Period Fear: An Open Letter To Men Everywhere
My friend Patrick is one of those rare species of straight-guy buddies who makes you realize you can be friends with a guy. If my life were a semi-independent small release movie — he’d be Jason Segel. Sure, we’ve had a lot of gender-neutral good times together, but this guy has also put up with some incredibly girly sh*t from me over the years. He has proofread OkCupid emails. He refrained from using the word “moist” when I went through that phase. He has literally let me cry on his shoulder, in a crowded bar after a fight with my mom. I have gone full-on Bridget Jones on this dude, and somehow, he’ll still have a beer with me. I don’t get it. But I’m grateful.
However, there’s one fatal flaw in Patrick’s Jason Segellian persona, and it took a paisley print maxi-pad for me to discover it. The guy cannot deal with periods. Period. There are other topics we can get in arguments over — vegetarianism, bridesmaid duties, Toddlers & Tiaras. But when it comes to Aunt Flo, he’s like an evangelical missionary. He is right, and periods are just wrong.Patrick and I used to work together and spent most of our lunch hours flipping through trashy gossip rags, making fun of celebrities (and just in case you’re asking at this point, yes, he’s straight). During one such lunch, I came across an ad for the snazzy new tween-targeted Kotex products, and naturally, shoved it in his face, quoting, “Who says tampons can’t have style?!” Patrick lurched back in his seat like I’d pulled a glock on him. “Oh, oh oh oh oh,” was all he could say. It was as if I’d somehow poured coffee all over his CPU, and the guy was restarting in safety mode. I laughed and kept going, “Come on, this one’s called the All-Nighter. Sexy, huh?! Don’t you just wanna bleed all over that?!”
He literally couldn’t get a sentence out. It was just one long talk-to-the-hand and loud, defensive repetition of my name:
“Kelsey. Kelsey. KELSEY. Uhh ohh no, KELSEY.”
Finally, he stood up, threw out the rest of his sandwich and declared: “That is one part of life that I don’t need to know about.”
Bull. Fellas, no female is particularly psyched about her Woman’s Time, but this is a part of lady life. If you want to keep a lady in yours then you either have to learn to live with it (sans shrieking), or you have to build a red tent on your desert compound where she can weave baskets during the time when she is unclean. I was so amused and annoyed about Patrick’s adolescent response that I decided work wasn’t as important as shaming him all week.
“Your favorite client’s coming in this afternoon,” I teased, referring his longtime crush on a gorgeous Latina actress we worked with. “You know she bleeds out of her vagina every month?”
“Enjoying the new Beyoncé? Oof, I bet she has to use a tampon and a pad when she’s performing.”
“Hey Patrick, your mom’s on line three! One-in-four chance she’s bleeding from the vag right now!” For all of this, I got a visible flinch.
Some might call this kind of behavior childish, but it’s no more immature than a grown-ass man getting swoony over the menstrual cycle. Where is the pioneering Sex Ed teacher who will teach boys about puberty, safe sex, and breathing exercises to help stem the panic attack they might have, should they encounter a box of tampons?
Until that Sex Ed teacher comes along, I think we’re it, ladies. There are plenty of guys out there who can handle the fact that their girlfriends have a period, without the assistance of self-help literature. There are even some who aren’t bothered at all — especially if it’s one of those thank-god-we’re-not-pregnant months. But, there are also the Patricks of the world: wonderful in many ways but reduced to a quivering puddle of hysteria in the face of pastel maxi pad. And that’s just not okay. After all, there’s no male equivalent that women are given a free pass to reject on principal. You don’t see me leaving the table at the mere mention of a receding hairline. If we have to deal with it, you have to deal with it. You don’t even have to deal with it — you just have to deal with us dealing. If not, deal-breaker.
Women of the world, let’s all pinky swear to adhere to this rule for a while: If you’re dating a dude who just “doesn’t want to hear about it”? That dude either gets dumped or gets schooled. No one’s asking them to run out for potato chips and Midol when you’re crampy (though that would be amazing) but they do need to collectively get it together and grow up. If they want your vagina, they have to take it for better or for bloodier. This squeamishness is no longer permissible, unless you’re dating a sixth-grader (also a deal-breaker, in case that wasn’t clear).
I don’t know how well I got through to Patrick, but I definitely caused some significant trauma. Maybe hitting bottom was what he needed to accept that his period-phobia was a real problem — hell, maybe it even led him to seek some sort of peer counseling. Maybe moving in with his girlfriend helped him to accept that she menstruated every month, but he needn’t fear drowning in a tidal crimson wave. Either way, we’ll see how he’s doing in the next seven to 10 days, when he receives the U by Kotex samples I had sent to his new office. Listen, he’s the one that needs to grow up — not me.
Originally published on Refinery29 by Kelsey Miller
Image: via Kotex
Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza