I'm So Over Getting My Damn Period
I’m breaking up with you.
It might feel abrupt, but it’s been a long time coming.
After 30 years of slipping super-absorbent tampons up my sleeve in some sort of make-shift magic trick as I attempt to keep them concealed from view on my way to a public bathroom;
After countless evenings of wadding overnight maxi-pads into my sexy bikini underwear as I climb into bed to sleep with my legs clenched to avoid leaking out onto my sheets;
After too many clots of blood have been accidentally flung across my bathroom in the middle of the night and been discovered the next morning by my understanding husband, splattered across the toilet like a below-the-belt murder scene;
After decades of cramps, mood swings, back pain, headaches, nausea, and gastrointestinal distress;
I’m done. Consider this a Dear John letter to you, my menstrual cycle. I’m ready to get off this bloody merry-go-round for good.
As you remember, our relationship has always been complicated. You played hard to get during my early teens, back when I was actually hoping you’d make an appearance. I remember listening to girls my age in the locker room talking about getting their periods, and feeling excluded.
“Do you use tampons or pads?” a fellow female would ask.
“Both,” I’d say casually, attempting to impress, but usually just confusing my menstruating friend.
“Be careful what you wish for,” is advice that no one gave me about getting my period. You arrived unceremoniously and without warning during a three-hour long AP final in my 16th year of life. As if playing a part in a cosmic joke, I happened to be wearing white jeans. When I saw spots on my underwear during a bathroom break, I shoved wads of toilet paper into the crotch of my jeans and said a little prayer every time I stood up from my desk, placed in a row of identical desks, spanning out across the entire gymnasium floor. Nothing to obscure a clear view of my white, pristine pants should the unthinkable occur. Mercifully, I remembered I had a sweater in my locker and tied it tightly around my waist; a thin layer of fabric was all that protected my dignity.
Biologically, and culturally, the world marks that first period, the menarche, as a somewhat slippery entry into womanhood. “Congrats,” that discarded uterine lining announces, “You’re now old enough not only to bear children, but to become subjected to a monthly cycle of products, pills, inserts, herbs, and surgical devices to prevent it from happening.”
As I got older, I realized what it was about you I had the hardest time dealing with. It’s ironic that you were my period, because I could never tell you what to do. My need to control my life and your sense of spontaneity — sometimes showing up when I least expected it — were completely at odds. You made it hard to live the life I wanted. So that time you disappeared, during my dark days in my early twenties, when anxiety and anorexia took over my day-to-day, and I struggled to find myself, I was actually glad. One less burden. One less worry. One less uncontrollable mess was out of my life.
It wasn’t until I started therapy and anti-depressants that I realized what losing you really meant. It was me trying to step away from becoming a woman and an adult. It was about holding onto a childhood identity I thought was better than where I currently found myself.
I was actually relieved when you returned.
And, look, I don’t want to be too hard on you here. We’ve had some good times, as well. I’m eternally grateful for my healthy pregnancies and my two beautiful sons are the highlights of my life. Without your steady stream of consistency, I obviously would have struggled to make all that happen.
But the accompanying drama you bring has always been so hard. The bloating, the back pain, the emotional exhaustion, and incomparable irritation that consumes me and affects everyone around me. The impatience with my family, the inexplicable outbursts, and the eruptions of anger that impact everyone in my household every month. Even when I understand that your imminent arrival is affecting my behavior, I’m powerless to stop it. How many days of aggressive arguing have you caused? How many nights of tears?
And our dynamic has gotten worse recently. Physically, you’re just out of control. Weeks of spotting or short geyser-like bursts that force me to run mid-conversation to the bathroom. I go through pairs of underwear like I did back when I was a teenager. I feel as helpless and beholden to your whim as I did back in those early days, except now I’ve also got wrinkles and eye bags and gray hair.
And, don’t play coy, I know you’ve been thinking about leaving me for good, too. To be honest, when I think about it really ending, I’m nervous. Just as your entrance heralded in my womanhood, will your exit signal the end of it? Goodbye soft skin, hello mustache and errant chin hairs? Goodbye child-bearing hips, hello thickening of my mid-section, flattening of my breasts, until eventually I become unrecognizable to myself in the mirror?
As Danny Glover aptly said in “Lethal Weapon”, “I’m getting too old for this shit.” I’m ready to move on from this hamster wheel of emotional and physical theatrics. We’ve had a good run, and I use that term deliberately, but consider this my notice of intent.
So beat it, scram, make like a tree and leave. My femininity, identity, and sense of self has transcended your unrelenting grip over my life and my uterus and I know with each month, I’m one period closer to your final farewell.
And I’m ready to move on, too.