I Will Not Pretend I Am Not on My Period to Make You More Comfortable

I’m on my period, and I don’t really care whether or not you know it.

Does that freak you out, that first sentence? It’s possible that it does–freak you out, I mean. Quite possible. It’s taken me a long time to say something so brazen (Is it brazen? I have no idea anymore) in such a very public way.  It freaks me out a little to say it, and I’m a grown-ass woman who has given birth to a child and who has about zero illusions left when it comes to bodily functions.

I’m not sure when I became a woman who doesn’t mind if the world knows that she’s on her period. I think, though, that it happened when I started surrounding myself with women, and especially with women who allowed themselves to openly discuss menstruation, childbirth, and sex.

But periods, though—periods are something that, as a society, we like to have illusions about. I don’t know exactly why this is, and explaining it seems like the kind of thing that could take up more words than I could ever possibly write, because that explanation would have to take into account attitudes, practices, and beliefs that were formed long before any of we humans walking the earth were even thought of. But the important part, for me, is that all of those things work together in an effort to sanitize, to minimize–to hide and to ignore parts of the narrative while exploiting others.

At no point in my life was the cultural ambivalence about periods clearer to me than during my teenage years. I wouldn’t have described them that way then, obviously, but that was the feeling. First, there was the agonizing wait for puberty–reading books like Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and chanting along “I must, I must, I must increase my bust” and carrying pads well before I needed them, mostly just because I wanted to feel more grown up. Then, after I actually started my period, there were the years of trying to avoid anyone knowing when I was actually on it.

The sleight of hand method won me over, because I didn’t want to take my bag with me to the bathroom every time, and I always thought that taking my purse only a few days out of the month seemed pretty obvious. I have to say…For a girl who isn’t good at magic tricks, I’ve managed more than my fair share over the years, palming Tampons and panty-liners, sliding them into pockets or tucking them just underneath the long sleeve of my shirt. Lots of pretending, too, especially on road trips: “oh, I really need to go to the bathroom again” or “hey, I could use a snack, why don’t we stop.” On our way home from a school trip one afternoon, I finally insisted that the van stop. I needed to change my Tampon, and I finally had to just be honest about that. My high school boyfriend was so surprised that he hadn’t been able to tell I was on my period. “I usually can,” he said. I wondered how, and he elaborated with some story about how women are usually angrier when they’re on their periods, but I was so pleasant. I have rarely wanted to be more unpleasant than at that moment, but I just laughed instead.

In college, I kept palming my Tampons and hiding my PMS as much as possible, even when it was severe….And sometimes it was severe. I was 19 before I finally admitted that I thought I had a problem, and the gynecologist I finally saw agreed with me. Periods should not be heavy and 8 days long, she told me. Also, they shouldn’t make you cry uncontrollably or feel searing rage. She was mystified that I’d been able to hide that kind of PMS for years and had just dealt with it without seeing a doctor. But until she said it out loud, I didn’t really know that what I was experiencing was different from what other people experienced. My experiences seemed to mirror those in popular culture, certainly those constant jokes about women and their periods. It’s only now that I can see how harmful those images were. How harmful they are.

And so, I’ve stopped pretending. No more. It’s not as though I’m about to go rooftop to rooftop, loudly proclaiming that “I’M ON MY PERIOD.” But I’m also not going to hide it just to make others more comfortable.

**This post is part of a monthly link-up called #WeBleed, a monthly link-up created for women and girls to share their experiences related to menstruation.

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  1. says

    I’ve gotten MUCH more comfortable talking about periods and embracing my period since I started using a menstrual cup about a year ago. I’m part of a Menstrual Cup Facebook group and we talk about everything on there–from cervix length to period cramps. It’s amazing how using a reusable product that has forced me to become much more aware of my own anatomy and period blood has affected the way I see my period. It just makes me feel so empowered that I can make the choice to use a product that is better for me and the environment. It’s allowed me to become more accepting of my own period and to just roll with it.

    I firmly believe that girls and women need better education about the options out there besides disposable pads and tampons and that education can only really begin if we drop the negative period stigma that is currently out there. You’re right–it is out there and it SUCKS.

    Really great post, Diana.

    Liked by 1 person

    • says

      I’m thinking about giving the cup a try. I didn’t even know about them until just a few years ago, and for a while I felt uncomfortable with the idea. But now, I dunno…It seems like it would save money and time, and it would be better for the environment.

      By the by, have you heard of Days for Girls? Super organization doing work to send washable/reusable pads to girls.


