It happened. Again.
The dreaded Aunt Irma has come to visit this month. Quite frankly, she’s a little late this time, but she decided to show her damn face again.
I wonder if it would be ideal to re-brand Aunt Irma as Uncle Bloodso or something along those lines. I don’t like the idea of having to hate on an auntie of mine every month.
Periods are quite tough for me. They have been ever since I was 12 which is when I got my first one.
I was already in the bathroom that first time, and when I realized what was happening, I felt only dread.
You see, my mom had thoroughly explained to me how it worked many times before - I was never ignorant of the process. She let me know there would be a lot of pain but that this pain itself was, in fact, a form of power and would one day lead to the gift of being able to have children of my own one day.
Of course, at the time, I didn’t give a damn about kids and found other people my age or younger quite annoying.
“Kids?? But kids are so annoying! I can always just adopt, right?", my budding self would contemplate.
This desire of exchanging my period pain for sterilization would continue as I aged and started to find more solace and meaning in conversations with people older and more mature than I was. Throughout high school and college, people my age would almost seem a little out of touch with reality with all their naivete and groundless optimism mixed with a good dose of arrogance. I knew better.
With my newly found defeatist outlook on my womanhood, it didn’t take me very long after that first incident to start building up resentment for being born with this gender and having to deal with this shit every month. And by shit, I mean mostly my periods without taking into account the micro-aggressions, misogyny or unconscious biases I would also have to deal with given I’m not the default gender predetermined by mankind.
Growing up, I even felt it was quite unfair that my brother wouldn’t have to waste time with this monthly burden or waste time having to style his hair or apply makeup or buy fancy clothes or anything along those lines. My brother, it seemed, would always have an advantage over me because society has historically and continues to hold men to lower standards than women.
If I wanted to be presentable, regardless of whether or not I cared to be, I recognized that I would probably always have to end up spending both more time, energy and money to get to the same level.
Ironically enough though, my brother does actually spend more time, energy and money than me on his looks but it’s a deliberate choice and entirely optional for him. I suppose, to be fair, to exert a lot of effort on my looks is altogether optional for me as well and yet, I feel that this is not precisely the case since females can’t very well ignore periods which do in turn affect physical appearance…
I also envied the idea of being able to wake up, wash my face, put the same set of clothes on and start being productive. As a woman, I feel that such a simplistic preparation model would lead me to a situation where someone’s first impression of me (most likely another woman) would involve the words slob, apathetic or the worst suspicion: lazy. My credibility would go down the drain.
And unfortunately or not, I’ve always believed that first impressions COUNT.
While my sister’s cramps during her period are relatively painless, mine pretty much destabilize me. If it’s during the week, it’s in my best interest to take PTO for the first or second day of it.
I would compare my pain to being repeatedly stabbed in the lower abdomen area by a small dagger. Not enough to kill me of course but a slow kind of torture lasting anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours. The wounds heal themselves so that it feels more like a fresh stab every time.
Of course, given that no one has shanked me before, it’s hard to determine whether that indeed is the case so I’ll attempt to make a better analogy.
If you’re a developer, like I am, you’ve probably gone through the process of a lengthy interview day. The interviews are back to back with different people throughout the day, each one demanding your undivided focus and maximum effort. You’re afraid of giving yourself too much of a break since you want to focus and getting the job is important to you.
If you take yourself back to that feeling at the end of those interview days where you’re feeling mentally exhausted, frazzled, nervous, physically tired, hungry, then you may understand a little bit better of one terrible aspect of periods I have to deal with every month by nature.
You see, for me, periods always come bearing a few “gifts”:
- mental exhaustion
- that feeling of being repeatedly stabbed through cramps
- unnecessary cravings
- wanting to constantly go to the bathroom
- feeling frazzled and unable to focus
- a weakened immune system which doubles the likelihood of catching a cold
Luckily, I don’t get very irritable during my periods. I would pretend in the past that I did so people would give me more space but overall, I haven’t often faced so much hormonal imbalance to the point where I feel I need to explode or become emotionally compromised every other hour.
Instead, my body seems to retreat and give up on itself with my productivity going down the drain for one or two days. In fact, my periods often present themselves as the perfect opportunity to binge watch on Netflix or drink three different flavors of milk tea in a row without any feelings of remorse.
However, as Kelly Clarkson has famously coined for entirely unrelated reasons, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” And unfortunately or not, I cannot help but agree. I’m sure most men would agree that having to endure some torture every month would make them at least a little mentally stronger.
So given that my periods always present me with this most exquisite kind of pain, my brain has slowly transformed into a sort of Jedi master when it comes to facing stressful situations.
It takes a considerable amount of effort to break me now, and for that, I am very grateful.
Back in college, I watched this TED talk by Andrew Solomon, a gay writer and lecturer on politics, culture, and psychology called “How the worst moments in our lives make us who we are."
The key takeaway I got from that talk at the time was to be proud of my unique struggles in life. Solomon talked about burdens we are born with (being disabled) and ones life gives us throughout (becoming a rape victim). So basically, I could forge new meaning from my most significant inner battles.
Periods are a burden I was born with, and this story I’m sharing is the foundation of one aspect of my identity (being a woman). And over the years, I’ve found myself almost lucky to have the opportunity to endure this pain.
But I question if I still resent my gender for this pain.
In the hypothetical scenario of a genie telling me she could remove my period without any adverse side effects, would I not jump at that opportunity? But then, would that not destroy an aspect of my identity of the burdens that come with being a woman?
Perhaps if periods were seen more as a sign of strength and perseverance instead of the torturous burden I’ve been framing it as so far. And yet, it is physical torture and to say it has not been for me would be a lie…
Regardless, as human beings, we make choices every day on how much importance to place on various obstacles we are facing.
I tend to believe that most humans tend to place too much emphasis on the smaller obstacles or burdens.
Periods for me, despite their overall shittiness, would be categorized under one of those smaller obstacles.
Being a minority female, I realized early on that life would always be this imperfectly perfect set of ups and downs that I would be navigating indefinitely till I then faced the inevitable consequence of human mortality.
So whether or not I felt I could take on anything or anyone on despite what society had to say would be entirely dependent on my mindset for that day.
If an entitled person or group reminds me with of how few advantage points I was given at this game of life, my confidence wanes and yet, when in a different context, the outcome renders the opposite effect. Because if I am reminded of my lack of privilege by others who face the same shortfalls as I do (other minority females), I feel not only surges in confidence but tenacity as well.
I am reminded that I am not the only one who has to feel shitty as hell anytime their periods come around.
I am reminded that I am not the only one who likes to let go once in a while and forget any need for notable appearances.
I am reminded that I am not the only one who recognizes that I will always have to be prepared to move heaven and earth to get to the same level as those who were born to a more privileged starting point.
I am reminded that I am not the only one at all.
And THAT is how my periods have become the ultimate reminders of the growing power and potential within me.
So while I’m not looking forward to the next time, I am.
Until next .