A younger version of myself would hesitantly walk up to the front of the classroom and shyly ask the instructor, “May I use the restroom?” While fiddling with my coat pocket, I would be flushed with embarrassment because I knew it was obvious–I had an unexpected visit from my glorious Aunt Flow. I would silently pray and hope that they just excuse me with ease, but I never questioned why I cared so deeply.
After experiencing my first period when I was 13, I kept my monthly cycle a secret. I would force my father to go out to the store and buy sanitary products for me because I couldn’t risk anyone knowing. The anxiety that built up around my “secret” taunted me. I feared for the moment I would bleed through my pants and have to explain to everyone that I wasn’t “normal” like them, because I genuinely thought I was one of the only girls going through this.
My elders dismissed the conversation as unladylike, my sisters laughed it off as if this wasn’t happening every month and the internet gave me little to no help either. The only information I had, since nobody else was going to tell me, came from the movies I watched growing up.
From horror to animation, it seemed like I couldn’t run away from scary descriptions of what periods were like. In the horror film Carrie, she is taunted in the school locker room after receiving her period for the first time. Even the animated feature Only Yesterday shows the main character unable to feel the same about her body after having her first period.
As I grew older, I realized none of my peers reacted the way Carrie’s classmates did and that there wasn’t anything wrong with me for going through the changes, but these films suggested otherwise. Granted I am still growing up, but it is hard for young women to grow up without positive representations of their life’s most important moments.
Although some movies have taught me valuable life lessons, my menstruation cycle was one better learned by my own experiences. Even though everyone’s cycle and the effects it has on their body is purely up to nature, we can all connect by talking about our experiences. I know the more I talk about my period, the more I can learn. When I tell my friends my symptoms it can help me find clarity on what is truly happening–without WebMD being involved.
After all, menstruation is part of every women ‘s monthly experience–so it is about time we replace the shame with pride. Periods do not have to be the point of every conversation, but it is about time we stop allowing it to cramp up our lives. So instead of hiding, continue to live your life, and for once–leave the shame to baby photos and past lovers.