Hey, World. Periods Still Suck

Thoughts on how annoying it is to have a uterus

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Photo by: Erol Ahmed

The idea that a handful of mine had been lying dormant and would soon pull me into an involuntary fertility rite felt like a betrayal.

I was one of the unlucky few whose period arrived in elementary school. I blame it on my hometown being a superfund site. The polluted soil from ancient automotive factories made for great mud pies, one of which must have splattered across my torso, revving my ovaries like a Ford motor on an assembly line. Getting my period early meant not having anyone to commiserate with. It also didn’t seem normal to carry a purse between classes because none of the other girls had one. Instead, I shoved mine in my backpack, sneaking it to the bathroom whenever I needed a change. Although, the bathroom wasn’t a safe space either. The thought of someone hearing a wrapper crinkle or a sanitary bin creak open was akin to social suicide. Then, there would be no hiding. Everyone — classmates, teachers, bus safeties, janitors — would know I was on the rag.

In the decade that followed, I saw tampons as ticking time bombs. The moment one went in, I started my stopwatch, quickly jumping into the ocean or rushing through tennis practice, then sprinting to nearest toilet to rip it out before I turned septic.

I’d be remiss not to mention the painful side of periods as well: cramps. Bad cramps started to be a thing for me in middle school. One morning, I was twisting the dial of my locker when a dull ache started to balloon in my abdomen. By lunchtime, the pain had spread to the tops of my thighs and lower back. I went to the nurse and laid in a fetal position on a cot while she called my parents. At home, I was handed a bottle of Advil. The pain meds made the cramps manageable, but their effectiveness hinged on my ability to remember to take them before and during my period. I’d start popping pills in the days leading up to it to coat my system and continue taking them every four hours till it ended. Occasionally, I’d forget to pack the bottle. I’d feel a telltale throb and instinctively reach inside my bag, dread building as I fumbled to find nonexistent relief. Whenever a movie hero accidentally ingests poison, he must move quickly in order to subvert a slow death. In those Advil-bereft crises, I needed to find an antidote just as fast or suffer the consequences. If a drugstore wasn’t within reach, I’d barter, beg or limp for miles till I found my gel cap fix.

During my period, I wander teary-eyed into bodegas and use dried salami logs to knock down tampon boxes from shelves I can’t reach.

Though I often feel loopy while on my period, I’m not quick to clue others in. Similar to Fight Club, the first rule of period problems is not to talk about period problems. Women tend to stay tight-lipped because of sexist individuals like our President. You know, the ones who claim the “blood coming out of [our] wherever” makes us crazy. If women actually became unhinged during their periods, it would have led to the collapse of civilized society. For centuries, we’ve been tilling fields, dancing elaborate jigs, migrating by land and sea, earning degrees, breaking records, raising kids, growing companies — all while feeling the slow, steady drip of blood stalactites in our collective uterin caves. Our biology forced us to learn multitasking before to-do lists were even a thing. We’ve become pros at assessing our internal state and rising above it. Why not laud us for the steely badasses we are versus peg us as hormonal?

For centuries, we’ve been tilling fields, dancing elaborate jigs, migrating by land and sea, earning degrees, breaking records, raising kids, growing companies — all while feeling the slow, steady drip of blood stalactites in our collective uterin caves.

If my own saga is any indication, periods are far from chill. I had ten blissful years without a period and if I finish menopause by sixty, I’ll have at least ten more before I die. Does all this sound like a depressing forecast? It totally is. So, in lieu of more fancy period products or another ad comparing my vagina to a pomegranate, I’d like to propose something else. How about we as women all agree to stop downplaying the true suckiness of periods? When Todd from Accounting asks why you’re dragging at work, don’t make up a vague excuse. Tell him you’re woozy because you’re currently a Red Cross blood donation from the waist down. Maybe not in those exact words, but you get my point. If Todd is a decent dude, he might even use your brutal honesty as an opportunity to develop period empathy, since he himself is #blessed enough to not have a uterus.

Essayist. Storyteller for brands. Ride or die Brooklynite. addiestuber.com

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