When I started menstruating at the tender age of ten I was quite bemused by it. My sister who is almost four years older started at around the same time. I don’t think she has ever forgiven me for that! Let’s face it one can’t be a big sister if ones little sister isn’t impressed with your sanitary products! The sanitary products that I now find quite hilarious. My mother guided me and showed me how to use those god awful towels with the ridiculous belt thing. Fortunately I discovered ‘normal’ sanitary towels and then of course the ones with wings! Wow, by the age of eleven I thought I was a woman who knew it all. An expert on menstruation. Period!
But it did happen on one menstrual day that I glanced in the bathroom cupboard which was tantalisingly ajar and I saw them! What a temptation. Should I or shouldn’t I? I had found the Holy Grail, discovered Arthur’s sword. Ooh, now there’s a seedy and perverted euphemism! All I had to do was to pull it out of the stone and I would be Queen! I tentatively took one out of the box and held it like an archeologist holding the heart of Christ himself. I so wanted it! I had to do it. So I carefully unwrapped it! The tampon!
Next on my mission was to work out how to use it. From the Tampax box of my mothers I found the instructions. Oh my God! What? Really? Did I really have to stand in such a position? Did I really have to touch my labia? Nooooo! But then on second thoughts this had to a better option than walking around feeling as if I’d shit myself and that I had an Exocet missile sticking out from behind me. So I did it. Okay so it took some practise and about a dozen tampons later I had it perfected. Gosh I really was a woman who could take on the world now! Sod those wings, they’re for losers!
As I grew older the choices for women increased. More and more sanitary products were available. I often got stuck for choice. But the good old tampon always won hands down. When my own daughter started her periods we had slim tampons and silky tampons and singing and bloody dancing tampons to choose from. She didn’t to have suffer the indignity of belts and Exocet missiles in her pants. It was tampons all round in pretty little boxes.
But I have noticed it’s not just the products that have changed. The whole concept of the menstrual cycle has changed too. Until having a hysterectomy when I was 30 years old I endured my horrendous periods like a proper little soldier. Even when I ceased to have a normal cycle and instead began the random haemorrhage thing that is often a precursor to cervical cancer; waking up in the morning wondering who had murdered me. I took it like a woman! The griping period pains; I curled up on the sofa and dealt with it.
For my own daughter things have changed. Her periods aren’t too pleasant. But really the menstrual cycle in general isn’t a joy to behold. But the differences between myself and my daughter are that when she has a period she needs new shoes, a new dress, new makeup. It is essential when she conveniently visits me from university either around my payday or during her period that I take her out to dinner. It is vital that I understand the hormonal changes and that having her belongings scattered all over my tiny little cottage is all part of the hormonal porridge. It is my divine purpose in life to buy her moisturiser, new underwear and admire the chocolate wrappers all over the sofa due to chocolate being the super cure for her period pains!
In schools I have had girls come up to me and announce that they have to go to the toilet because they are ‘on’. Sometimes it’s been quite aggressively which is unnecessary because more often than not I do allow girls to go. As a teacher you get to know whether they are being genuine and whether they are sneaking off for a cigarette. But again the difference is notable. I have been subjected to responses such as; “I couldn’t do my homework cos I’m on my period”; “I’m not being rude Miss, I’ve just come on”. If only I could tell them that nothing makes you more hormonal and is more inconvenient than waking up in hospital to a surgically induced menopause! You have ovaries and a womb love, deal with it and thank God because running out of HRT and having hot flushes makes me a little irritable. It is however much less expensive! Oh how the menstrual cycle has changed and God above help us all when these younger generations start their menopause!