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Because periods can’t be captured on a pad

By August 20, 2010How To, Myth or Reality

Just like my post about choosing a word, Andi Fisher is likewise and entirely to blame for today’s post. Because she just sent me the most extraordinary book. I highly recommend it for women AND men, really. It’s called Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation. Mind-blowing is the only way to describe this book. I am bamboozled.

Plus, authors Elissa Stein and Susan Kim make such a point of talking about how no one talks about menstruation (except me) and how it’s so taboo that even the ads that sell products for it don’t actually mention the word. Nor do they utter the words: vagina, ovaries or blood. Which is like talking about writing without discussing words, pens, paper, computers…you get the point. Anyway, as a result, I felt compelled to climb up on my blogbox and shout MENSTRUATION at the top of my lungs.

Aren’t you lucky?!!!

Note: this post is not just about menstruation, though I’m thinking I could just change my tagline to “WRITE WHERE YOU WANT TO FLOW”, but—in this post—menstruation does serve as my, er, petri dish.

Did you know that doctors and scientists still don’t understand everything about menstruation? It’s 2010 and they don’t know exactly why women menstruate (not all living things do, you know, though all living things manage to reproduce ~ think about that for a minute) and they don’t know how menstruation works, exactly.

See? I told you. Bamboozled. No one knows. Because:

  • It’s a woman thing. So who cares?
  • It’s so extraordinary and miraculous and mystical, it can’t be known.

I’ll let you do the math.

It has also become abundantly clear that we (people) have become solely focused on the portion of menstruation that we can, um, see. (Well, some of us, anyway). Which would be the ‘messy’ part. The part that is external. So focused on this, we are, that menstruation has become synonymous with ‘getting your period’.

Yet, however, though, wait a second and back up folks—menstruation is not just 4-6 (on average) days of bleeding. It never stops. There is no petits vacances. Every single moment is part of the ‘cycle’.

Yes, Julie. We all know this. We didn’t just fall off the turnip truck.

Yeah, but have you really thought about it? From ages, let’s say, 12 to 50, a woman’s body is doing extra work —either building up or tearing down, preparing for a party or taking down the decorations—a vast, complex, mysterious work. Never stopping (unless to do something relaxing like growing a child or producing 100s of gallons of milk).

No wonder we get cramps, no wonder we bloat, no wonder we’re exhausted, no wonder we get a little fucking bitchy.

And writers, artists, masterminders? For as far back as I can remember, my imagination has been working overtime. Writing stories in my head about people I see walking down the street, babysitters, teachers, what I want life to be. From, and I’m estimating here, about age 5 until I die, my body has done and will continue to do extra work—either building up or tearing down, preparing for a party or taking down the decorations—a vast, complex, mysterious work. Never stopping (even while growing a child or producing 100s of gallons of milk or ______. Please, insert your own pursuits).

No wonder we get cramps, no wonder we bloat, no wonder we’re exhausted, no wonder we get a little fucking bitchy.

In both cases, though, creating. All the while.

Image credit: recycled stardust

Join the discussion 21 Comments

  • Dian Reid says:

    okay, this is brilliant on a couple levels:

    A) talking about the pink (red?) elephant in the room. i overheard someone sitting outside their door yesterday complaining about her period and how she couldn’t get up and move because her bloodflow was so out of control. yep, actual words. i was taken aback at this because *ding, ding, ding* most people just don’t talk about it, men or women.

    B) tying the red elephant to creativity and how we still don’t quite understand the process—but oh how it IS a lifelong process—a cycle that never ends for the creative beings in our soul. makes me wonder who else goes through this cycle …

  • Beth says:

    So I’m reading this post in email because that’s how I subscribe and decide I must click over to type one word in the comments: “brilliant.”

    Of course, I get here and there’s Dian’s comment, so either I’m horribly unoriginal or you and your flow and my flow and everyone’s flow really is extraordinarily brilliant.

    Good stuff, once again, Julie. Thanks.

  • Andi says:

    This is why I worship you, you can take anything from any part of the Universe and turn it into brilliance!

  • Alisa Bowman says:

    Your headline is brilliant.

  • Milena says:

    Julie –
    Your one paragraph reminds me of one of our Health teachers. When she teaches the reproductive system to 6th graders, she calls the uterus the most hopeful organ in the body… and from there she explains the 28 (or so) day cycle and the building up, tearing down . . .

    • Julie Roads says:

      Milena! I love that. It is so hopeful, isn’t it? Every month she gets all ready for the party…and then with varying amounts of complaint, she takes it all down. Only to get ready to do it again.

      And I love that you are here!

  • Like I told you on Twitter, this has been on my Wish List for awhile. It looks so interesting! One of the biggest lightbulb moments I have had as a woman was when I read Taking Charge of Your Fertility. It examines the never ending cycle in regards to trying to conceive, but wow! The information! Why aren’t we told this stuff??

  • Isn’t it great to begin to embrace a part of yourself you always thought was a pain. When you go with the flow (hehe) things just, well, flow. When I read “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” by Toni Weschler (when I was in my early 30s) I thought WHY DID MY MOTHER NOT MAKE ME READ THIS WHEN I WAS 12? Because, of course, she had no idea. Other great books for Women: “The Female Brain” by Louann Brizendine and “A Woman’s Book of Life” by Joan Borysenko. Oh, and “The Red Tent” a fantastic novel by Anita Diamant.

    If the world were full of women like Milena’s health teacher…oh, the thought of it! So pass the word, to women and girls of all ages! We are blessed, not cursed. Embracing who we are is claiming our power!

  • Kasia Dietz says:

    Very clever, wise and true words. Another reason why women are such amazing beings. Period.

    “a vast, complex, mysterious work” to say the least!

  • Aaron Pogue says:

    Julie…I appreciate that you always give fair warning. Today, just like last time, I read that italictroductory paragraph and thought to myself, “Eww. No. Thank you.”

    I get to be a boy, and get to live in the midwest, and that means I don’t have to put with icky conversations on a number of topics (and get to, at my leisure, discuss other icky topics through a thin veneer of culturally-approved and heavily-opaqued bias).

    Anyway, like last time, before I clicked away I thought, “Well, hmm…Julie’s always worth a read…” and I read it anyway.

    And, of course, you’re brilliant. You’re dead on, and you’re brilliant. And thanks to your commenters, I’ve ordered a copy of Taking Charge of Your Fertility, too, against the distant day when we need to teach such things to AB (who gets to live in the midwest, but doesn’t get to be a boy).

  • Linda says:

    I had a hysterectomy in my 40’s(after two children) and I have to say I haven’t missed my uterus even one minute. What a pain, usually literally, it all was.

  • Timothy Lauren says:

    I too, have a ‘time of the month.’


    • It’s ‘man thing,’ so who cares?

    • It’s so extraordinary and miraculous and mystical, it can’t be known.


    Love reading this stuff..

  • Elle B says:

    Okay, this is funny — when your headline showed up in my RSS feeder a few days ago, I assumed it was another iPad review and probably had something to do with the fact that the keyboard was less than optimal. I ignored it, because I’m so gadget-ed out.

    Luckily, I came back today for your new post, and read this one. In the ’90s, I lived with several wiccans. One of the women had a daughter with us half-custody. When the girl had her first period, her mother did a small ritual and gave her a deep-red garnet ring so she could always remember the beauty of her new status. I was so jealous, yet so moved. How it should be.

    • Julie Roads says:

      Hilarious about the iPad, because it pissed me off when everyone went to the maxipad place when the iPad came out!

      I LOVE the idea of giving your daughter something so special and poignant to mark such an incredible occasion. Thank you for reading and for sharing.

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