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IT'S THAT TIME OF THE MONTH TO DISCUSS THAT TIME OF THE MONTH.

 
   
   
 

It's always amusing to see girls talk about their menstrual cycles so, um, candidly.

Females, for the most part, are squeamish about anything men may find horrifyingly amusing: boxing, bugs, Fear Factor, face transplant specials on the Discovery Channel. Yet, it seems men will ever fully understand the whole cycle of life thing. And we couldn't. We could pick our own boogers and scabs until the day is long, but as soon as we see blood below the waist we're bound to faint.

But that's okay. We'll kill the spiders and catch the mice and watch people eat goat balls while you go do the hard stuff.

 

Lynn Harris

Someone engrave me a silver tampon. As of this month, when I turned 35 1/2, I have been getting my period for 25 years. A quarter century. Your math is correct: I got it when I was 10 1/2, and I don't even have the giant rack to which I am thus entitled. (Historical note: I am old enough to remember those pads with belts, which, since you asked, are like wearing a hammock.)

The first time it came, I told no one. I was mortified, ashamed. It was not the shame of bleeding the blood of Eve's original sin, or any of that hooey. It was the shame of being ten and a freaking half. I wasn't ready to be a woman. I was ready to be an officer in the Shaun Cassidy Fan Club. I thought those girls in Are You There, God? were out of their gourds. They wanted their periods? (That girl wanted to be named Mavis?) In my school, no one had it, no one wanted it, no one talked about it. Until at least ninth grade, I bled, irregularly, in silence.

I told my mom the second time I got it, as I needed a funding grant for pads. She said something that to this day I do not understand: "We're going to have to tell your grandmother." Of course I listened in on the phone line on our weekly call to Atlanta. "Lynn's not a little girl any more," my mom said. Said my grandmother: "Oh, the poo-ahh thing!"

My period was not only early, it was crafty. It read my datebook. It came on the first day of horse camp, the first day of sleepaway camp, just before the first performance of "Oliver Twist," though there are many other reasons to hate that show. I lived in fear, carrying tampons, once I'd gotten that Scout badge, hidden in a Hello, Kitty case.

But now that I'm married -- though not to Shaun Cassidy -- and I see birth as something to give, not control, it's different. At least, it's going to have to be. I have to stop envisioning my uterus as the creepy lair of a scheming Gollum, the musty apartment of my bitchy Aunt Flow. I have to find a way to think of my reproductive system as my friend, or, as I well know, it will make other plans behind my back.

Lynn Harris writes for Glamour, Nerve, and Salon. For the love of God, buy her book, Miss Media.

 

Kristen French

Most girls wake up one morning at 13 or 14 with red drivel trickling down their legs, but I kept checking my panties eagerly until I was 17, straining to detect a spot of caked blood. But the only mess in my underwear came from a urinary tract infection that left me leaky for months.

By the time my 16th birthday rolled around, I figured I was sterile as a eunuch and would never beget a wee reproduction of myself to torture with bad parenting and outdated musical taste. So it was off to the terrifying reverse-dentist's chair at the gynecologist's office, where the lady doctor fingered and probed with her jelly and her clamps and her cold rubber gloves. All I got in the end was a sinister smile and a "Soon enough."

To many a pubescent girl it would have seemed like a rare gift. In the meantime, I didn't have to worry about hormone-enraged boys harassing me over stains on the ass-crack of my pants. But it also meant I couldn't join in the blood-of-a-woman bitch-fest in the locker room after P.E. or track. No dishing it with the popular girls about how I'd ruined my favorite pair of white undies. No moaning about how I could barely roll out of bed in the morning because my uterus had eaten my socks. No pastel boxes of tampons with the crinkly wrapping. And no free pass to cry uncontrollably, push my sister down the stairs, wreck the car, burn down the school, eat all the ice cream, and all that other excellent PMS crap.

At 17, I suddenly began to bleed like my womb was going to fall out and my cramps were so bad it felt like somebody'd fire-bombed my entire lower half. My menstrual clock was making up for time lost, and I actually loved it. I tried every tampon brand in the store, carefully noted the red lady's arrival and departure on my calendar, reveled in my sour, sulky PMS. Even now, I secretly enjoy telling my lady friends about how many super-sized tampons I have to use in a day, and how many bottles of Advil I run through during that time of the month. Alas, I haven't decided if I actually want to make babies and raise brats though, so all that goopy fertility may well go to waste.

Kristen French is a freelance writer who sometimes wears her super-size tampon as a hat.

