In the year 2020, it’s fairly absurd that women are still made to feel uncomfortable bringing up their periods. You’d think by now, we’d have moved passed coded nicknames like the Aunt Flows of yore—but there is still way too much stigma attached and we want it to stop. We love the work groups like Period.org (founded in 2014 by two 16-year-olds!) are doing by distributing menstrual products and helping change the way communities talk about periods. And it was thrilling to see “Period. End of Sentence”—a short documentary film about women in India learning to make affordable and biodegradable sanitary pads to distribute to their fellow women—win an Oscar in 2019. (PS: You can watch it on Netflix.)
But we need to keep talking—it’s important to grown and young women alike. Back when I read YM magazine as a teenager (and later worked there as an editor), the most popular page in the magazine was “Say Anything” and it was often filled with embarrassing period stories like the dog grabbing a pad out of the wastebasket and depositing it in front of your boyfriend. I get why teens loved sharing and reading them—there was a sense of community there. But conversations about periods shouldn’t be relegated to spaces where they’re seen as embarrassing, so we decided to ask our Indy Maven community to share some personal period stories of their own—and we’re so grateful you did.
By the way, in case anyone is wondering (as I’m sure you are), I’m currently in my third cycle since we’ve been in quarantine and man if that’s not a way to tell you so much time has passed! But I still remember my very first like it was yesterday: It was a Sunday. I was 13. And my sweet mom had obviously been thinking ahead to this moment with her eldest child because she had a little kit ready to go on the top shelf of her closet. We didn’t make a big huge deal about it but it was a special moment—and as a swimmer, the most nerve-racking thing for me was figuring out how to use tampons right from the jump. She was cool, calm, and collected as she showed me how—and I later passed that knowledge on to lesser-informed friends.
Thanks for sharing, Mavens. Let’s keep talking.
I’ll go first! Speaking of firsts…I can’t remember how old I was when I got my period but let’s say somewhere around 14. I was MORTIFIED at the thought of having to ask my mom for supplies (not because she was weird—because I was). The samples I got in health ed only lasted so long, sooooooo I put a paper grocery bag over my head and went into her room one night while she was watching TV and explained the situation. As you do. She laughed and handled it as gracefully as possible. I’ll be clear she NEVER did anything to make me feel ashamed, I’ll blame the patriarchy for that 😉 —Leslie B.
My mother was a nurse practitioner who taught sex ed in public schools. I remember wondering why I had the mother who wanted to talk about puberty and periods ALL THE TIME instead of leaving me in my secret shame with a well-worn stack of Judy Blume books and pads the size of Montana. —Molly M.
I found myself without any feminine products on a backpack trip with my wife—this was still while we were dating. She told me I should try a Diva Cup and I had NO idea what the hell she was talking about. I made it through our weekend in the woods annoyed and when I had cell signal again I looked up the Diva Cup and there it was something real that was another option for women besides tampons or pads! After some trial and error, I’m now on pro level I can say! I even wrote a blog about it and now make it a point (to) educate women and girls as much as I can about moon cycle products they can use like different cup options and products like THINX. This topic is built into our women’s adventure trip trainings I feel so passionately about it! —Danielle W.
The summer between sophomore and junior year of college I worked at a transmission parts factory as a summer job. I was a QC inspector for throttle position sensors (I know—totes glamorous). I used to have horrible periods with all the joyous side effects, not the least of which was…gastric distress. One day, at work mid-cycle, I felt a fart coming on. There was a lab tech in the room. I proceed to let what I believe to be the loudest, grossest, menstrual-fueled fart of all time. The lab tech was looking at a microscope. He heard the, um, ruckus, sat up a little straighter, and said nothing. He totally heard it. —Devon D.
This isn’t about me personally, but the first time I came across an unflushed toilet full of blood in the women’s restroom in elementary school (before I knew what a period was), I was legitimately convinced a woman was bleeding out somewhere in the building and was very alarmed. —Sarah B.
The horror of being the only girl in 5th grade with her period and having to start carrying around a purse. I felt like everyone knew simply because I suddenly had a purse. I was in such denial that I would sometimes dissociate AKA “forget” to bring those giant-ass pads we used, and just hope for the best…which as you can imagine, was not wise, and is an even worse story. —Kelli J.
First period, it was one month after my 11th birthday and it was on a girl scout trip to King’s Island. I was the first one to get it. I was embarrassed, but I was more upset that wearing a pad meant I couldn’t go to the water park and even riding White Water Canyon wasn’t going to (be) fun. —Liz S.
The first time I got my period I was at home during the summer time away from school. So I got on AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) and sent my friends a message. I made the font HUGE, changed the color to red, and sent a . And that’s all I sent…expecting them to understand ♀️ —Kayla L.
Abby Gardner is Indy Maven’s Executive Editor.