As a woman who has a period, I find it hard not to talk about menstruation regularly. I mean, for seven days every month my body feels foreign to me, and my emotions seem to defy the laws of cause and effect. How could I not talk about it?
I work with mostly men, and they have gotten used to my mentions of heavy flows, cramps, hormones, and PMS. They even help me keep the office ibuprofen supply stocked. They let me rest when I need it, and they try not to make insensitive jokes. It’s taken years of me educating them to get to this point. I am grateful that they try so hard to be understanding, but I can’t help wishing that for one day they might trade places with me. I want them to experience what it is like to be me, seven days out of every month.
In the midst of cramping and feeling like I might shit myself at any moment, when I have felt sorry for myself and bitter, I have wished all men on this Earth could know my pain. I have complained to Gods I don’t believe in of the unfairness of it all. Why do men have it so easy?
But that is not how I feel right now when I say I wish my friend could trade places with me. I don’t say this because I am bitter and want them to feel my pain. I say it because there is this big part of my life that I feel like I can never truly share with them, a part I wish I could because they are my friends.
I can tell them how uncomfortable it is. I can tell them how society makes me feel and how I am trying to feel a different way instead. I can tell them that it’s awful, and I hate it, and I wish I never had it. I can tell them that I am bitter and want them to feel my pain too. I can tell them all of that, but they will never really understand it.
They will never know what it is like to feel like your body is acting in some mysterious and often painful way that you cannot fully grasp or gain control of.
They will never understand how hard it is for me to love my body when I feel like it is betraying me. They will never understand what it is like to learn to live with, accept, and then love a body that often doesn’t feel like it belongs to me at all. I want them to know that for just one day so that they might know me a little better.
I see their faces when I tell them it is “shark week.” They look like they feel sorry for me, and they also look annoyed. They are my friends, so they say all the right things, but I also know they are tired of hearing about it. In those moments I am annoyed by them too. They don’t know what it is like, and they dismiss my experience. They don’t understand that they are not jus being dismissive of my words, they are dismissing a part of me.
When I am among women, when we talk about our periods, I feel an immediate connection with them. Here are people who understand how I feel during a significant portion of my life. I wish I had that with the men close to me too. On an even bigger scale, I think about how all men and all women will always have this line drawn between them. How the way the men I know look at me, even when they try to be understanding and accommodating, is the way all men look at all women all over the world.
I wish for one day men could feel the pain of womanhood, the shame, and the fear too so that we could come closer together. I want men to be able to move from sympathy to empathy so that women would not have to try so hard to be silent and strong.
If men could feel what we feel, they might love, protect, and help us in all the ways we so desperately need.
I know it can never happen, but I will always wish.
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Thank you to Rose B. Fischer for hosting the monthly blogging event, #WeBleed, where we can share our experiences surrounding menstruation.
Original image via Mark Sebastian