If Only We Could Trade Places

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

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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 :)

8 thoughts on “If Only We Could Trade Places”

  1. Don’t hate me, but I like when my period comes…even though I get weepy and irritable. I have amazingly vivid dreams the week leading up to it. And I’m really hyper-aware of everything (in a good way). Like tripping (imaginatively speaking, as I’ve never tried it) without the use of drugs. :-)

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    1. Oh, I don’t hate you! I envy you lol! I want to feel like that but due to the fatigue and some gender issues the whole thing is just really annoying.

      I also get hyper aware leading up, but I’ve never paid attention to my dreams. My dreams always feel vivid, but I could be missing a pattern that coincides with my cycle. Interesting comment, thank you :)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. i’m pretty lucky to be blessed with a fairly painless period, but my body more than makes up for it with an exceptionally heavy flow. waking up feeling like carrie at the prom is a very common occurrence. i loved this post, it’s very important for women to be open with each other about menstruation and even more important to end the taboo of talking about it.

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    1. You are very lucky! Mine is only uncomfortable for the first two days and after that it become a minor inconvenience. As I am getting older, I am noticing that my PMS symptoms are getting worse though :/

      I’m glad you liked the post; I think it’s important for women to talk among one another about their periods, but is also important for us to talk to men about it too :)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think my husband is the first person (yep, even moreso than any doctor) whom I’ve shared intimate details of my period with. I have PCOS and have never, not even in the beginning, had normal periods. It has always left me feeling outside even amongst my female peers. I’m grateful to be able to share my feelings and fears with someone, even if he can’t fully comprehend.

    The one time I truly wished I could trade places with someone has been during the few times when some boys/men have said, “Oh, I feel like I’ve got my period.”

    Irritation of irritations, that one…

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  4. I get it. Before I was even sexually active, I saw a gynecologist about my horrific periods – twice I was in such pain (or maybe rapid blood loss?) that I blacked out. From that point on, I’ve been on the pill and only occasionally have cramps at all. I keep Pamprin in my desk drawer and when I notice I’m illogically cranky, I take one – these are my “happy pills”!

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  5. In high school, I had a habit of telling guys that cramps feel like gutting a pumpkin, scraping the seeds and the stringy goo out with a big metal spoon – only I’m the pumpkin. The look on their faces were priceless.

    My cramps are usually not bad, but my lower back seizes up like nobody’s business and I become a creaky old lady for about two weeks. Bleh.

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