It's like Sex and the Suburbs and 30 Rock all rolled into one…
Some women get their period four times a year; some get it monthly. There are various shades of red (not grey) when it comes to “that time of the month”; it varies for each woman and isn’t a black and white sort of thing. The same goes with etiquette surrounding the coming of the crimson tide. It’s been something I, and probably many other women, debate, ponder and freak out about.
Menstruation is the shedding of the uterine lining, something that occurs on a regular basis in females of many mammal species of child-baring age. (You knew that.) Since the 1960’s and the rise of the modern day woman’s lib movement, we’ve been able to control a good amount when it comes to our period, limiting the numbers of times a year we get it, the length and even the symptoms related to it. (The irritability, cramping, depression, pain and sometimes even nausea – but you knew that too, probably intimately.) We all know about our monthly visitor, the crimson tide, our Aunt Flow. It just seems as if there’s confusion on how to handle the matter.
Some traditional societies sequester females in residences, “menstrual huts”, that are reserved for that exclusive purpose until the end of their menstrual period. Others prevent women from certain tasks – like fucking or entering places of worship. Yet other societies worship and celebrate a woman’s period. (We’ll leave aside commentary that a woman’s power comes from her fertility here and be pleased that this is at least better than making us squat in huts.) Here in the Western world, we take some painkillers and shove paper products down there and get on with the day. Yes, there is the usual complaining, the skipping of swim class, and the constant concern about wearing white pants, but we’ve at least got much of it covered.
Except that we don’t have it as figured out as I’d like. When one has that whole situation going on, things get confused. You see, my first boyfriend wouldn’t touch me when I had my period, not even a kiss. For a few days a month, I was a non-sexual entity, one that he loved but one that could not be associated with sex for that period of time. Other partners didn’t mind having sex on the days when my flow was light while others preferred to just make out. One guy actually really was into it, provided we keep the bedding covered in towels. Sexual intercourse, I learned, was great for bad cramping and headaches.
But on the dating circuit, it’s a bit different. Plans can be made without knowledge that it’s going to be the day. And even if the date won’t lead to sex, there’s nothing worse than trying to fit into a pair of tight jeans when you’re bloated a size larger than normal. And what about when you’re out for that drink after work and that young handsome man in the suit is totally trying to get you to go back to his brownstone for another drink? You can’t just blurt out, “I would love to go home with you and make with the loving, but I have my period and I’m pretty sure if you put your hands down my pants, you’re going to touch my sanitary napkin.” That’s just awkward… and disgusting. You don’t know the person; you don’t know what will turn him off. (And bets are that will.)
We were told, us girls born in the 1980’s, that even though we had our periods, we could live normal lives. We could still run track and field, go swimming, and participate in every day life fully and completely. And so, because I was indoctrinated in this Zeitgeist, I want to go out, dance, meet people, and yes, be a sexual creature despite bleeding out of certain parts of my body for a few days. The only problem is that I don’t know how to do it. When people are just meeting and developing a sexual chemistry, even a slight pulling back can ruin any chance of physical bliss. A laugh at the wrong time here, a glance away there, a hesitation… it’s ruined paradise for couples that have been together for a long time. You want to seem interested, but you obviously can’t tell him why you can’t. If you’re a piss-poor liar like me, he’ll see right through any excuse. There’s the fear that he’ll believe I’m not interested when in fact I am.
But the choice can’t be to either admit the situation and hope he doesn’t get grossed out or sequester yourself in your living room with about twenty hours of Buffy The Vampire Slayer reruns. Until there’s an etiquette book written on the matter, I’m just going to freak out pointlessly every time I go out dancing when it’s that time.