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While talking of periods, we have forever used the term, “I am down” however, it is time to change that and start using, “I am on my period,” instead!
It was one of my regular days at the gym. While getting ready for my work-out, I saw two girls who looked visibly low on enthusiasm and seemingly fretting over something.
They had recently joined the gym with different aspirations. One of them, in her initial conversations, had mentioned that she had joined to boost her fertility as recommended by her doctor. And the other one wanted to lose her extra weight and inches.
I sat next to one of them, while tying my shoelaces. We exchanged pleasantries and I asked if she was feeling sore. With a cloud of worry looming large on her face she exclaimed that it was the second day of her period.
Trying to reassure her, I asked her to inform the trainer about her period so that she could work-out as per her pace and comfort today. She, however, said that she couldn’t do it.
I shifted my gaze from my shoes to her, looking perplexed. She said that she felt shy disclosing it to a guy. With curious widened eyes, I asked if she would like to say something else if not the word ‘period’.
Her statement reminded me of how we had learnt the code word ‘down’ from our peers, seniors and teachers back in school to communicate of our menstrual cycle. This was something we did without thinking twice and we always spoke of our ‘monthly thing’ in hushed tones.
The shame and embarrassment we grew up with when seen in possession of sanitary pads (which were actually kept hidden away from the prying eyes of the boys) and the horror of staining our skirts (especially white dress) were enough to give us a nervous breakdown.
And then visiting the medical room to fix the stained skirt or to the nearest possible washroom through school corridors was another nightmare. This would require deploying female friends as bodyguards hiding our posterior away from glory. As if that wasn’t all, we would get a scolding from our teachers and mothers for not being cautious enough.
All this while, our male friends and brothers were not taught to be empathetic and supportive, let alone not to mock us. Apparently, passing the biology exam was their only motive.
As an adult, I realised that menstruation is something really natural and not to be ashamed of. Sanitary pads, cramps or anything related to menstruation is not supposed to be treated as a classified piece of information dealing with national security.
I consciously replaced words ‘down’, ‘not feeling well’ or ‘low on energy’ with the right vocabulary of ‘I am menstruating’ or ‘I am on my period’ to inform my peers and seniors at workplace whenever required.
If ever I didn’t feel like going out or would cancel on my plans to socialise with my friends including male friends or even rescheduling a date for that matter, I stated ‘period’ as my reason and not ‘headache’ or ‘body-ache’ or having some ‘hidden disease’.
I started buying sanitary pads sans the black carry bag or wrapped in newspaper (a preference, which the shopkeeper also became mindful of) and stopped devising ways to hide them at home.
Sure, eyebrows were raised, people gasped and choked initially and I received comments like ‘bold’ for having uttered the word ‘period’ in front of men. But that is that.
This basic level of unlearning helped me develop a positive and healthy outlook towards my body and include men on this subject, which is otherwise considered to be a woman’s business.
Since I had just finished my period I brought it to her notice how I had communicated to the trainer without feeling perturbed. I told her that she shouldn’t mislead him with confusing messages while putting her body and health at stake.
With a contorted face she recalled that she had once informed the trainer about ‘being unwell’ when she was ‘menstruating’. To which the trainer who was running a temperature had retorted, “Even I am not well and if this is your excuse to skip your work-out, it ain’t happening.”
With a hearty laugh, she agreed that the word is ‘period’ and that she would use it!
Picture credits: Unsplash
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Busy unlearning and challenging patriarchy every day in both personal and professional spheres, a fitness
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