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A funny look at the sexism of period pain. Periods, for me, meant cramps and pain. But, as my mother said, as a woman I was “supposed to to get used to going with the flow.”
The first time my mother caught me popping a painkiller when I had my period, she gave me an earful. I was sixteen. To my protests about needing to numb the pain so I could concentrate on studying for an important test, all I got was, “You can’t take medicines every month just for cramps. It’s unhealthy. Just deal with it and your body will get used to it.” I spent all night chewing gum and massaging my belly with a hot water bottle, willing my mind to divert itself.
My mother was right. I got used to the pain.
Every month it comes; this faithful friend– my period. Once upon a time I scribbled dates in a diary and tracked the 28- day cycle but after two decades of our relationship, I no longer need to. When I feel my patience shrinking quicker than usual, I know it will be another five days. When my breasts turn tender and ache like they’re made of little boulders tugging me down, two days. When my libido surges and I find myself terribly confused with the desire to both slap and mount my husband, one day.
Despite the infinite curses I’ve hurled at human biology and the universe, I’ve grown rather fond of my period. Once a month I get a four-day window where I’m allowed to be an inexplicable mess and I can tell myself – It’s okay, you have your period. I can spend half an hour in the shower crying over the shreds of stale potpourri in my head; graying hair, failures as a mother, being broke, being fat, broken phone, broken heart. I relish the anguish and luxury of self-pity. Twenty-something days of frustration over all the disappointments I was unsuccessful in confronting bubble and boil over. The world sucks, life sucks, everything sucks. I can wallow, be unreasonable, reclusive, exhausted and indulgent.
My period is the opportunity to tap into the rawness within me, the parts I’ve shuddered to look at too closely. The peeling uterine walls purge me of all the unsaid and unfelt. My head and heart connect and I realize this power I possess, of being weak enough to weep over nothing and strong enough to not only endure the pain but long for it. It is my release; fixing all the clogs in my emotional plumbing, releasing the stored sewage of festering emotions.
As I drown the undulating cramps with hot water bottle massages, dark chocolate and ‘The Cure’ on an endless loop, I embrace my body and mind. Pause. Inhale. Pause. Exhale.
And when it’s all over- Un-pause.
I still remember the day I got my first period. Ours is one of the many communities around India where coming of age is celebrated. I was fed raw oil, weird tasting laddoos and then draped in a sari as families came to visit me. The only bonus of enduring this humiliating ordeal was that I received gifts and cash. Lots of it.
But I see a deeper meaning behind this celebration. It goes beyond announcing the transition into womanhood. We are telling the world that SHE is ready for pain. SHE will bear it with silence and grace. SHE will get used to it.
So bring it on.
Image source: shutterstock