Menstruation is a life-changing event for any girl. What happens when she doesn't even know what a period is?
Let me give you the context. Imagine a short skinny 11-year-old tomboy who looks mostly like a boy and does nothing like a typical girl (Hey it was the 90s so what I just said is not yet a taboo so calm down and everything will be fine). My diet consisted of mostly vegetables (not by choice, just a consequence of being born into a vegetarian family) and home-cooked food – absolutely no fast food (mainly because globalization wasn’t in full effect just yet). I exercised almost every day, remained active throughout the day, had a proper sleep schedule, and most importantly – did not use a mobile phone for ‘time pass’.
So like any average mom, my mom decided that I would not get my period anytime soon. Come on who can blame her? After all, she had her first period when she was 13. Now the result was as you guessed it, I did not know anything related to periods.
Imagine my surprise when I got back home from school one day and saw a red dot on my panty. I was smart enough to understand that it was blood but stupid enough to think I got cancer and that I was dying (thanks to Indian cinema).
So I kept my panty safe for mom’s inspection. I tried to be calm and told her that something was wrong with me. After she saw it she stared at me for a whole minute. If I had seen her face today, I would have realized that it started with shock moved to horror, then surprise, and finally comic relief when she checked my fresh panty. But back then I decided that the look meant that I’m either dying or special.
The next step, after she taught me how to use a pad, of course, was informing the elders in our family and some very close relatives. I listened to the phone calls not knowing how to feel. Should I feel embarrassed? Happy? Horrified? That was when I remembered that something similar happened to my cousin a couple of years back all the ladies surrounded her and she was crying (She got her period during the summer holidays when the whole family was present!!!). I decided that crying was a great idea and proceeded to execute it. It seemed like a waste of time and energy after the first two minutes – Basically because I did not know why I was crying!
The best part of my first period was the week off from school. I did not even have to fake a stomach ache! It became even better when my grandparents visited me with snacks enough to feed an army.
Between all the phone calls and celebrations everyone conveniently forgot to tell me about periods. I never knew what it was or why it happened every month. It was assumed that teaching me to use a pad was the only education necessary. The only pieces of information I received were -
- It will happen every month till I'm an old bat.
- I can not enter temples for 7 days.
- I have to be in a separate room for 3 days if I am staying at our ancestral home.
- Periods mean I am a woman and must start acting like one! (Again, let me remind you that it was the ’90s and it was a common school of thought)
- Taking painkillers for cramps will cause infertility.
Instead of this, I wish I was informed about;
- PMS – What it is and how to manage it.
- The various period products - their advantages and disadvantages – so that I can choose the one that best suits me
- Where the bleeding came from
- During the first few years of my period, I did not have any PMS or any sort of period pain, but I still hated periods.
Pads – I hated them. They were thick, and short and had to be Whispered among girls only!
Every single month I stained my clothes in public (read it as school uniform) and my bed sheet at night – I am not even exaggerating.
Since I seemed to be staining the back of my dress, I concluded that I was bleeding from behind and started positioning pads way back, that is when I started to stain the front of my panty! Not even 10th-grade Biology helped me understand that there were 3 separate holes and the middle one is the troublemaker. I’m ashamed to tell on a public platform that it took me over 15 years to understand how my period worked.
Is it that difficult to explain to a girl about her period?
Isn’t it time we changed how we look at periods and teach our kids about it earlier so that they can be prepared for it?
- Author: Remya Krishnan, Mom of a toddler, Freelancing Consultant