I started my period roughly at age thirteen. Which means my uterus has been shedding its lining once a month or so for the last 29 years.
Not including the roughly 27 months I spent in various states of gestation or the last five months where my menopausal uterus seems decidedly less cooperative.
That may be putting it mildly.
It’s more like my uterus has morphed into Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.
Needless to say, I attach no mystical significance or symbolism to this monthly ritual.
I cramp, I ingest liver-damning quantities of ibuprofen, and work my way from green to yellow to purple Tampax – thankful that I live in a country where both over-the-counter pharmaceuticals and color-coded feminine hygiene products are readily available.
I was recently shocked to learn there is an ORANGE level of absorbency of which I was unaware…thankfully I’ve never had to go there. I’m pretty sure I’d insert that and it would cause either my eyes to dry out or there would be a drought in Southeast Asia.
But I digress.
My point is I menstruate and continue on about my business.
But the other day at work I was suddenly confronted with an attitude that I had not encountered since high school swim class.
A female colleague in her mid-twenties came into work and collapsed into the chair next to my desk, sighing heavily.
The kind of sigh that is distinctly intended to elicit a query from anyone within earshot as to the well-being of the individual sighing.
I responded accordingly and asked her if she was ok.
To which she replied, “I have cramps. I don’t know how I’m going to get through my day.”
You and me both sister.
Because if I have to listen to a well-educated professional woman in possession of a four-year degree from an accredited institution of higher learning bitch and moan about her period, my own ability to make it until five o’clock is markedly less certain.
It’s not that I’m not sympathetic.
Actually, wait…that’s exactly the issue. I am completely and totally unsympathetic.
You know why?
Because unless a souped-up Delorean just dropped you off in 1955 and you’re still belting your vagina into the feminine-hygiene version of a straightjacket, you’ve really got nothing to complain about.
Not only did the 1950’s vagina require a Batman-villian inspired coverall, but, if these ads are to be believed, if your choice was to come within 100 yards of a menstruating vagina, or lick the floor of a typhoid ward, the typhoid ward would be the more appealing option.
Apparently in the fifties, dousing your vagina with the same chemical you might use to clean the inside of a garbage can made perfect sense.
Eventually advertising got away from the vagina-gone-rogue mentality and went with the idea, about the time my Aunt Flo came to town, that all women needed to feel confident on their periods was a heavy dose of deodorizer and the ability to do gymnastics.
Number one, unless you are washing your nether regions with the rotted carcass of a dead fish, soap and water will generally suffice. Number two, my appreciation for such displays of flexibility notwithstanding (and who didn’t love Cathy Rigby?), I remember the size of pads thirty years ago and you were lucky if you get through a door sideways, let alone do a cartwheel.
I was at my mother’s house a few years ago and started my period unexpectedly. My mom saw me digging frantically through my purse for a tampon and offered that she might still have some pads under the bathroom sink. That she did. From 1985.
It was like shoving a gauzy 2 x 4 in my underwear.
So…for all of us that came of age in the decades since Lysol was relegated more appropriately to disinfect toilet bowls rather than female genitalia, and since the invention of the Tampax Pearl and extra-strength Advil?
We’ve got nothing to complain about.