after years of independence, is not something that I am experiencing alone. It’s pretty much standard practice for Londoners, especially with housing being priced the way it is. So when you are changing career and have no income you should thank your lucky stars that your parents will have you. You decide to use those years of worldly experience and let grown up you handle life with the folks. Unless they are my parents that is. No one is mature enough for that. My parents make me wonder how I ever managed to act like a functional member of society for so long. Maybe it’s adjusting to home life again. Indian families, have their own brand of crazy. I don’t know if they are crazy like my folks are though. There was a reason I left so young and so quickly. Sadly, had I put more thought into my escape I wouldn’t have been forced to move back because of finances. Sometimes I feel like I deserve a Pride of Britain award for not spontaneously combusting after a week in their company.

Many a laugh has been had at the expense of our torturous relationship. Friends want to meet my Dad, buy him a drink, think my mother is quaint and traditional. To these people I say: NO. There is nothing cute or eccentric about either of them. If I didn’t know better I would think they had been weaponised to make the enemy go mad in closed spaces. Maybe it’s me overreacting, I’m always being told that it can’t be that bad. I have decided to dole out the crazy in installments, so you can judge for yourself without the harmful side effects.

The never ending noise

As a talkative person who has been affectionately called a ‘big mouth” and inspired more inquisitive minds to wonder if I would ever shut up, I have a pretty good tolerance for noise. It generally doesn’t tend to bother me. I enjoy a good conversation, a stimulating discussion, an impassioned debate, just as much as the next person. Just not all day long. Definitely not if I am not needed to have said conversation. Much less so when it is screamed at me because the other participants are almost completely deaf. This is where my Dad is a viking. He doesn’t need an audience nor a conversation opener it would seem. He often starts in the middle with “So I told him…” It takes a while before I even realised the conversation is aimed at me. When he tries to have a discussion he thinks calling me a moron is helping to develop the debate. This is normally when I tap out and put my headphones on. He does get sulky when he can see you’re ignoring him, which often leads to very animated discussions with the television. When he and my Mum ‘talk’ it could be easily misinterpreted as an argument. The police have been called more than once. Occasionally he bursts into song which then makes my mother burst into song and we then have a Bollywood sing off at 9pm. Delightful.  Imagine this all day every day. I no longer leave my room if I am home without a sibling.

Practical Joker

When I was a teen it was the bane of my life. The fake letters in the post, the phone calls, the ‘hilarious caricatures’ where I was covered in acne and arm hair. What every sensitive 14 year old girl needs. My Dad can actually be quite a funny guy, but too often it’s at the expense of someone else and you need to remind yourself, he is a small old man whom you will gain zero satisfaction from killing. He is constantly making up songs about how I have no friends, or how I am stupid, but to a jazzy tune like Copacabana, so it can’t really be seen as cruel. Nothing sounds mean when sung right? Wrong. It’s actually the karaoke equivalent of “Why do you keep hitting yourself?” You can only be called an idiot 27 times in a row before you start developing a twitch. I know. I have tested it out. In an attempt to save my sanity I have started smoking again, Unfortunately unless I start smoking crack or dosing myself with Ketamine, it won’t be enough. My Mum feigns sleep, only having a sneaky peek to see if she can sit up and finish off the rest of the peanuts before he comes back to share his latest joke. He doesn’t need you to be awake to talk at you…

Over Sharing

Since I can remember being able to understand my Dad’s anecdotes about his reckless youth, I have begged my father to keep his personal life and sexual commentary to himself. He retells it like the Adventures of Emmanuelle, only it’s being told by a man who isn’t wearing his teeth yet. Player Player.  I doubt the film franchise would have had the same international success, had it been told by a wheezy, 76 year old Emmanuelle. No one needs to know that, nor do they want to picture that. The number of times I have wanted to stab myself in the ear after some comment my father has made about some scantily clad woman on the TV, or when he has managed to crowbar in a story of his sexual hey day, well I would have slowly stabbed myself to death. My cries of “Inappropriate!” are ignored. I am a prude, it would seem. According to him, once you pass 18 everything gets put on the table. Maybe this is why most people leave home around that age. Now I am back and using his electricity, the only way out of hearing it, is to get up and go. He’ll remember though. Next time I am hungover and unable to move on the sofa, he will pick up where he left off and there isn’t enough Rohypnol in the world…

Human compost heap

Both my parents seem to think that I double as a garbage disposal. They are both impulsive shoppers, easily swayed by a BOGOF campaign. My mother is the worst offender. She will come home after one of her walkabouts around London, with an bag filled with random snacks that have taken her fancy and will then proceed to push them on you like her life depending on your consumption of these goods. “Have you had a Battenberg?” She will ask this question seven times in a day, often minutes after the previous time and then finally approach me in all severity, pause the telly and instruct me that it is my job to eat all the remaining Battenberg as it now stale. After three hours. The same is done for any food in the fridge going off. Many a time have I walked into the dining room to see a plate with a stale cake, a watery looking piece of fruit, some hummous that I didn’t know we had and a packet of Golden Wonder, and walked back out before she could make me eat it. When I have returned later in the evening I can still hear her ranting about her ungrateful children and my dad’s inability to force us to eat food. The key is to wait until they’re asleep and throw the food into the recycling bin. She seems to be so much happier in the morning and if I fake stomach cramps I get a cup of tea thrown in to boot. Ironically when she gets food that we all love, we are all rationed one piece each and god forbid you should eat more than your share. Believe me, there is hell to pay when that happens.

Tomorrow we will cover drunken MJ impressions and learning shame. For now I have managed to convince myself to take a walk to the pub. It’s what a grown up would do.