      • says

        I’m part of a group called “Cup Love” on Facebook. If you’re thinking about giving the cup a try, I recommend joining this group. There’s tons of different information about the different types of cups on the market in the group and about which ones are better suited for different cervix lengths, period flow, etc. Everyone is always asking questions about and discussing different cups.
        I absolutely love my cup. There’s definitely a learning curve in using it and I used to be hesitant about taking it out in other people’s bathrooms/public places–but now I’m fine with using it anywhere and it’s become so second nature to use. You can keep them in for up to twelve hours (I’ve never had to take mine out before the twelve hour limit, though those with a heavier flow might have to), so it’s so much less of a hassle than carrying tampons and pads around everywhere. Saves money and the environment and cups are also better for you since pads and tampons have lots of chemicals in them and tampons retain not just period blood but also natural vaginal moisture that is supposed to be there. One of the best decisions I’ve made for myself was investing in a cup and I strongly urge all women to give them a try.
        No I haven’t heard of Days for Girls. It sounds like an amazing organization, though, and I’ll look them up!

        Liked by 1 person

        • says

          I had more concerns about cups when my flow was heavier, but now that I’m on the pill again, I have a much shorter, lighter period, so a cup is something I’m definitely considering. Thanks for the info—I will look into it and might join the group!


  2. says

    I think it’s a generational thing. The openness of it, or lack of. I’m from your parents’ generation so we were a little less open about it but I think the openness was beginning to blossom. I sort of got stuck between my generation’s time and that of my mom’s. She is of the (what I call) “down there” generation. You know, the ones that could not say words like period, or uterus, or vaginal, or menstruation. Everything having to do with reproductive organs was referred to as “down there.”

    I think openness about it is good. It’s good for women but I also think it is good for the men around us. Why are we sheltering them by covering it up? We shouldn’t.

    Liked by 2 people

    • says

      I think there’s certainly a generational element to what does and doesn’t get talked about. Teens now are much more open about some of these things than we were when we were teenagers, and maybe that’s because as adults we are more open than our mothers.

      I think openness is good, too, and I definitely think it’s good to get men involved in these conversations, too. The only way to de-stigmatize something is for people to learn more about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. says

    I literally laughed out loud at your description of palming tampons. I, too, was guilty of doing that, especially as a high schooler. I think I started becoming more open about my period when I was undergoing fertility treatments. You kind of get over it when you have to call and report every period and describe it in detail. I’m sure I made people uncomfortable, but that was their problem. Girls and women should not be period-shamed.

    Great post, Diana!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. says

    Oh gosh, the girls in my class had a secret code word for tampons, in case we got our periods early and we’re unprepared. I always felt like I was part of a shady drug deal trying to find the one girl who happened to have a few tampons on her. Eventually my school’s biology teachers said any girl needing tampons or pads could come to them during break times.
    Since I started travelling when I was 19, I’ve stopped worrying about what others think or know. I’ve never been regular, (there’s nothing wrong, as such, I just don’t get my periods every month) so it’s hard for me to plan anything. I’ve had to cancel a lot of plans last minute. But while travelling – well, I like to be prepared but I don’t sneak around anymore. It’s funny to me to be standing at a check out with a box of tampons and looking straight at the guy behind me daring him to say anything. Why should I hide something that’ll help me cope better with a perfectly normal bodily function??

    Liked by 1 person

    • says

      Ha! I’ve done the secretly-asking-every-girl-for-tampons thing, too. Really cool that you had a teacher who kept them within access. I wish that were a thing at all schools.

      I’ve regular as clockwork, but my periods have always been long and given me awful mood swings. That got easier when I went on the pill, but it took a while to adjust this second time around.


  5. says

    That’s right, I’m a dude, I have a penis, and I’m going to comment.

    I grew up in a household with two women. My mom and my grandma. My high school years were spent with my grandmother beginning menopause.

    I’d heard talk about periods, the “change,” monthly visitors, etc. etc. It couldn’t have been avoided. My grandfather, while he was still with us, would unabashedly purchase pads, tampons and belts, etc. for Mom and Grandma. And I asked what they were for. “For your mom and your grandma.” “Oh.”

    I heard commercials about being “fresh” and “not so fresh” and jokes about cramps and Midol and I really wanted to understand…

    I read ahead in the health class book. And then I read the instructions on the sides of tampons and pads in the bathroom. And then I, you know…politely asked questions.

    Amazing what happens when people share information and TALK about things and DEMYSTIFY things. There comes understanding.

