Recently I caught myself casually passing out the information of my period having started that same day, to a person I didn't really know all that well, who had no particular reason to be interested in my period-schedule, and, most importantly, was of the male gender – the horror! He took the information with a straight face (I don't honestly think he cared), and since we're not prepubescent children, he ought to be acquainted with the concept anyway. What interested me on an afterthought was rather my own reaction of “oh sh.. oh well. He took it nicely, so should be cool.” Why would I react that way?
Somehow I was brought up with the notion that periods are private stuff (just so we're all clear – I'm talking menstruation, the monthly session of “blood coursing from our uteri like a crimson landslide”, no room for doubt left!). Mayhaps it's not private as such, just not something to go about and tell random people. As an example, a friend of mine will start talking about her period in a loud voice specifically when she wants to gross people out. (And it normally works, she tells me.)
Period stories are to be shared with close friends, mothers, perhaps aunties, presumably the doctor too when relevant. We can also talk about periods in a theoretical way in front of male friends – just don't share the details! Telling random males - not so much. Of course we can now actually refer to the concept with correct terms, rather than indirect references to “that time of the month” or whatever, so progress, I guess.
I never personally felt any shame associated with having periods as such (which apparently makes me a lucky specimen of gender female, at least on a worldwide scale), just the regular embarrassing moments of bleeding through my pants and not noticing and going through half the town with blood all over; ending somewhere foreign being run out of pads and having to get them at a Chinese shop with salesman looking weird at you; being very drunk and upon request for entrance ticket to some disco instead producing a huge pad out of the bag. We've all been there, amirite?
As a teenager there were moments of mortification. “Such-and-such must. not. know. of this blood thing” etc. Did not always talk about it with new girlfriends; when you reached the point where you could share “my period such-and-such!”, then it was true friendship.
At some point during my growing into adulthood (see, mom? dealing with my age!) menstruating stopped being a big deal. Casually discussing where to get the cheapest tampons with a new (female) flatmate is as natural as anything. Telling female colleague “just my stomach that hurts.. just period pains” is totally fine. Telling male co-worker same thing – takes an effort and is only done if strictly necessary. I mean, what does he care? Also the look of surprise on his face. Ugggh.
So periods are still a big deal in a certain way. It marks me off as different from all those non-period-having people (men) who never had to deal with it personally and as such are free to not care. Talking about it makes the difference clearer, maybe that's what sometimes makes it something that takes a deal of courage?
Discussing details of my period with people I don't know so well is still a bit of an effort (such as “I slept really bad tonight, my period came and it hurt so much it woke me up at 5”), but I'm slowly getting better at sharing/complaining/giving relevant insight as per the situation. Also am now able to buy huge pack of tampons as only purchase from a by the looks of it 16 year old guy at the supermarket without twitching a muscle in my face. Honestly, I don't care, that line is safe and crossed.
One time, someone was unwell at class, so we asked her if she was ok or needed something. No thanks, it was just her period, she quickly explained some details and went home. The guy present was rather surprised that “she just told us! Isn't that weird?” I considered a moment before having to say “well, not really... why shouldn't she? It's not anything unusual”. Because it really isn't. Half the human population etc. Why shouldn't we talk about it?
What I am getting at is: I would really like for a complete normalisation of menstruation. Why should it stay a ladies-exclusively business? It's not something unusual, take a random sample of the population and approx. 50% will have it, be having it or have had it. Men talk about men's stuff too without anybody raising an eyebrow. I know lots of men who have to deal with menstruations of their girlfriends/wives/whatever, and who don't consider it a deal, but it's still something they generally talk about privately between them.
Before the protests get too loud – of course there's no need to share information such as “there was an unusually large amount of clots in my menses last month”; if you think it's serious, go see a doctor, and we also don't share detailed info on our ingrown toenails to just anybody, do we. But why should it be a big deal to say “I got my period, and it hurts” also to half-strangers? They also know about it, at least indirectly (I should hope so!) There's no need for it to be over-sharing, at least if it's somehow relevant to the conversation at hand. For us to arrive at that point, however, it takes people talking about it. And what better place to start than by myself? So, ye be warned, what I basically intend to do from now on is to make a conscious effort to say such things also to loose acquaintances like it is no big deal, contributing to a normalisation of it as something you can just talk about, not something all that private and semi-embarrassing. (The difference from previously being that I don't just blutter it out by mistake any more, but will be pretending to know what I'm doing.)
Oh, and while I'm at it. World, what's up with nobody saying a word when I walk through town with blood all over the behind of my pants? When it's clearly visible, chances are the person is unaware and would appreciate a head's up. Could we have some solidarity and just say it to each other, please. You would like me to do the same for you, I'm sure. Thank you!