Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Roll Tide

I'm going to start off with an apology. I've tricked you into reading this post. You think you're about to read a blog about Alabama football, but you're not. OH no. This is not going to be about that.
I don't know if it was just Judy Blume, or if it was just me and Judy Blume, or if it was every damn girl in America or the world, but there was a mysticism behind the menstrual cycle when I was growing up that is hard to describe outside the context of a pre-teen novel about a clumsy girl who thinks she can increase the size of her boobs by flapping her arms around and chanting "I must, I must, I must increase my bust." And until we get it, heck, even after we get it, we paradoxically look forward to the changing of the tides just as much as we dread them.

I had already read Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by the time we were invited to the "mother-daughter" night in fifth grade (1990?) where they showed a movie about some girls camping in their back yard and getting their periods. Maybe just one of them got it, but the mom made uterine shaped pancakes to help ease the minds of the confused pre-teens while daddy ran to the store for sanitary napkins. For SANITARY NAPKINS.

They gave us each an Always pad wrapped in a purple wrapper with pink writing on it. I treasured that pad, kept it close to my heart and probably lit a candle and prayed to the goddesses that I didn't recognize yet to please send me the knowledge that only came with the shedding of the uterine lining. I loved it until the day I started my period and wore it to the roller skating rink.

This also happened in 1992. 
It was the glorious summer of 1992. Kurt Cobain was still alive, Terminator 2: Judgement Day was on HBO and my best friend had HBO...and a pool. Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch covered the Velvet Underground. Amy Grant, former Christian pop artist and former idol of six year old me, had broken into the pop scene....remember? Come on?! Amy Grant you guys. Remember?

And roller skating was still awesome. A bunch of kids jamming themselves into a dimly lit room with carpet from the 1970s, donning roller skates with mold in them...from the 1970s...and flinging themselves around curves to Color Me Badd and Guns N' Roses, what's not to love? It was acceptable to laugh at a boy who called himself "BJ," and to respond with "I don't have a name" when asked in those dark corners of that round room.

But for me, wearing that stupid Always pad from 5th grade was a sentence I liken only to death. After one day at the rink, I entreated my mother, "there HAS to be a better way." There was no way I was going to be able to create the roller skating opus I had been preparing to Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" wearing a damn diaper. So I met tampons, and tampons met me, and the rest is history.

Back then it wasn't something that was talked about that much (unless you were a girl, but we're all in the same Coven so that's no surprise), and it seems like that is changing. It was considered uncouth and improper. It still is really, and I'm sure more than one of you is going to have a hissy fit and stop reading my blog because of this, and that's fine.

Someone asked a friend of mine for a feminine hygiene product for her daughter a few years ago. My friend offered her a tampon and the woman said, "Oh no. She's a virgin," with whispered emphasis on the "virgin." My friend is polite, so she said nothing, but I probably would have said, without blinking, "Oh, that's fine, this is a tampon, not a penis."

Did you know that it was ILLEGAL to talk to young women about their bodies at the beginning of the twentieth century? Margaret Sanger, founder of planned parenthood, went to jail for publishing a pamphlet she called "The Woman Rebel" that outlined the menstrual cycle for young women, explained what it was. She was breaking the law to teach women about their own bodies, and she had to break to the law. She HAD to.

I think about what I know now about my menstrual cycle, how much information about hormone cycles and management is available for free via the internet. I can literally take control of my life by understanding and respecting my body and its processes. I no longer have to be a prisoner to the changing of the tides, none of us do, and none of us were, secretly...respectfully.

I met a young girl from Mexico during my first few months here in Chicago. She was gorgeous and delighted to be alive. I remember talking to her at a bar one day where she would sit because the bartender was the man she was going to be dating in the coming months. We were chatting about our periods and he overheard and remarked, "ew," to which she responded, "If blood came out of your penis once a month, you would NEVER stop talking about it," and that was the end of that...because she was right.

Yes, it's a long way to the bottom there, dear. 
If men bled from their genitals once a month, we would never hear the end of it. Luckily for them, they actually go through a full hormone cycle every twenty-four hours. The same drawn out, gnashing of teeth, death to the infidels hormone cycle women go through every 21-29 days. I bet most of ya didn't know that. We don't call it a hormone cycle with them, though. The levels of testosterone and estrogen in their bodies just fluctuates throughout the day, rather than the estrogen slow climb up the roller coaster and then terrifying free fall to the bottom.

The best part about understanding your body? The more you know, the less room you have to feel ashamed. Remember when having a period was a shameful thing? Remember? Anyone read the bible? Anyone?

Well, maybe it's just me. I'm not ashamed of my period. I respect it like the beast it is. She's the animal part of me, the part unaffected by emotions. The part that gets all fluttery when a guy who actually works out and watches what he eats jogs by and I get a wiff of that

I'm sorry. What I'm trying to say is, I no longer ask, "Are you there God? It's me, Margaret," in reference to my monthlies. Instead I just say, "Hey, sorry I kicked the door in whilst screaming about losing my keys, my period's about a week away. I'll pay for it. Love you!"

But the best advice I've seen is from Margaret Sanger in the first volume of her pamphlet, "The Woman Rebel":

A Woman's Duty: To look the whole world in the face with a go-to-hell look in the eyes; to have an ideal; to speak and act in defiance of convention.

Roll Tide.

No comments: