Why it’s okay to be honest about your period

Human bodies are incredible. They can withstand the craziest things. For instance, if I get a paper cut and it bleeds, my world starts spinning. Dizziness sets in and I have to sit down until the bleeding stops. But every month, for five to seven days, I bleed in my pants pretty much constantly—torrents and torrents of blood—and I play it real cool. No big deal!

At least, for some reason, it’s not supposed to be. There’s a super weird expectation for girls to keep their periods a secret, or at least I think there is. Why else would I feel the need to tuck my tampon up my sleeve to go to the bathroom? Or lie about why I’m acting sluggish? I’m not coming down with a cold, I am shedding my uterine wall and it affects my entire body!

My period has a tendency to be unpredictable, kind of like a gal pal who always vows to be on time but never follows through, instead accidentally arriving in the middle of a movie or a chemistry exam or Thanksgiving dinner. It’s hard to keep my period a secret when it insists on making such a grand entrance (like on my grandma’s white couch, oh gawd why?). I know I’m not the only one whose experienced this. One of my friends in middle school got a surprise period during lunch, but she didn’t feel like she could tell anyone about it. Years after it happened, she told me that she tied a sweatshirt around her waist and spent the whole day hoping no one would spot the stain on her skirt. Dang it, uterus, you diva.

Lately, I’ve been trying to be more open about my period. I don’t necessarily want to complain about how crappy I feel, I just want conversations about this whole quarter of my month to be normal.

Overall, honesty has indeed been the best policy. Women in my life can relate: They tell me about their cramps or their unexpected mood swings or how they always get their period on a Tuesday, no matter what. It’s great. Just like comic book movies or a death on Game of Thrones, menstruation can really bring people together.

Mentioning my period to guy friends has been a little more interesting. Some of them have some surprising questions, like “Do you only bleed when you pee?” — which makes me question our country’s sex education, but I’m glad to help clear things up. One old pal admitted that he didn’t realize that periods were painful, at least not enough to send a girl crawling to bed with a heating pad. He was also surprised to learn that women can experience symptoms outside of their lady-parts. Personally, I’m a migraine magnet at the beginning of my cycle, but in the past I only let on that I had a migraine, not that I had a migraine and was hemorrhaging out of my nether-regions. Now, I’m extra glad I brought it up; those poor guys might have spent the rest of their lives assuming that periods were something we can hold in. No, sir.Being honest about my period also means I’m not hiding my tampons on the way to the bathroom anymore. No one has commented on my little absorbent baton, and I hope it’s because no one cares. Why should they?

These are just my personal experiences, but if you are interested in reading more about normalizing period conversations, check out Julie Beck’s essay in the Atlantic called, “Don’t Let Them See Your Tampons.” She questions why discreetness is such a major selling point for feminine hygiene products. It’s really awesome and on-point.

Basically, I just want you to know it’s okay to be honest about your period. I mean, if you bled that much in war, you would win a medal. So, might as well work it.

(Images via here, here, here, and here.)

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