“I was very close to my brother, but after I got my first period, we started drifting apart, then college and all happened and we were in different cities and all. But we’re sort of reconnecting now and I’m thrilled about it.”
“What does your period have to do with your brother?” I asked.
“Frankly Medha, It was my fault I guess. I was twelve when I got my first period and was so confused and scared about what was happening to me. All my mother said was ‘Stay away from men now, all men. You can’t even discuss this with your brother’ and I was too young to really know why. I figured out what menstruation was only much later, in Bio class.”
This is a conversation I recently had with a close friend of mine although this sort of event is not limited to just her. I know so many women, who have distanced themselves from brothers, childhood male friends, and their fathers when they hit puberty and started menstruating. The circumstance of each story is different and so are the outcomes, but the root cause is all the same.
Isn’t it sad, that something as silly as this actually acts as a catalyst to weaken important and beautiful relationships?
A twelve-year old girl is a child. The sudden sight of blood on her panties and the strange reaction of adults (the dichotomy of celebration and secrecy) is enough to scare and confuse any child. Children lack the ability to think critically and their sources of information are mostly limited to the adults they trust. It is precisely this fact that makes it so important to talk to them in a simple and objective manner, to explain the concept of menstruation in a scientific and unbiased way and not use myths to scare/confuse/misguide them.
I believe that this conversation shouldn’t be restricted to mothers and daughters alone. If fathers, sons and brothers are included in this conversation, we would be creating a culture where children learn about this without the baggage of secrecy and myths. As they grow older and their understanding deepens, they will also be better equipped to deal with the opposite sex.
It is bad enough that the strange attitude of society towards menstruation scars thousands of little girls everyday but the fact that a simple statement like “Stay away from men now, all men,” can alter relationships between siblings, friends and fathers is too high a price to pay. This ignorance is not worth that.
The culture of silence needs to end. We can all help. All we need to do is talk about it!
Author: Medha Kulkarni
Medha lives in Mumbai and works as a curatorial assistant at an art gallery. She is also a freelance artist and culture reporter at The Metrognome ,an e-zine about Mumbai