AS­PA­SIA ON the pol­i­tics of pe­ri­ods

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - EDITOR'S NOTE -

MY MOTHER IS a thor­oughly prac­ti­cal per­son. When pu­berty threat­ened my happy child­hood, she bought me two books. Ev­ery­thing a Girl Needs to Know, re­plete with handy di­a­grams, and Judy Blume’s sem­i­nal text on the sub­ject, Are You There God?

It’s Me, Mar­garet. My mother knew the power of Judy Blume – af­ter all, Fudge and Su­per­fudge got me through the ac­qui­si­tion of a younger brother with per­fect equa­nim­ity. All I can re­mem­ber of the fate­ful day my pe­riod ar­rived is that I was strangely re­lieved that I did not have to deal with the weird an­ti­quated belts and straps and ter­ri­ble su­per-sized pads that plagued Mar­garet and God. Tech­nol­ogy had moved on and it was all rel­a­tively neat and tidy.

My mother fore­stalled the im­pli­ca­tions of pu­berty, namely hot, un­bri­dled, mad teenage sex (yeah, right) with a clear in­junc­tion to con­sult with her when I was ready to en­gage in said hot, un­bri­dled, mad teenage sex. She would then promptly book an ap­point­ment at the gy­nae so I could go on the pill and avoid the spec­tre of teenage preg­nancy. The in­junc­tion had the req­ui­site ef­fect. I avoided all teenage sex, of the hot, un­bri­dled, mad va­ri­ety and all the other fum­bling, deeply em­bar­rass­ing, num­ber­crunch­ing, base-chas­ing types for a very, very long time. Who wants to go to the gy­nae with their mother for the pill? The shame of it would be too ex­cru­ci­at­ing. Smart woman.

Full dis­clo­sure. I no longer have my pe­riod. One of the best parts of preg­nancy (I did, you will be pleased to note, even­tu­ally get round to hav­ing sex) was the sud­den ces­sa­tion of all the ter­ri­ble, mis­er­able, grue­some things as­so­ci­ated with the monthly vis­i­tor. I was ec­static. Not for long. Be­cause then I was bloated, bil­ious and very ready to ex­pel the squat­ter in my belly. But what I did not count on was the sud­den haem­or­rhage af­ter push­ing that small baby out. Can we ever get away from the blood, god­dammit? I was leak­ing blood rather ex­ces­sively. So in or­der to pre­vent a full-on fa­tal emp­ty­ing of the en­tire store of my haemoglobin, the emer­gency ob­stet­rics pro­fes­sor per­formed a hys­terec­tomy. And then I got a life­time of no pe­ri­ods. Just like that, no monthly curse, no in­ad­ver­tent leak­ages, no no lter . (Ac­tu­ally, I still have ovaries so scrap that.)

Still, read­ing about the sud­den on­set of the #Pe­ri­odProb­lems hash­tag made me feel a lit­tle pang of jeal­ousy. Yes, ladies. You heard me. Jeal­ousy. I was re­ally proud and moved by this par­tic­u­lar in­stance of hash­tag ac­tivism and I can­not re­ally join the party. #Pe­ri­odProb­lems serves its pur­pose beau­ti­fully. It unites us even in our mis­ery. When poet Rupi Kaur posted a se­ries of im­ages record­ing her per­sonal tra­vails with the big P on Instagram that got her in­stantly banned, I thought, well done, sis­ter. There is a lot of shame at­tached to our monthly menses. It’s ob­vi­ously the net re­sult of years of in­sti­tu­tion­alised weird­ness around fe­male bod­ily func­tions. So it is to­tally OK to be a sex­pot in a bikini pout­ing on all fours (I am speak­ing to you, Kim K) but not OK to be post­ing a photo of the aw­ful leak­age prob­lem? Rupi Kaur did some­thing hon­est and good for all of us. Not least for the fact that it is that aw­ful leak­age prob­lem and the lack of funds to buy all those neat and tidy so­lu­tions keeps hun­dreds of thou­sands of poor girls around the world out of school #just­say­ing. So when Instagram put Rupi s photo up again and the world’s women started hash­tag­ging their pe­ri­ods, they man­aged to take back a lot of power.

The power of the pe­riod. Be­cause de­spite all its hor­ri­ble, mind-al­ter­ing, uterus-churn­ing, choco­late-binge­ing, tweet-de­serv­ing qual­i­ties, it is the sin­gu­lar de ning mo­ment that tran­si­tions you from girl to woman. Like it or not. And the good news is that if the hash­tag is not enough to get all the bother off your chest, now you can speak di­rectly to God. His twit­ter han­dle is @Tweet­OfGod and he is very re­spon­sive – as per this: ‘Your prayer has a cur­rent wait time of 400 mil­lion years. We apol­o­gise for the in­con­ve­nience.’

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