It amuses me greatly that despite menstruating for over 20 years, I am still surprised when I get my period. Every month, I would find myself in a blissful state of mind, when the thought of my period would suddenly sneak into my mind. I would check my calendar and realize that I am three days away from the bloody and painful party that is my menstrual period.
Ah, not this again.
When I am done rolling my eyes, I would then proceed to tick off a checklist in my head: Pads. Painkillers. Pimples.
Check, check and check.
After this, I would then try to locate my hot water bottle, which has a mysterious habit of disappearing during the weeks when I am period-free.
Armed with my weapons, I would then brace myself for the familiar but ultimately frustrating discomfort and pain which I will endure for the sake of my menstrual period.
Coming Of Age.
I wish I could say that my first menstrual period was a theatrical coming of age story, which had classical music playing serenely in the background, like it is portrayed in foreign movies.
It was annoyingly, a very ordinary experience.
It happened during one of the long holidays when I was in Junior Secondary School. On that fateful day, late in the morning, I looked down at myself and noticed that there was blood on my shorts. I wasn’t scared, since I knew what it was. I told my mother, and she sent someone to buy me Simple sanitary pads. Afterwards, I experienced my first round of period pains. The rest of the day was uneventful.
I also remember that there was no ‘light’ that day (shout out to NEPA for being so constant).
My life continued with the new logistics involved with being a Nigerian girl experiencing her monthly period-trying to be as clean as one could possibly be, despite being in boarding house where constant water supply wasn’t guaranteed. I witnessed girls who got such severe pains that they became seriously ill. I was glad for my own manageable version of this monthly pain.
There is something wonderful about becoming an adult. Adulthood brings with it a certain freedom and a lack of concern for trivial matters. I chuckle at the memory of myself as a teenager, trying to hide my sanitary pads under other items when I went shopping, so that the world wouldn’t know that I was buying sanitary pads. Imagine the horror, the embarrassment, and the shame of the pads being detected!
I am not exactly sure why a natural process like menstruation should bring out one’s inner Sherlock Holmes; I guess it is just the way that society has prescribed us women to behave.
Now a full grown woman, shopping for sanitary pads is a very different experience. I just throw the pads on top of the other items with studied nonchalance, walking slowly and making unnecessary eye contact with everyone in the store whilst pushing my shopping cart.
Yes, I am buying sanitary pads. Yes, I am a woman. Yes, I am looking at you.
Often, it is the cashier who looks embarrassed and quickly ‘hides’ the packs of sanitary pads inside its own carrier bag. I have had to ask a lady cashier to calm down because she was so anxious about the fact that she could not find a black carrier bag to cover up the sanitary pads which I had purchased.
Comedy And Pain.
The Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) which heralds the onset of periods has often been the source of a lot of mirth; jokes about women having PMS are plentiful in most cultures. A woman who mistakenly frowns in a social situation is sure to be met with knowing giggles and murmurs of it being ‘her time of the month’. Who knew that my monthly pain could be the source of so much comedy?
We women deserve more empathy, I think. Menstruation is normal, it happens to every woman and it is not a choice.
Now, leave me alone while I curl up with a hot water bottle placed on my stomach.