The period. On the rag. Aunt Flo. We’ve created so many euphemisms for the crazy cycle that we women go through once a month. I’ve had roughly 433 periods in my lifetime, and like anyone who’s done something 433 times, I feel like I’m pretty much an expert.
My introduction to this phenomenon came at the ripe age of nine when I was at a friend’s house. Her mom had just had “the talk” with her, and now she felt it was her duty to impart her newly found knowledge on me. I remember it like it was yesterday—we both sat side by side, backs against the wall in shock—this is crazy! Surely this can’t be true! I couldn’t wait to get home to ask my own mother, but she confirmed, yes, it’s true. All women? Yes. Every month?? Yes. Me too??? Yes.
The next phase is The Big Wait. You’re aware of This Thing that’s going to happen to you, and you’re on the lookout for any signs. Somehow it becomes common knowledge when a girl at school first starts—at slumber parties we’d count on our fingers who we know who has started. It’s like some secret passage to The Other Side. They are somehow now different. You’re eager to join them, yet terrified at the same time.
I was among the early ones. At age 11, my family was on vacation at Disney World. I got my first period on Thanksgiving Day while riding Space Mountain, and to this day I associate periods with roller coasters, which may be a somewhat apt association. I had crossed! I was eager to get back to my friends and share—this was pre-cell phone days. But I soon learned it wasn’t all a bed of roses. I suffered from horrible cramps and had to get a prescription. I agonized over having enough time between classes to go to the bathroom, and heaven forbid you had to ask to go to the bathroom during class, because you had to take your purse with you, and surely everyone would know! Those first few years were filled with pain, anxiety and embarrassment.
The child bearing years usher in a whole new era for The Period. When trying to conceive, you become obsessed with counting days and praying to be late (quite a reversal from college days!) Every month you start is greeted with tears, wondering if motherhood will ever happen for you. Then lo and behold, you’re pregnant and get a much-deserved break for roughly nine months! Although there’s so much other crap going on with your body you really don’t get a chance to enjoy it to the fullest.
After several years/decades, you hit your groove. You know what works for you, and you just sort of go with the flow, pun intended. Thankfully the women’s personal hygiene market has advanced a good bit over the decades, so you no longer have to walk around with the equivalent of a mattress between your legs!
Now, around 50ish, we still sit around and count friends on our fingers, although now it’s about who no longer has their Period. Some of my friends reached it naturally, some had surgery for various reasons. Recent bloodwork indicates I’m in early menopause. Looking back, I recall the many emotions I’ve had when it came to getting my Period. “Oh my God!” (first time); “Oh, crap!” (before a big date or vacation); “Oh, THANK GOD!” (after being a few days late) and “Oh please, nooo!” (while trying to get pregnant). I’ve made it to the second round of The Big Wait. Like a visiting family member who has outlasted her stay but you’ve kind of gotten used to having around, I’m not sure how I feel about no longer getting my Period. It’s probably been the only steady, sure thing in my life over the past four decades. But like all the other times, it’s out of my hands. So I will sit back, enjoy the end of this roller coaster ride, and learn to make peace with this new Other Side.
Tracy Watkins Young is a marketing consultant who love to talk and write about women’s issues. www.twyoungconsulting.com.