“So what are your plans for the weekend?” he asked me.
“No plans. I’m just staying in,” I replied.
“Why, are you ill?”
“No, I have my periods and I’m in pain.”
“Oh. Um… Let’s just call it ‘being in pain’ from the next time. I don’t quite feel comfortable talking about this.”
“IT’S A NORMAL THING THAT HAPPENS TO WOMEN EVERY MONTH AND I AM NOT EUPHEMISING IT, SO WHY DON’T YOU GROW UP!”
“You’re just getting so worked up because it’s that time of the month. It’s ok, I understand.”
Yes, this is an actual conversation that I had. With a fully grown man, not a teenage boy.
When I was 13, all the girls from my class were asked to get up and leave the regular classroom for a special lecture. I didn’t know whether to feel special or not. This was where we were informed about the red monster that would visit us every month for many years now. Since some girls had already gotten their periods, this brand new information shocked them. Yet, most of them were too shy to say ‘periods’ in front of a classroom full of females.
It’s called menstruation.
Over the years women have tried coming up with cover-up names for this phenomenon, periods being at the top of the list. But since it became common knowledge, we came up with dainty terms like ‘chums’, ‘birthday’ and so on. And up until the time I actually got my periods, I did not know what menstruation was. So the prior knowledge I had about this was through TV advertisements of Whisper or Carefree, and theories that my friends and I came up with, or vague parental answers. The most popular theory was that sanitary napkins are an equivalent of adult diapers for young girls who want to play tennis after school and can’t hold it in till they get home. (This made complete sense to me after considering the state of school toilets.)
It therefore shouldn’t come as a surprise that boys are alien to the concept and men are uncomfortable with it. Even autocorrect is hesitant to suggest the word ‘menstruation’. I still have female friends who won’t / are not allowed to cook, wash their hair while menstruating and much more. Also apparently, God and all things holy issue a collective restraining order against menstrual women. (This one I won’t protest against, mainly because I’ll take any excuse to stay away from religious ceremonies and temples).
But if you aren’t comfortable and prefer to hide behind black plastic bags and newspapers when you’re ‘in pain’, I am no one to stop you. I will, however, sneak up on you and scare you. Only, instead of ‘boo!’, I’ll say ‘menstruation!’