No one talked periods in my house growing up.
Here’s what I remember: being about 8 years old and climbing around in the backseat while we were making the never-ending drive from South Florida to North Florida to visit my grandparents (y’all, Florida is an exceptionally l-o-n-g state. Those drives went on until the second of FOREVER). I didn’t have a seatbelt on (because the 80s) and was rifling around in some of the stuff packed on the floorboard, probably looking for a snack.
I came upon a box of maxi pads. I held them up. “Hey, what are these?”
If my mama’s eyes could’ve shot lasers, I’d just have been a little burn mark on the backseat. “Put that back,” she said, evenly but in that scary mommy’s-had-enough-of-your-bullshit way that still to this day stops me dead in my tracks.
“But what are they for?” I have no idea what got into me that made me think I should push the issue. My mom’s word was the final word forever-and-ever-amen.
But I needed to know.
“Kendra. We. Will. Discuss. It. When. You. Are. Older.,” she said, barely above a whisper, through clenched teeth.
But we didn’t discuss it later. Not really. We went to a Focus on the Family talk about adolescence where I learned 2 things: 1) Mutual masturbation was BAD (I think it had something to do with potentially catching the gay), and 2) Cocaine could kill you the very first time you tried it.
Neither of these pieces of info was particularly helpful to my 10 year old self.
My mom also handed me a Focus on the Family book about puberty and told to let her know if I had questions.
IF I had questions?!?
That was it.
Obviously, it just wasn’t something that we were going to talk about.
Now I find myself at an interesting crossroads where I’ve started menopause just as my daughter is about to have her first period (all signs point to probably in the next year for her).
But we’ve never been hush-hush around the monthly bleed. The kid was with me all the time when she was real little. She’s seen me change more tampons than I could possibly count.
Truly, she didn’t think anything about it.
And then, probably 2 years ago or so, we started talking about what the tampons were for.
You bleed from WHERE?!? she shrieked.
I had to promise it didn’t hurt. But then I had to backtrack on that–because I want to honor the fact that for some women menstruation is very painful. But I did promise that the whole thing is very normal.
But then, recently, I read Witch: Unleashed. Untamed. Unapologetic. And I began to remember what I’d long forgotten since my Women’s Studies Class approximately 100 lifetimes ago: that a woman’s cycle is powerful. It’s something to be honored and celebrated. It’s not a source of shame, but a guide to knowing.
Menstrual cycles, moon cycles, life cycles… all full of great wisdom. All a gift.
So, now I’m reading graphic novels about periods. And ordering all kinds of books on puberty that celebrate a girl’s body, and talk honestly and openly about the most natural thing in the world: becoming a woman.
And about periods.
Dear God, half the world bleeds. It’s not a shameful secret. It’s a fact of life. A divine mystery. The source of all kinds of walk-in-your-power-awesomeness.
I’m going to give my daughter a different script, a way to see her monthly cycle not as a curse but as a blessing.
“The Curse” is so patriarchal. And that’s so yesterday.
There’s a whole different way to see the world that centers a woman in her own power. And that’s the kind of inner-knowing I want to hand off to my kid.