NOTE: I was in the middle of writing this when I received a comment on another post claiming that I probably had PMS. This rather put me off continuing, so instead I wrote something on how great it is to be a humourless, PMS-ridden feminist. Way-hey! Except I’m not. Actually, right now I’m on the blob! Jeez, if you want to make the “time of the month” claim, get the sodding time right! Anyhow, now I’m coming back to the subject from which I was so rudely distracted.
Yesterday I uncovered a little-known and frankly shocking fact about George Osborne’s long-term plans for economic growth. Actually, I didn’t. I just didn’t want the first line of this post to be ‘Yesterday I had really bad period pain’. But the fact is, I did.
There is no age at which you can say this without sounding like an idiot. Early teens and you sound like you’re attempting to embarrass a male teacher out of asking for yesterday’s homework. Grown woman under 40 and you just sound pathetic since, let’s face it, it’s hardly childbirth. Woman over 40 and it just sounds like showing off. We know your game. You just want us to know that you’re not barren yet. Well, we’re not impressed. Face it, ladies: there is no time in your life when owning up to, let alone complaining of, period pain will be acceptable.
I’m not talking about endometriosis or anything similarly severe, just straight, common or garden period pain. I can’t even hear the phrase in my head without it being pronounced in mocking, pseudo-sympathetic tones. In the 1980s, Grange Hill featured a character called Roland, whose main purpose was to go around being fat. A girl called Janet would follow him, for no apparent reason, always saying, in half-concerned, half-hectoring tones “why are you so sad, Ro-land? Is it because you’re fat, Ro-land? Why are you so fat, Ro-land?” If anyone is wondering what Janet’s doing now, she lives in my head. Her only task is to say the phrase “period pain” whenever I think of it.
Yesterday I was in agony. I really, really mean it! I ended up taking more pain relief than I’d had when giving birth to my youngest (2 paracetamol for Youngest; 4 Feminax for yesterday’s travails), and I didn’t even get a cute baby at the end of it! All I got was a soggy tampon, and there wasn’t even that much blood! I wanted masses and masses, like in a slasher movie. My partner seemed unimpressed at the period pain complaint, and I was half-hoping, midway through buying my “feminine care”, that I’d collapse in Sainsbury’s and they’d have to call him and then he’d be sorry. They’d carry me out on a stretcher, pale from blood loss, and he’d feel so ashamed for doubting me. Only then we’d get to the hospital and it’d be really embarrassing because (hopefully) there’d be nothing seriously wrong with me and then I’d just be some prat who can’t even “have a happy period” like the Always advert tells her to.
As if the pain itself wasn’t bad enough, I can’t help feeling that struggling with period pain feels anti-feminist. It’s a throwback to ideas of women being controlled by their reproductive organs, and incapable of clear thought due to their monthly cycles (I don’t know why I write “throwback”; it’s not like “time of the month?”, to mean “shut up, you stroppy cow!”, isn’t ever used today, although I’ve no idea why whenever I hear that one in my head, it’s always spoken by Stacey from Eastenders). It’s ridiculous, yet I feel it’s my feminist duty to be positive about periods, even though I can’t see anything to recommend them. Amenorrhoea is the only real benefit of having anorexia (that’s if there wasn’t some link between it and osteoporosis), while the absence of periods is a definite plus when it comes to breastfeeding (always nice not to be leaking from several places at once). But it feels like I just don’t love myself enough as a woman to feel all celebratory about my menses (I have never, ever, used the word menses before, and probably never will again, especially since it’s just got me worrying about what happened to 1980s WH Smith rival John Menzies – does anyone know? And following on from that, does anyone now use the slang “John Menses” to describe their period?).
I haven’t yet decided what I will tell my sons about periods. My mother never told me much, but did manage to scare the life out of me in the swimming baths when I asked what “those machines on the wall” were for. She muttered something about women who have babies bleeding every month, so I decided there and then that I was going to adopt. The alternative sounded horrifying. Even now, my partner and I are very coy in how we talk about periods. During the War on Terror (is it still going on? has it been rebranded?) the US Dept of Homeland Security launched something called Operation Liberty Shield, which obviously sounded like it was something to do with a sanitary towel. For a while, “launching Operation Liberty Shield” became the codeword for my period having started:
Fancy a shag?
Nah, we’re on code red and it’s time to launch Operation Liberty Shield.
I’ve no idea what the actual Operation was, but it has now been shelved, so it’s not as mildly amusing as it used to be. I need a new codeword (don’t worry, I’m not asking for ideas. Anyhow, I am now quite taken with John Menses. It has a nice, retro feel).
I’m not in as much pain as yesterday. I just wanted to make, you know, a bit of a deal of it. Because clearly nobody else will, least of all my liberal feminist partner. And at this point I am reminded of the US rock band L7, probably best known in the UK due to lead singer Donita Sparks performing naked from the waist down on The Word in 1992. According to legend (and, um, Wikipedia) Sparks also responded to a hostile crowd at the Reading Festival by removing her tampon on stage and throwing it into the audience, yelling “eat my used tampon, fuckers!” There is something I find quite delightful about this. Imagine doing this in a board meeting that’s going badly wrong, or when someone’s just told you you didn’t get a job, or when you’ve just been given the sack. Long-term, it wouldn’t be great for references, but oh, the temporary glory. I’d love it if someone did this on The Apprentice, just after they’d been fired. Imagine Sir Alan’s face.
Well, enough late-night tampon-based musings. Fortunately I have a night’s sleep before I have to go to work. Hopefully enough time to forget all this and not accidentally “do a Donita” (although actually, the school run! Now there’s a place where it’d make an impact…)