March 8th, which happened to be Women’s day was supposed to be that one day in the year that people, internationally, celebrate womanhood. I “celebrate” mine once every month, so I’m honestly confused about what is so special and what the celebration entails. But I won’t talk about the significance of women’s day in this post. That’s a serious topic that deserves a lot of critical thought. Let me, however, introduce you to the story of my first period. Yup, things got icky real fast, didn’t they?
So I was about 11 or 12, was when it first happened. I suppose I hit adolescence way sooner than other girls; I was way taller, physically and I also “developed” sooner. Which meant that we hadn’t solved the mystery of the blue-liquid soaking miniature diapers, in school yet. We had a “session” a few months later, when all the girls were confined to a lecture hall and we had to watch a full wall-sized screening of the sanitary pad ads that we had anyway watched, unquestioningly a thousand times on TV. But more on that, later.
So when it happened, I was of course, horrified. I was bleeding, with pain milder than expected, and I couldn’t remember injuring myself in that region, so it didn’t make sense at all. When I told my mom about it, she just told me that it’s a period, something girls get, once in a while and handed me a sanitary pad. All that with a straight face. That’s it! No details. No answers.
School days, for me, were anyway mortifying, being the shy kid that I was. So when the dreaded periods would arrive, I was not equipped with enough info on how often I needed to change pads. I was also a sports kid, but contrary to what they show in the advertisements, I don’t think it’s the best idea to go galloping around the city, doing ballet, horse-riding, etc. when you’re down. Needless to say, my clothes would need constant washing. I also came up with ingenious ways to glide along the walls and corners of rooms, and sneak in and out stealthily, to hide the stains on my clothes. As a kid, I was very adept at attracting absolutely no attention towards myself.
As I grew, of course, we learnt about reproduction in our biology class and I used the internet to understand things they didn’t teach in class and that’s when my life started making sense again. I also had to come to terms with a newer reality of my life, which was that those very periods would haunt me for most of my life, till I hit menopause.
It was also around this time that we had to attend the “session” where “experts” would introduce us to what periods were and would answer all of our questions related to them. At that point, a very small minority of us had had them by then, so it probably sounded very alien to the others.
While it was pretty awkward for us, I’m pretty sure the “experts” from Whisper/Stayfree (I don’t remember which one of them had come), were gleaming with hopes of rocketing sales from their target audience. The bigger revelation was, however, that they weren’t that aware of what they were talking about. You see, we had a question and answer session, where, to save us of further embarrassment, they had handed us small chits of paper where we could write out our questions and pass them secretly to the organizers. You know, to preserve our perceived innocence in front of others, and yet keep the spark of curiosity alive. Most of the initial questions were things I already knew or had figured out, so being the nerd that I was (and still am), I wanted to ask the best question.
The answers that the experts gave were generic enough, and all ended with “Don’t worry. This is perfectly normal”. My question, however, received just that, and nothing else. They basically didn’t know the answer and I was extremely disappointed in the experts. Maybe they weren’t experts at all. I would find out the answer to that later anyway (thank you Google), but I believe that many of us continue to be under-educated about a phenomenon that happens so regularly to half the population. I strongly believe that we need to change this.
Also, I was let down that they didn’t give us free samples after having tortured us through an hour long endorsement deal. Just kidding.
And that kids, is the story of how I met my first period.