 

Darci "Kittenpants" Ratliff

Complete this analogy. Menstruation is to Man as

(a) Cross is to Vampire
(b) Silver Bullet is to Werewolf
(c) Punctuation is to Christopher Walken
(d) Ghost is to Scooby Doo

I never really believed in the idea that men were afraid of periods. I thought it was just more fodder for the women-vs.-men theories of Venus/Mars books and bad stand-up comedians. When I see that movie trailer where Matthew McConaughey gets all skeeved-out after discovering a box of Tampax in his bathroom cabinet, it makes me think that Matt's never dated a girl over 13 before. If he were my boyfriend I'd make a mad dash for the door.

Most guys I know are comfortable with the monthly cycle, and have been since the first time they had to fetch some girlfriend's pads from the supermarket. I've even known some who'll "go to town" during that time of the month, (You know, Oral town; population: Oh, Gaahhh…), proving true the old adage that it's all about mind over matter ("If you don't mind, it don't matter.") My point is men don't consider your monthly curse an actual curse.

Or so I thought. You know, if you're so embarrassed, guy-at-the-deli, don't keep the tampons behind the counter. Just put them on the shelf (next to the diapers? Good call, asshole) and I'll help myself. I really hate trying to communicate my needs via animated pointing while some clerk (who WON'T EVEN LOOK!) reaches around blindly behind him, as if direct eye contact may turn him to stone. If you've got the nerve to charge me $4 for a tiny box of cardboard and cotton, I would think you could muster the balls to look at the package. Indiana Jones was less afraid when the Nazis opened the Ark.

It's just so annoying that someone else could feel so much shame about my period. My body, my bleeding vagina, my business. Get over yourself, guy.

Darci Ratliff is Kittenpants: the shining star of Internet humor, a writer/producer of independent film and music, an underpants executive, and the best thing that ever happened to you. Period.

 

Liz Moran

I love my period. I love it so much that I refer to the week before its arrival as Menstrual Eve. It's like having my own little Christmas every month, with a bleeding vagina as a present! However, I don't love it for earth mother, in touch with the cycles of the moon and the tide -- isn't nature friggin' magical reasons. I love it because its appearance lets me know, without fail, that I have gone another month without managing to get myself knocked up.

Ever since that steamy July night in 1995 when I embarked on my first sexual experience I have found myself mid-month rapturously spouting Hail Mary's so fast that I sound like I'm speaking in tongues, begging the Virgin Mother to please let my period turn up. I assume that Mary can relate to these predicaments a little better than Jesus as she's a woman and all. My Catholicism is now pretty much lapsed, but whenever I use a Pope sanctioned method of birth control (i.e. none at all) you can find me lighting candles for a buck a pop in St. Patrick's. Menstrual Eve, like Christmas, is a very ritualistic time for me, as I prepare for the expulsion of my uterine lining and unfertilized egg.

Some of the customs involved are obvious; carrying tampons in my purse and stocking up on Aleve. Some customs are purely ceremonial like the purchasing of the thong panty liners that I'll never use. One rite is particularly holy … the casual squeezing of my breasts. Many times a day as I wait for my period's arrival, you may find me, subtly, (or sometimes not subtly if I'm really worried) crossing my arms across my chest. It may look like guarded body language, but I'm really checking for breast tenderness. The slight pain signifies that there are only two or three more days to go before the onset of the almighty menses and I can finally relax and enjoy the rest of the monthly season.

Liz Moran is a freelance writer. She hopes nobody gets her another bleeding vagina for Christmas this year.

 

Rachel Sklar

I am one of the few people I know who is actually on the pill to regulate my period. Obviously there are side benefits like wanton sluttery (not to be confused with wonton sluttery, which involves me giving it up in exchange for a $5.99 Chinese buffet), but the bottom line is that my cheap-ass HMO has to pay for my prescription because without those pretty little pastel pills I'd be doubled over for two weeks every month.

I first went off the pill after my second year of college. It was summer and I was psyched, figuring I'd lose ten pounds. Instead I gained an extra week of rag-riding and the kind of searing cramps that leave you dizzy and sweating. It was also really, really -- squeamish boys stop reading here -- (but goddammit, grow up - you entered this world via a bleeding vagina, after all) -- heavy. Like, green color-coded Playtex heavy (how I longed to be a Slender girl, but alas). And it lasted for a week. And it happened twice a month. And it felt like someone had hauled off and walloped me in the solar plexus. Not fun.

