Bad Blood: The Story of the Period

 Alifya Abbas Pesh:

I got my periods when I was about to step into my thirteenth year. I did not like it. Did this disclosure make you squirm just now? I wonder why. Periods are a natural bodily process – which is reserved only for the fairer sex. As an all-new teenager, this monthly routine of bleeding left me perplexed. I tried to discuss the logic behind it with my mother.


She responded with a convenient one-liner “It’s the body’s way of letting you know that you’re not pregnant.”


I got similar versions of the same comeback from many other ladies – young and old. Somehow, that led me to think and believe that a woman’s human body makes merry of the fact that it is “unpregnant” by letting out blood! Now that’s a miracle of nature, right? My best friend received her body’s “red alert notice” a year after I had. She was devastated. The sight of thick, smelly blood coming out of her private insides, and without her permission, disgusted her to no end. I could not help but empathize with her. I remember having told her then “It is okay. Think of menses as an alternative to losing weight – something which you desperately need to do.” She was offended and did not talk to me for one whole “bloody” week – pun intended.


Two weeks ago, a 30-year-old relative of mine confided in me that she is totally at loss about how she is going to handle and train her 12-year-old daughter, who, she expects will get her first period soon. I simply (and accidently) uttered the words, “just go with the flow.” Catching her shockingly gape at me exactly two seconds after, I realized I had offered her the wrong consolation advice.


A few days after that episode, she came visiting again. And it so happened that as she sauntered in through the main door, I was stepping out from the rest-room. In the living room, she greeted my parents, and I causally announced to my dad “Don’t goad me pray for the next few days. I got my period just now.” My dad just shrugged and continued watching beefy wrestlers doing their thing in the ring on TV. My mom gave no reaction. The visiting relative, however, gave me the wide-eyed stare.


(She apparently belongs to the school of thought that subscribes to the belief that talking about periods to “any male” is unacceptable and prohibited.)


When she asked me “how and why did you do that?” I gave her a piece of my mind saying “when a parent learns that his daughter is “cycling” regularly, it is good news for them… if you know what I mean!” (wink, wink!)


Funny anecdotes aside, the narrow-minded, regressive attitudes and beliefs pertaining to periods which are harbored by many in our Indian society are truly material of hilarity and wonderment.


Funny I say because, when a girl or a woman goes to the drugstore or grocery outlets to purchase the “napkin”, everyone in sight likes to pretend they did not see that happens. I don’t know understand what is so embarrassing about it and why.


Very recently there was a news-flash that sanitary napkins were not included in the tax-free bracket. Understandable, I say. Blood is an expensive substance after all – regardless of where it is oozing out from (okay, not the most appropriate word order, but hey, this write-up is about periods, and they are inappropriate too, right? Ha!)


One of the things which are perennially amusing to me in India is why the heck do pharmacists and grocers’ handout the sanitary napkins packet inside a flimsy-looking all-black plastic bag? Truth be told, display of such behavior is actually an insult to the manufacturers. Especially when you also consider the fact that they worked so hard on the colorful packaging.


In many parts of our “progressive” country, girls and women talk about periods and sanitary napkins in hush-hush tones. As if it’s some kind of sacred subject which will lose its sanctity if word gets out. Oh, the irony! I distinctly remember some of my schoolmates who could not bring themselves to utter the “P” word out loud. Instead they used all sorts of other code language.


Some samples, if you will?


“I am on my red meds today.”

“There’s a red wedding going on”

“Painting the town red this week”


Surprisingly, it’s not just Indian womenfolk that refer to the period in creative coded lingo. The trend is quite popular in other parts of the globe too.


But do we need to be so prude and secretive about this cyclic secretion and its accessories? I don’t think so.


According to me, a sanitary napkin is just another necessary essential required in environments which have female homosapiens in it. This rather oddly “privileged” status given to sanitary napkins has to stop.


Purchase of sanitary napkin is just the same as buying inner wear. But of course, people look down upon the former because there is blood involved. This kind of behavior is interesting to me because usually we wouldn’t cringe at the sight of watching bloodied bodies on our televisions, computers and smartphones. However, just thinking about a woman having her period invites derogatory reactions. Why? Simply because the blood in question is flowing out of a body part which is private? In this case I’d like to ask: what about explicit cuss words? In a society which treats sex as a taboo topic till date, it appears to be alright to use a woman’s privates for the sake of inventing innovative jibes and abusive language.

Double standards, right? That’s society for you!

Over the years, I have collected stories galore about how periods are or can be. Mine are not well-behaved either, but I have learnt to put up with them. Exactly like I have learnt to laugh at the backwardness that prevails with regards to this subject. That’s the best choice there is, after all.

P.S: Today is “World Menstruation Day”. Have a happy period, you! 😉

Alifya is a B.A. in Media and Communication, born and raised in Dubai. She has been writing for over 15 years now. A self-confessed  happy-go-lucky recluse, she is passionate about writing about topics which appeal to her sensibilities, books, travel, American TV shows, and good food.

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