Period Talk For A New Generation
If there is one thing that is certain, it’s that my daughter has more information on her menstrual cycle than I did at her age.
I sometimes think of that day in high school PE class when the teacher must have noticed the 12-year-old in the front row, her mouth hanging open in utter incredulity and slowly mounting horror.
That shocked girlie was me.
Growing up in a family with no mother present and three younger siblings, I remained blithely ignorant of all things menstrual.
I remember that my father rather awkwardly presented me with a book about women’s business with a few pages he’d earmarked and said: “Read it”.
But I happily stashed it under my bed and skipped off down the road to meet my friends.
So, it wasn’t until that fateful day in the school gym that the whole shocking scenario was outlined and I realized I was about the last to know.
Back then, with no teen magazines available or TV ads for sanitary products in bright floral wrappers and no discussion of “unmentionable” topics with my girlfriends, I was as green as grass.
I do have to thank that PE teacher because if she hadn’t supplied the information when the day finally came (in class, but with a sanitary napkin stashed in my locker) I would have thought I was having some kind of hideous hemorrhage.
Fast forward to the present day and, because I had my children late in life, I’m menopausal as my daughter is going through puberty.
What to tell her about her period? Well, she has all the information, and know that, for me, the pain and inconvenience of periods and ovulation and the tedious management of fertility – are all a distant memory, I’m able to look back on that rocky ride on the menstrual cycle and remember all the good stuff.
Knowing that my menses came (roughly) once a month, in some sort of secret pact with the moon, was mysterious and quite wonderful. After all, the word itself (menstruation, menses) comes from the Greek “mene” for “moon”.
I came to think of my own periods as a lunar (loony?) high tide of womanliness. And I loved to think that, despite my sheer sophistication, I was still a child of nature.
Sorry! Blame the hippies.
There are countless rituals around the world that celebrate the arrival of the menarche and fertility. The eating of red rice in Japan; a showering with money and gifts in Morocco; entry into special huts, reading of fortunes, ritual bathing, wearing of ceremonial robes, and the learning of spells.
(One girlfriend of mine offered a mother and daughter weekend with pink icing on a red velvet cake and dance around the menarche maypole… would have loved to. My daughter said an emphatic “no”!)
Instead, hand-in-hand, we headed down the supermarket aisle of puzzling things with wings and pretty boxes wrapped like lollies. I hadn’t been there for a bit.
I couldn’t help reflect that years ago we’d been perusing the aisle of Barbie – the plastic dolly who is fated to never have anything as messy as a period. (Although she has virgin-birthed almost 10 million of her kind.)
How fortunate is my daughter to live in a society where she has full access to information on her period and ads for all kinds of clever sanitary products can even be seen on the telly? It would be even better if all girls felt talking about their period was utterly normal like she and I do, but unfortunately, the stats tell us this isn’t so.
I did grieve when my period no longer came and was pronounced to be menopausal. Hey, I even wrote a novel about it: “Farewell My Ovaries”!
One day my daughter will read it, I hope. I’ve earmarked a few pages. But if she stashes it under her bed for a few decades?
There are some things a young woman doesn’t need to know just yet. Bless her ovaries!