My peaks and valleys emotional state is one of the few reasons I regret having given up The Pill. It's been a long time now and I wouldn't consider switching back to it, but my goodness, when I was on it I was Cool Hand Amuse, neutral, neutral, neutral all the way. I had a 48hour period that arrived bang on time and the mood fluctuations of an indoor swimming pool. Of course it totally killed my libido which I considered an undesirable side effect, and I switched to an IUD. As luck and irony would have it, I made the switch shortly before I discovered that Foie Gras (ex husband) had taken the whole monogamy thing as an optional extra. Yup, the IUD resulted in longer periods, the return of every emotion under the sun, and (admittedly indirectly) a period of absolute mayhem in my marriage. Yes, excellent timing Amuse, give yourself a round of applause. (And no, now isn't the time to suggest that the libido killing pill may have had a hand to play in Foie Gras' little side stepping activities. Thank you very much!)
When we were kids 'growing up' or 'attaining age' was not something you heard very much about until you got close to the age at which it could reasonably be expected to happen. I remember when my older sister Coq Au Vin grew up, I suddenly found myself shut out of her life for a few days every month. Rather like Anna singing outside Elsa's door, I followed her around trying to see what she was holding every time she went to the bathroom, attempting to eavesdrop on all her clearly private conversations with our mother and basically getting on her nerves. Our mother was a modern thinker and a firm believer in delivering the facts, and she eventually decided that I needed to be clued in as well. I was therefore given 'the book' (with illustrations!) to read, and then a brief, scientific lecture on what growing up meant and its deeper implications. I found the whole thing intensely embarrassing but very educational. When she asked me if I had questions I had only one - 'Can I keep the book?' No one, and I mean no one, can roll her eyes quite like my mother can.
When I did actually 'grow up' my paternal grandmother (who considered my mother rather too bohemian for her own good) clutched my arm and asked 'Do you understand what has happened to you child?' I launched into a careful repetition of my mothers' scientific explanation only to be interrupted with a horrified 'No no! It means you must do more chores around the house. And you must not have anything to do with boys! NO BOYS AT ALL!"
Can't say I listened to her. On either count.
My younger sister Macaron grew up early (my mother put this down to her ever present desire to catch up with her sisters) and after a while all three of us girls would have our 'time of the month' at the exact same time. Imagine it? Looking back I don't envy my parents. I think my father in particular found it difficult to contend with three young ladies who spent the better part of a week every month sulking, snapping, crying and eating everything in the fridge. He spent a lot of extra time in the garden. I am surprised he didn't pitch a tent there.
Despite plenty of (literal) book knowledge, I grew up rather later than my older sister did, and was one of the last in my class to achieve the honour. Having had to listen to friends describe 'bleeding like a fountain' and having blood 'pouring out like a flood' I was less than impressed by my own modest introduction to menstruation. I then found sanitary towels to be the enemy since I took awhile to figure out how to position them right, a fact that resulted in rather a large number of 'accidents', all intensely embarrassing given that white uniforms hide absolutely nothing. My mother even bought me special underwear that had a sort of liquid proof lining (ugh) and insisted I try an elasticized belt of sorts and looped sanitary towels (double ugh) .
In comparison, the towels of today are divine. Dry weave? Invented by angels. Wings? Ditto. Extra long for night time use? Hurrah! And as for the tampons of today? Yeah baby! (of course, this is provided you can find any here, which you basically can't, which is ludicrous) Today, my nieces are proud owners of several pairs of Thinx (underwear that substitutes for or supplements your regular pads or tampons) each and they just love them.
Menstruation is now, and very necessarily, a topic that is being brought out in to the open in order to educate and empower. I would be lying if I said that campaigns like Whisper's #like a girl didn't make my eyes fill with tears - that is exactly the kind of message that girls and boys should hear. And as for Bodyform's 'Blood' ad – absolutely brilliant. Having said that, I do find free bleeding rather disconcerting; personally I would never run a marathon without a tampon or sanitary towel (hell, I wouldn't free bleed even if all I had to do all day was stay home) but, I salute those who did and would, because the point made is invaluable.
And yes, it is completely ridiculous that women have to pay more for menstruation related products, that they can't access these products easily in schools and prisons, and most of all that in some countries girls are held back from education, experience, and life itself, because they bleed once a month.
The Man takes me and my monthly hormonal amusement park ride, in his stride. He enjoys the highs, and knows how to provide TLC during the lows. Just today he navigated such potentially explosive topics as 'Does my right arm look fatter than my left?', 'Which actress should play me in the movie about my life?' and 'If musical girl and I were both drowning would Trou rescue her first?' To which he untruthfully but nonetheless correctly replied 'They are both beautifully toned', 'Kate Beckinsale' and 'Absolutely not'.
A short while ago I muttered that I wished I didn't get my period anymore, and that apart from my fear of drying up like a cranberry and basically turning into even more of a virago than I already am, I would welcome an early menopause. He said casually 'Well menopause isn't the only way to avoid getting a period, there are other, though rather more short term options' I looked at him in dawning horror. He winked. My ageing ovaries fainted and my uterus started packing its bags.