Reliving My Periods
As a child, I had never seen pads. Somehow, even when I used to randomly go through mom’s cupboards, or glance at dustbins, I never came across them (not sure whether she was just that good with keeping them hidden, or I was just that oblivious to everything around me). Either way, it was around 5th standard that I first encountered them in advertisements on TV. And for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what those guys were going on about. Why would I want to pour blue ink on a pad? Better yet, what was pad, anyway??? I asked my mother, but she just smiled and said nothing.
I remember mentioning the confusion custom research paper writing to some friends in school and one of them told me to ask my mom, in an oh-you-poor-thing-how-do-you-still-not-know-this kind of tone. Annoyed, and wanting to catch up, I went home that evening and straight away demanded that mom explain this whole thing to me. Realizing that it was time to have “the talk” with me (not that I gave her much choice) she began to explain the female reproductive system.
I don’t remember much of what she said, except that most of it went over my head. There were eggs involved in the talk, though in that moment I had no idea what they had to do with the question I had asked. Basically, I zoned out. But I suppose by the end of it I did get that girls reach a point in adolescence where blood comes out of their vagina, and the pads were meant to prevent the blood from soaking out. So I’d say the talk was half-way successful.
By the time I started grade 7, my family had moved to a different place. I think I was still in my first week at the new school, when one day, I realized after coming home that my underwear was red. Initially, I was just confused. I told my mom, and in the same moment that her eyes went wide, the memory of that talk came back to me, and I realized what was happening. As mom gave me a pad and told me how to use it, I couldn’t help but feel extremely excited about the next 4-5 days.
At some point on that first day, mom told me to see if the size of the pad was okay; in case my clothes were staining, she’d give me a bigger one. Looking doubtfully at the big pack of pads lying there,I told her that would be a complete waste if she had to buy another pack. Scrunching her eyebrows, she just said that she’d use them. It took me a few seconds to process her words, but I remember a feeling of horror sinking in with them. And this is how the conversation went:
Me (confused): What do you mean you’ll use…?
Mom (also confused): I’ll use them when I’m having my periods. I’ll get you another pack.
Me (horrified): Wait. What?!?!! You have periods?!?!!
Mom (super confused): Uh…Of course.
Me (trying desperately to grab on to straws): But…but…I thought this was just for 4-5 days.
Mom (exasperatedly):4-5 days every month. Until you’re around 50 years old.
And just like that, the excitement crashed, replaced by a horror as I realized that I’d completely misunderstood mom’s explanation of periods earlier.
Thankfully, the horror didn’t last too long, and eventually the excitement found its way back. I suddenly felt like I had entered this whole new stage of life, and I wanted to let everyone know it. But mom told me not to, and back then, I don’t think I was as intentionally rebellious as I am now. Still, I couldn’t just sit quietly, so I went to my elder brother and said excitedly, “Bhai, do you know what are periods?” He said, “You mean, class periods?” Huffing in disappointment that he didn’t instantly realize what I was talking about, I stomped off with the same air of superiority that my friend had used several years earlier with – like I was carrying some secret knowledge that he was not.
I’d stain regularly. My underwear, my clothes, my bed at night. And each time, I’d be absolutely mortified. Mom was very helpful and understanding with this. In fact, she pointed out that I was lucky that we had moved cities before my periods started, because the school uniform at my old school had been completely white. I can’t imagine how embarrassing it would have been to walk around the school with a stain on that white uniform.
In grade 8 or 9, we studied the chapter “mensuration” in maths. Every time the word was said, there’d be awkward giggles all around. Because, you know, it sounded just like that ‘other’ word.
At the age of 16, I was considering moving to a boarding school my dad wanted me to join. The idea sounded tempting, especially since I was at the peak of my adolescence and extremely cranky with my parents all the time. But strangely enough, one of the biggest concerns about staying away from home on my own was: what if I stain my bed at night there as well? It was too embarrassing a concern to say out loud, but it made me feel extremely unprepared. How could I live on my own if I couldn’t even stop staining my bed?
A male friend of mine wanted to go swimming, but I was on my periods at the time, so couldn’t join. Disappointed, he kept asking me why. Undeterred, I kept explaining why: wasn’t in the mood, not feeling well, felt like doing something else. I gave any reason I could, except the one that was the truth.
In grade 12, my roommate was dating another boy in our boarding school. Once, when she was having bad cramps because of her periods, she skipped classes and stayed in the room. I asked her later what excuse she had given her boyfriend. Looking confused, she said that she had told him she was having her periods. I’m pretty sure I was shocked by her response, and impressed by what I considered to be a very daring move.
While living in Bombay, I’d buy pads from the local store near my house. Each time, the shopkeeper would carefully wrap it newspaper and then place it in a black polythene bag, before handing it over to me. Each time, I’d tell myself sarcastically that I wasn’t buying sanitary pads, but some extremely illegal and shady drugs.
Still, that was nothing compared to my own spy missions when I stayed over at houses of relatives. Sometimes, I think that if I had to make one wish, it would be that all bathrooms have dustbins in them. Seriously, that trip from the bathroom to the dustbin – I hate it. Holding on to the wrapped-up pad while trying to keep it concealed, navigating awkwardly between people sitting in the hall on the way, hoping they don’t realize what you’re up to, and cringing visibly when you hear the words “What are you doing?”
I spent two years teaching students with a male co-teacher. Every other month, I’d be hit by severe cramps while we were at school. Whenever he would check up on me, I’d find myself once again making excuses about not feeling well, but never explicitly saying that I was having cramps because of my periods.
I’m 25 years-old now, and the unfortunate thing is, not much has changed. Even though I’m quite comfortable with the subject now, I find myself becoming awkward at the most random moments. Last week, I was sitting with a group of friends on campus, when one of my friends told me that she was cancelling some plan because she had started her periods that day and was having cramps. Instinctively, I glanced at a male friend sitting next to me, feeling a little awkward, and in the very next second mentally berated myself for that awkwardness. I thought I had moved on from all of that, but it was unsettling to realize otherwise. The thing is, I’m not squeamish about talking about periods as a general topic, no matter who is around. Occasionally, I even get thrills from carrying the packet of sanitary napkins in my hand and seeing scandalized faces all around.
But despite that, I still can’t bring myself to say out loud to a guy,“I’m having my periods”.
Ruchi is an aspiring writer, whose go-to issues to write about include education, travel, and her own backside. An inability to recognize faces makes her quite socially awkward, but she makes up for it by being hilariously funny and terrifically witty, at least in her own head. Ruchi blogs here
Editor: Divya Rosaline1