A Red Tent of My Own

Periods suck. I sometimes hate the fact that I was born a woman because periods suck so much. I can’t even find the words to express how irritating it is to have to deal with this crap 5-7 days out of every month. That’s 5-7 days of being in pain, being uncomfortable, feeling tired, and constantly having to check and change pads, tampons, or Softcups.

“Gradually my whole concept of time changed until I thought of a month as having twenty-five days of humanness and five others when I might just as well have been an animal in a steel trap.”

― Florence King

I remember when I got my first period. I was 13 or 14 and it lasted two miserable weeks. I didn’t tell my mom at first. She found out because there was blood in the toilet. I don’t know why I didn’t tell her. I guess I just felt like it was something I couldn’t just bring up anytime and there didn’t seem to be a good time to tell her. It felt like something secret and shameful, it needed to be talked about in whispers and when no one else was around.

I remember I felt so tired and I had cramps. I had already been struggling to be my normal self before she found out. To me this just didn’t seem like the time for me to be trying to pay attention in class, interact with teachers and other students, and still try to come home and do homework. I seemed to me that, logically, and woman should be able to rest more during this time. I asked my mom if I could stay home from school and she replied that I could, for that day only. She said this was just part of my life now and periods were no excuse for not doing the things I needed to get done. She said when I grew up my bosses weren’t going to let me stay home from work because of my period and I needed to learn that lesson now and figure out how to live normally even when I was on my period. She said every woman had to just deal with it.

I remember thinking that this felt terribly unfair. I, like every girl during her teenage years, was quickly learning that it was a mans world and often times women had to work twice as hard and put up with twice as much crap just to get by. I felt like it was easy to expect women to just suck it up and be quiet about periods when you don’t have one. During the time of menstruation a woman feels much more fatigued, we should get to rest if we need it! I feel like I have been bitter about being a women ever since that day. That was when I first started to hate my body.

“Nothing in our society-with the exception of violence and fear-has been more effective in keeping women in their place than the degradation of the menstrual cycle.“

― Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Christiane Northrup

After that I never talked about my period. My mom kept the pads and tampons stocked in the bathroom and unless something is wrong we never brought it up. At school some boys took my backpack one day and rifled through it. They found my pads and took them and tossed them around. They started calling me “Wings” and I felt so ashamed. It wasn’t my fault I had a period and here they were making it a joke, they were making it something gross. This was something private and now everyone knew about it. I felt so embarrassed. For a long time I was scared to be around anyone during my period. I felt like they all must know and I would feel gross and embarrassed all over again. I couldn’t talk to anyone about it either which just enforced the fact that or must be something gross, something to be embarrassed about.

From some reason though I had this drive to keep talking about it, to bring it into the light. Mainly I talked about the unfairness of it all. I am lucky that over time I found a group of female friends who are open about such things, and over time my mother came around too. Her and me and my sisters can talk about our bodies and periods freely now. Sometimes we joke about it, sometimes we share stories, and sometimes we vent about how taboo it is to talk about such things. The general consensus so far though has been, periods suck and men suck for not being more understanding. We have internallized this sucky feeling and now we just feel miserable and bitter about the whole thing.

“..by honouring the demands of our bleeding, our blood gives us something in return. The crazed bitch from irritation hell recedes. In her place arises a side of ourselves with whom we may not-at first- be comfortable. She is a vulnerable, highly perceptive genius who can ponder a given issue and take her world by storm. When we’re quiet and bleeding, we stumble upon solutions to dilemmas that’ve been bugging us all month. Inspiration hits and moments of epiphany rumba ‘cross de tundra of our senses. In this mode of existence one does not feel antipathy towards a bodily ritual that so profoundly and reinforces our cuntpower. ”

― Inga Muscio, Cunt: A Declaration of Independence

But I am tired of being miserable and bitter every month. I have a period and there isn’t much I can do about it. Before you say it, I have thought about trying certain types of birth control to stop my period but I am, or rather now am, the type of girl who likes to keep things natural and simple. The way my girlfriend put it is “it just feels ‘unpure'” to stop your period. I don’t judge anyone else who is on birth control. I think birth control is a wonderful thing. Being a lesbian though I am about 99.9% sure there’s no chance of an unwanted pregnancy, and while my periods are pretty painful and they are also irregular, I still mostly see it as just an irritation. I could live with it so there isn’t much of a “medical need” for me to be on birth control.

So I’ve decided instead to start thinking about my period a little differently. I need to be more zen about this. I think my first problem is my expectations. I expect that I won’t have to deal with this but that is wildly unrealistic. I am biologically female and that means every month my uterus sheds it’s lining. It is just something I have to accept. The second issue is I see it as a bad thing and maybe I shouldn’t. I look at menstruation as inconvenient, uncomfortable, and kind of gross, but instead I should see it as something beautiful. My body is doing something wonderful and mysterious and it is a time for deeper reflection and a chance for meditation. It is a chance for my to know myself better.

They say women are more intuitive and creative during their periods and I wonder if it is a good time for me to begin drawing again. I might have more to express during that time of the month. I might try to find a reason to look forward to that time too. I want to take time to pamper myself more and be a little selfish. There is no reason I should be miserable and deal with it the way my mother said I would have to. I see it as a time for fancy teas and bubble baths, comfy clothes and relaxing. I still have to work yes but I will take a break from the extra stress and expectations of the world and focus on me. At the end of my period I want to feel rejuvenated and ready to take on the world for the next 3 weeks.

I ancient cultures, Native American, African, and Chinese for example, women often gathered in a lodge during times of menstruation and child birth. The Red Tent is rooted in ancient Christian history. In biblical times women gathered in the Red Tent in order not to contaminate men with their biological processes. In the Red tent women were permitted to rest and they cared for on another. In these times it is hard to be able to get away for a week out of every month but me caring for myself during these times is like creating a Red Tent of my own. I will live in the spirt of the Red Tent and rest and reflect as much as I can.

“The great mother whom we call Innana gave a gift to woman that is not known among men, and this is the secret of blood. The flow at the dark of the moon, the healing blood of the moon’s birth – to men, this is flux and distemper, bother and pain. They imagine we suffer and consider themselves lucky. We do not disabuse them.

In the red tent, the truth is known. In the red tent, where days pass like a gentle stream, as the gift of Innana courses through us, cleansing the body of last month’s death, preparing the body to receive the new month’s life, women give thanks — for repose and restoration, for the knowledge that life comes from between our legs, and that life costs blood.”

― Anita Diamant, The Red Tent

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Lisa

Hello! My name is Lisa. I find the human condition fascinating and I often write stuff about that. I blog at zenandpi.com but you can also find me on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, and if you like what I do, consider signing up for my newsletter. Thanks :)

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