In some parts of India, when a girl starts to menstruate, there is a function held in her home by the family members, or if the family is very rich, they might even hold the function in a five star hotel. Basically all near and dear are informed “our girl can reproduce now”!. And then they partay (deliberate spelling error, get the feel please). While a lot of people think this is a weird as hell thing to do, many think about it as the celebration of the girl’s womanhood. Also in the older days, this was the way of saying “our girl has become big, she can marry and produce babies”, so that interested families could see if a marriage could be arranged with the girl turned woman.
In other parts of India, the men in the family live for years without knowing if the girl in the house in menstruating. In some cases, there are men who do not even know what the hell a period is until they get a wife who goes all ninja on them when she starts to bleed. Believe me, I know of a case like that. Yes, it can be that ‘hush-hush’!
But I feel both the parts previously mentioned border on the extremes. The poor little girl is confused as hell with her bodily changes, a lot of mothers probably do not even give them a proper talk about what is happening and then the whole world is invited to celebrate the bleeding. Yay indeed.
I think I belong to neither, there are other parts too, one can never generalize. But talking about it openly is a bit of a taboo almost everywhere, unless it is in the family. I remember attending a family wedding when I was probably 14 and I was looking for a friend. I went up to her grandfather and asked him where she was. “Oh she could not come dear, she is having her menses”, he told me very casually. I was all “what the hell” in my head at his reaction. In my head, you did not talk about it so casually. When I was in school, it was like a big secret only the ‘bigger girls’ knew about. There would be ridiculous code words for it. Like when I was in hostel, the older girls called it ‘ding ding’, so freaking funny! So the girls who had not got their period yet had no clue about what menstruation was and the girls who did know about it refused to share any information. It served as a way of exclusion. I was one of the first few in my class to get it. So it was just me and two-three other girls and we never said anything to the others, because well, that seemed to be the norm.
As I grew older, I did not hold on to the ridiculous mindset I had. I realized, there is so much fuss about the whole thing for no reason. Every time something happens and if I happen to even mention the word ‘period’/’bleeding’ most men get grossed out. It is so bloody annoying (pun intended). I mean, you do not even want me to mention it, but think it is funny to kid about stuff like ‘PMS’.
“A woman must wait for her ovaries to die before she can get her rightful personality back. Post-menstrual is the same as pre-menstrual; I am once again what I was before the age of twelve: a female human being who knows that a month has thirty day, not twenty-five, and who can spend every one of them free of the shackles of that defect of body and mind known as femininity.”
― Florence King
Okay, so maybe it is not that terrible, but we definitely lose at least two days in every month thanks to our ovaries. And as if the pain is not enough, you put a taboo on talking about it! Not like I care. I am the sorts who would make faces if in pain and if someone asks ‘what happened’, I shoot back upfront – “I am bleeding, literally”. I have done this quite a lot. This once the same thing happened when we were in a taxi and my girlfriends were like “dude, the driver is there”, glaring at me and pointing at the driver.
“So what? Everybody knows we bleed every month, what’s the big deal”, I replied pretty loudly. Disapproving glances and smirks followed. I have been branded ‘crazy’ often enough. Now and then I read impassioned rants about how in stores in India the shopkeepers wrap up sanitary pads in a newspaper as if it is something to be ashamed of. As far as I can remember, I have always asked the shop guys not to do it, not as a ‘feminist’ gesture, but just because it is annoying to unwrap that newspaper and I am lazy as hell. “Aise hi de do bhaiya” (just give it without wrapping it), I always tell the shop guys.
It really does not matter about what people think, it all boils down to you. People are born and raised in a certain way and just because you have a certain strong opinion about something does not mean people will change their perception about it in a day. They might never. But if you want to talk about something, go ahead talk about it. I do not think talking about my period is a big deal, but if need be I mention it now and then. Not to shock or gross people out but just because there might be something happening – like me bleeding.
I think women rarely exaggerate about the pain. Some of them are probably very sensitive and cannot take it. And there are definitely times when we feel like our uterus is a monster, totally bent on getting us and killing us. Not a very good feeling. Imagine a shark nibbling your intestines.
The rare times when a guy decides to ask a question about it, I think it is important that we answer without sarcasm. Like this once a guy friend wondered how do women go on long trekking trips and seem absolutely fine. I told him about how many women take pills to reduce the pain and in many cases they even take pills to delay periods. Although the ones to delay them come with strong possible side-effects.
If only we never had to deal with them at all, then we could go camping in the woods for an entire month without screaming bloody murder when “it is that time of the month”.