    You shouldn’t have to hide something like that. It’s about the same as saying “I have to take a crap.” About as exciting. Announce it, if you feel! Be as proud as the dude-bro who says “Yo, man, I gotta take a dump.” “Yo, Girl, I gotta go and change my pad.”

    I’m on a tangent, but yes, good on you! I’m going to go and shut my man-hole now.

    Liked by 4 people

    • says

      🙂 And I’m so glad that you did! I think that men shy away from these conversations all too often—sometimes because of their own doing, but I think that sometimes they’re discouraged from it, too.

      It’s funny that you mention poop, too. That was also something we did *not* talk about in my house. If there was a problem, it was the kind of thing to quietly discuss with my mom, but not something we announced. Bodily functions, in general, were to be talked about as little as possible. Now, I have a kid who has chronic constipation, so I talk about poop a lot more than I’d like to, and I get to watch my poor parents squirm because we are not shy about discussing this stuff with him. lol

      Liked by 2 people

  6. says

    All I can say is I don’t miss my period at all. I had fibroids, bled horribly for 6 or 7 days. I wasn’t regular either so had to carry pads and tampons at all times. I had to wear both I was such a heavy bleeder.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. says

    Thanks for this post. Reminded me of all the times I didn’t want to lug around my purse, or the little bag I leave in the ladies room at work with my tampons in it. Now that I have had a hysterectomy but still have one ovary, I still have the psychological period, just not the physical one. But, PMS is still PMS, baby!

    Liked by 1 person

    • says

      Ooof, I can’t imagine still having PMS without the period part! I have pretty severe PMS when I’m not on birth control, but the birth control regulates it pretty well.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. says

    What a great link up idea and a great post. As a teenager, it was normal to be sent to the shops to buy pads/tampons but that’s as far as it went. These days, my wife will talk openly about with me. Nobody talks about the way their body works which would remove a lot of uncertainty for people growing up. Guys would certainly never mention any worries they had. I developed a groin hernia when I was 15 which was only treated because my dad asked me the night before my first school trip to France whether I had any lumps or bumps(!) It’s good for people to be comfortable talking about their bodies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • says

      Thanks! Rose’s link-up is definitely a great idea. I think you’re right about talking about bodies—we don’t do it enough, especially the sort-of uncomfortable stuff that reminds us we’re actually animals. When I was a kid, I can remember that talking about poop was about as welcome as talking about sex or menstruation, which is to say not welcome at all…And that left room for all kinds of confusions and misconceptions.

      Liked by 1 person

      • says

        When I got to work this morning, one of the first things I mentioned to my colleague was that my mother-in-law is poorly again with cystitis (it comes and goes frequently) and she was mortified that I would be talking about it with my mother in law, lol. Needless to say it was a great excuse to mention your post – which also made her uncomfortable!

        Liked by 1 person

        • says

          Sorry to hear about your mother-in-law, and hope she’s feeling better soon. But I am wildly amused at scandalizing someone who hasn’t even read the blog yet! haha!


  9. says

    Oh lord, I remember that fear. It was horrifying to think of someone finding out. My grandmother used to buy me disposable underwear that looked very much like Depends that were marketed towards girls with a heavy flow to go over the underwear. She encouraged me to wear two at once, just in case. Gawd, those things alone might be worth a post.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. says

    i love everything about this post.

    at my work, the “secret code” for telling a female co-worker you’re on your period or PMSing is “ugggh, i couldn’t sleep last night and i’m just so irritable today”. no one wants to say anything outright, and no one wants male co-workers to know what’s going on. Doesn’t matter that you didn’t sleep last night because of cramps and backpain. doesn’t matter you have killer PMS, doesn’t matter you’re so bloated none of your pants fit. For something that occurs for one fourth of my life, i’m supposed to pretend it’s never happening. that sucks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • says

      Thank you!

      I think our reluctance to talk about it, and the way we talk about it when we do, can be really harmful. We need to start talking more about periods and what is and is not healthy so we have a better handle on when we should actually go to the doctor.


  11. says

    I love the humor and realistic tone of this piece…. you are soooo talented and I always appreciate a strong woman telling it like it is… I laughed constantly at sections in this post because it is just so true. Its like an unspoken reality and has such a negative connotation, when in reality, it is the reason we can give life.
    I would love your feedback on my blog LADYHOOD https://aladyhoodjourney.wordpress.com/ because I am trying to add more of a dry humor/sarcastic tone to my writing and I think you have that nailed. I have multiple posts, most recent, Beauty Is…
    Great post!


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