So, sans boyfriend and despite my rabid fear of water retention, I went back on. And never looked back.

Well, almost. It had been years of regular periods, of controlling the rampant flow, of blunting that first-day agony to a mere dull ache. I had played fast and loose with those little pink packs, skipping pills and taking two, starting packs late, absentmindedly forgetting about them entirely -- and nothing had happened. I was even a Day Three Slender Girl. I was ready for a vacation from the Pill, if for no other reason than to cleanse my womanly system and save money doing it (hey, pills added up.)

Oh, the hubris. I managed to stay off the Pill for all of four torturous months. I had been right, partially -- the flow wasn't as bad this time around, and seemed to be vaguely amenable to sticking with a monthly schedule. What got me was the pain.

So, yeah. Fuck my womanly system. I went back on the Pill without a backward glance -- and a few tasty Chinese buffets later, I have no regrets.

Rachel Sklar is a New York City writer who once had a 2 month relationship thanks to Moo Shoo Pork.

 

Haley Papageorge

My period doesn't like to embarrass me in public. We maintain a pretty private relationship and overall it gives me a week of pure hell, three weeks of bitching and an excuse to get mad at everything. But one thing pisses me off more than any period cramp ever could. The feminine product commercials. I cannot stand those crappy ads.

When I get my period I don't want to row around a pond plugging up a sinking boat with a tampon. No. I am home, in bed, clutching my abdomen, begging for drugs and a mallet.

When I get my period I don't wanna ride a bike around town doing the whole "look -- no hands" thing and laughing and smiling like I don't have a cotton stick shoved up my Mary.

When I get my period I certainly don't want to sing and dance and whoop it up to some shitty song like I don't have a care in the world or a fucking headache.

I hate when I am sitting on the couch happily watching TV and some ad comes on showing me how this one's pads collect blue colored water better than this one's. And how look it won't leak on the sides and feel free to wear white pants. Does anyone notice how similar the 'test' in these ads are to the ones in diaper ads? How, exactly, am I supposed to react when I am sitting on the couch with my boyfriend and a commercial comes on telling me how now I can stop odor with an all new super odor fighting panty liner? Um … fidgety? Weird? Wanting to scream at him "Seriously that never happens to me!" Because it doesn't. I swear.

Anyway why aren't there more jock itch ads or swamp ass ads? I'll even take more athletes foot ads for crying out loud. Why do we have to squirm even when we're alone due to some cringe inducing commercial that makes you wonder who the fuck came up with this bullshit in the first place. Most of the time it is like "Oh god I don't believe they just said that". Just put it on the shelves people. We'll find it. I promise. No need to advertise. We, the females, are sold.

Now don't even get me started about those Summer's Eve ads.

Haley Papageorge is a writer with the most fun name in the world to say. Go ahead. Try it. Haley Papageorge! See, that's so fun.

 

Jen Hubley

I got my period about two years before any of my friends, which was even less fun than you might think. So when my friend Sarah finally got hers, in seventh grade, it was only natural that I be selected to instruct her on the proper use of the tampon.

Sarah had been against tampons at first. She didn't want to de-virginize herself, or get Toxic Shock Syndrome. My mother, a nurse, explained to her that this was ridiculous: "Don't want to de-virginize yourself? Don't put a penis up there. Don't want Toxic Shock Syndrome? WASH."

Despite my Mom's expertise on all subjects gynecological, Sarah felt uncomfortable receiving instruction at my house, and felt she might die of embarrassment at her own, so we went, with our other friend Erin, to the Chinese restaurant downtown and barricaded ourselves in the bathroom.

"Okay," I said, through the stall door. "Unwrap the tampon. Put your foot up on the toilet and kind of breathe out. And just, you know, um, stick it in."

"Stick it in?" Erin asked. "Stick it in? That's your big instruction? I could do this." Erin was a little pissy, because she didn't have her period yet.

"Is that it?" Sarah asked.

"That's it."

"But I'm still really uncomfortable."

"Oh, you get used to it. You can't hardly feel it after awhile."

"No, but I'm really really uncomfortable though."

I thought it over. Tampon: check. Foot on toilet trick: check. Stick it in: check. What had I forgotten?

"GOD, Hubley," Erin said in disgust. "You didn't have her take out the cardboard tube.

Why don't you have her stick a whole roll of Charmin up her twat, while you're at it?"

As it turns out, having a natural instinct for teaching is sometimes more useful than having real life experience.

Jen Hubley gets all scribbly here. Don't let her stick anything inside you.

 

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