Every month, from the time a woman (for she is a woman now) hits puberty, to the time she gets to menopause, she will bleed for three to five days through her vagina. It is a natural thing.
Every single month, every year after puberty and before menopause, she bleeds. Excluding the months she is pregnant. Or when she is using the kind of birth control that tampers with her menstrual cycle. Other than that, she bleeds.
Together with the bleeding comes cramps, headaches, bloating (and this is a mother!) acne, a general out-of-it feeling and drowsiness sometimes. These are the days (especially during the first two days) when emotions hold a conference and decide that they will not be ignored anymore. When tear ducts fill out and assemble at the periphery of her eyeballs, on standby, waiting for provocation, threatening to flow out any minute now.
Say she decides to watch ‘How To Get Away With Murder’ right? Nothing much to be emotional about in this series, right again? But in those days when she is having her periods, you couldn’t be more wrong. So when a woman sits at a table, face to face with the killer of her son and offers not just forgiveness but also an apology to him (the murderer) for not having anyone to care enough to set him on the right path, those tears that were on standby will find a reason to flow. And flow they will.
Most of these days, a woman might feel like staying in bed for longer than is the norm. She might not feel up to going to school. Or work. Or chatting up that ‘talkative’ colleague. She might not even feel like cooking for her dearest husband. Or going out on a date with her boyfriend – wearing makeup has never felt like an uphill task as it does on those days. Ditto, wearing high-heeled shoes. She might just want to have a light conversation about the weather, or the possibility of Dennis getting back with Betty. Something not so intellectual and inconsequential. Something meh, because meh is what she is feeling.
But since periods and its vagaries happen every month like clockwork, she cannot just retire to bed in honour of her periods every time they come knocking. This is because, they are not ‘unexpected guests’ – they are not even guests at all! They moved in the minute she hit thirteen and have been with her ever since. The only difference is that for three to five days, instead of sitting quietly in a corner like they normally do, they come out and (attempt to) disrupt her life.
Just because they show up for a few days does not however make periods special. Our bowels move. Our hearts beat. Our lungs contract and expand to supply oxygen and expel carbon dioxide to and from all our body tissues. Periods flow to shed the lining of the uterus. All biology. Part of who we are.
So can we now try not to make this subject taboo? Can we not feel ashamed of it? Can we stop trying to find somewhere to look when a woman shows up at the till with a packet of Always sanitary pads? Can we stop wrapping the pads in numerous concealations as if it is a dirty little secret? Because it is not a secret and it definitely is not dirty? And I don’t see you do the same for tissue paper?
Can we also talk to the young women who just stepped into puberty about their bodies to help them understand themselves? While at it, can we try as much as possible to ensure that no girl’s life is disrupted every month due to lack of sanitary pads? Can we finally acknowledge that sanitary pads are a basic need just like food? You know, because we don’t have the option of digging up a hole and sitting on it like was the case in yonder years? Nor can we use leaves either?
And when you have wined and dined a woman, when the two of you have had a nice date where you’ve gotten to know each other and you have connected very deeply, when you have taken the time to drive her home and she has invited you in for a night cap and she has allowed some necking to happen between you, only for her to stop you from proceeding to third base, citing her periods, can you stop the whining? Please? Do you think you can do that?
Can you even stop yourself from rushing to social media and claiming that women are such frauds? Can you restrain yourself from ranting on and on about how she led you on? Will you quit lamenting that women like to use their periods as an excuse to not have sex? Can you stop being such a baby about a woman’s periods?
She took the time to dress up for you even when she wasn’t feeling it. She endured a bloated tummy, a persistent headache and annoying cramps as she relied on a couple of painkillers to see her through – which sometimes, fyi, don’t always work! She even allowed herself to be seen in public wearing flats because she wasn’t in the mood for high shoes. She showed up for a date with you when all she might have preferred was to lie in bed and relax with a glass of warm water, reading a book or watching a mushy series on TV – something to get those tear ducts going.
She came to the date because to her, life is more than what goes on within her body at a particular time of the month. Life does not stop because she bleeds. Life continues because she bleeds. She bleeds because she lives, not because some sort of sorcery is going on within her. So how short-sighted of you to measure the success of your date based on the presence or absence of her period?
During her period she might act like she enjoys going to work, pretend that she doesn’t have to pop a few painkillers to ease the period pains, she might shrug down her frequent trips to the bathroom even when they have nothing to do with something she ate.
As I stand with Always and our young women who are easing into puberty through #AlwaysStandUpKe I hope that every woman will embrace this part of their womanhood unashamedly. I also hope that every man in her life will take the time to know her body – and not just the physical aspect of it. I hope they will embrace it, because by so doing, they embrace her. All of her.