I’m on the blob. Surfing the crimson tide. Painters and decorators are in. I’m on. Mother nature’s delivered her monthly gift. Period. Or as I like to call it: slightly less able to tolerate crap than usual.
Far from the discrete blue liquid that advertisers use to demonstrate the range of sanitary products at my disposal, my periods are red, bloody and messy.
Usually I don’t feel like horse riding or windsurfing, but I generally just get on with my life. A sign of fertility, I have wished for my period to arrive and I have wished for it not to. Currently, I can’t wait for menopause, three babies later, my cycle is heavy, emotional and sore. Despite being viewed by the government as a luxury, periods are a total pain in the uterus.
The news of the first British company to introduce ‘period’ leave is intriguing. Women suffer and they generally just get on with it so why not recognise the monthly visit, have a day or two off, and make life a bit easier. We do need to address biological truths (periods, childbearing, breastfeeding) while supporting women to play their role in society. But in practice my reaction would be the same as the majority of Japanese women, who are entitled to ‘period leave’ by law but don’t take it. It feels like taking crimson leave reveals a weakness, an admission that women are somehow less capable and need to be given special privileges. It justifies men saying ‘on your period love? Why don’t you head home?’ When in reality women are handling a lot more than meets the eye. So how about just recognising that everyone probably has stuff going on that you don’t know about, and being a little gentler with each other.
Girls learn to deal with periods straight away. My first period came on holiday, I woke up covered in blood, my mum scrubbed the sheets in the bath while my dad was dispatched for sanitary towels (while I sat on a towel waiting I rolled up one of those round brushes in my hair resulting in my first fringe which made the whole thing much more traumatic). Soon after, I stood up at the end of a geography class to discover blood literally pouring down my leg. Kindly Mrs Howells found a scrunched up tissue to help me clean myself up before I dashed to the toilet avoiding anyone I knew. I had to take off my blood spattered white socks before skulking in late to French.
In my house full of boys, I see it as a responsibility to teach them that periods are a part of life, if they want to have meaningful relationships with women (including their mum). They ask questions about the blood, which is a gory and unusual sight, and I answer them. ‘Does it hurt?’ they ask. ‘Not like a cut’ I say. They’re glad boys don’t get periods, and like anything else they are quickly distracted. It’s not a big deal, just something that happens.
I spent years arguing that periods make no difference whatsoever. We are equals, I can handle my physicality. Those few brave partners who have wondered aloud if I’m on my period were shot down. Sexist fucks. I’ve never had period comments at work. I’ve never given my periods any credit for being able to impact my life. Until recently. Turns out, Rich has been thinking for some time that my flow has an impact on my mood and has been ever so gently broaching it when the sanitary ritual commences in our bathroom. And after releasing seven storms of wrath in his direction, I’ve realised, he might have a point.
I’ve started checking my calendar to figure out if there is a reason why that work issue just made me burst into tears or why the kids seem particularly annoying this weekend. And amazingly, there does seem to be a connection. I am much less able to put up with other people’s shit than usual when I’m on or approaching the blob. So instead of getting into: ‘why is everyone so fucking annoying today’, I can have a cup of tea and a large piece of chocolate and take it easy on myself.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t subscribe to the notion that women are irrational or highly strung around their period, we’ve been dealing with it for years. I think we are just slightly less tolerant. And yes, this might seem out of character because we are usually so brilliant at managing everything and putting up with a whole lot of nonsense. But if you are caught being a dick on those days, expect to be called out on it (even if I ignored it last week), because I’m going against the flow.