As a woman in her mid-twenties living alone in a metro, I have had a lot of moments in my life when I introspected the things that matter to me, the beliefs I want to hold on to and the ones I have to let go. Amidst all of this, I have realized one thing, that the society has tailored a bundle of myths in my mind that I was unconsciously bearing the burden of. One of them hampering the very essence of me being a woman, my periods.
Having growing up with tucking the change of pads in my pyjamas under my T-shirt, whispering in my mother’s ear whenever I ran out of my supply, and taught to never talk about my period essentials to any man, it almost came natural to me to be hush-hush about my periods. I never really considered it or myself to be impure, and never thought of it as a curse having discovered the biological aspect of it. But I was somewhat machined to not talk openly about it as we talk of other natural processes like shitting or farting or pregnancy or a countless other things. And so, unconsciously, I was ashamed of my periods.
After entering into a relationship, I explored many things about my body I was previously ignorant of. Amidst all this, my ex-boyfriend was the first guy I talked periods with. Even though he seemed pretty cool to talk about it, I would be especially mindful of never even remotely staining his bedsheet, or letting him see my panties with period stains on them. One day, when we were in the midst of having an intimate moment with each other, I remembered we needed to stop because I was menstruating. I told him but he seemed to not care about it. I felt weird and uncomfortable at first but had to give in to my hormones pleading to continue the act. With each piece of clothing that continued to be shed, my anxiety kept growing at the horrific moment that awaited. But, to my surprise, the comfort with which my exposed, bleeding vagina was treated by a man who I had hardly known for a year was so liberating that I had never felt more confident about my body before. The stained bedsheet and the patches of blood on our bodies that day made for the one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. My body suddenly recognized everything that was happening inside it, approved of it, and basked in its glory. I had never felt so confident about my body before, the way I felt that day because a man saw my bleeding vagina as any other normal thing, with no feelings of disgust and horror. And what made it more beautiful is that he had no idea how he had taken away 23 years of shame from me, in that one moment.
That day makes me think, what if I was never told by my mother to hide my pads, what if I could comfortably ask my father to get me my period supply, what if there were open conversations about periods at home and at aunt’s place, what if periods were just another stage of growing up, what if staining one’s clothes during periods was bad only because no one likes dirty clothes and not because it is embarrassing to have a period stain? I am quite certain that if all of this had happened, I would have never needed approval from a guy I had hardly known to feel normal about my periods. I wouldn’t have grown with insecurities that a period stain on the back of my jeans would take away my womanly charm or that it is normal for a man to be grossed out when I am on my periods. Because it is not. The day we learn to treat our bodies normally and with respect, will everybody else learn to do so. So next time you discreetly hand over a pad to your colleague or shush your son when he finds your tampon, the next time you receive a disgusted look from your husband for the faded period stains on your panty, remember it might be just another act of period shaming. Don’t wait for someone else to make you believe of the normalcy of your body when it is menstruating. You do that favour to yourself!