The Curse

Dear Readers, if you are squeamish or uncomfortable with a discussion of “lady time” and all things related, please rejoin me for my next post. If you’re not, well, here we go…

Boardroom. Ballroom. Boudoir. High heels. Nail polish. Fancy dresses. Shiny baubles. Sparkling eyes. Girl Power. Soul Sister. Bring home the bacon. Fry it up in the pan. It’s flat fabulous to be a woman.

Except when it’s not.

Except when you fall victim to the Curse. That’s what they call it when you become a woman. You get “The Curse.” Not fabulous. Not even close.

It starts… you start…when you’re young — sometimes a teenager, often a preteen, and sometimes even as early as elementary school. Bye bye childhood. So long carefree life. Years stretch out before you, measured in 28-day intervals and cotton pads. Years and years and years.

Decades.

There’s no positive spin on “The Curse.” In polite company, most women don’t even like to speak the words — period, menstruation. It all just sounds so…so nasty. So clinical. So ominous. You get your period. A red dot of punctuation that is the end of all things, especially swimming parties, cramp-free days, and spotless sheets.

There’s a reason no one refers to it as “The Blessing,” even when they’re happy that Aunt Flo has finally come for a visit. A momentary sense of relief, maybe, then the cramps, the bloating, headaches, backache, and, of course, the obvious outpouring of “affection” from good old Aunt Flo.

But you’re a woman now!

Joy. Can I take to my bed ?

Hardly. One must carry on despite being on the rag (I can’t even imagine how women managed before modern accoutrement!). Just because it’s lady time doesn’t mean you actually get any. Get up. Go to work. Feed the kids. Kiss the husband. Clean the house. Carpool. Bring a covered dish. Feed the dog. Empty the cat box. Groceries. Permission slip. Bills. Laundry.

Oh, and try not to bleed to death.

When you become a woman, a Southern woman, you learn that it’s a mortal sin to wear white after Labor Day…and for four to seven days of every month. No need to tempt fate. Bleach only helps so much. Black is your friend.

Because there will be blood. Sometimes a lot of blood. Every young girl learns quickly to seek out a friend who sits near you in class. When the bell rings, you whisper “Check my skirt.” You hold your breath. She gives you a reassuring “OK,” mouthed silently, maybe a thumbs-up. Or she doesn’t.

But you’re prepared. You’ve learned to carry a sweater even if it’s 110° in the shade. A sweater looks fetching tied around one’s waist in a jaunty manner. More fetching than a big red stain spreading across the back of your dress.

The mean girls giggle and point like it’s not their worst nightmare. The sympathetic look away. You can feel your face getting red, redder than your skirt. Make an escape. Find the bathroom. Hide. Call Mama. Cry.

The next day you hold your head up like nothing ever happened.

Your friend, more like frenemy, is not a low-maintenance acquaintance. She requires supplies. Supplies that must be carried everywhere you go. Lady things. There’s even a contraption called a Diva Cup. I can’t even go there. It’s just not diva to have to empty cups of blood. More like scullery maid.

You might have to tote around a supply of sanitary napkins. Note to the major corporations: It does not make that time of the month more bearable if it sounds like you have clean, starched table linens wadded up between your legs. I’m sure even Martha Stewart would agree.

These supplies must be bought at a store. In public. Where everyone who happens to glance into your buggy will see that you are on the rag. You make regular trips home from college so Mama can replenish your stock, saving you from the shame, the knowing look from the checkout lady, the inevitable run-in with the most dreamy boy. Ultimately, however, you’ll find yourself forced to make your own purchases. You try to hide a neon green box of tampons underneath a sack of collards, behind a half case of beer.

I’d rather have people know I drink than know it’s my time. That’s saying a lot when you live in the Bible belt.

What’s on the other end of all this drama, you may ask. The Change. Hot flashes. Night sweats. Mood swings. Irritability. Weight gain. A one-way ticket to M-town. You might even grow a beard!  Fabulous.

Even though being a woman isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I walk in the shadow of a long line of strong, powerful women. Teachers, business-owners, farmers, wives, mothers — they forged ahead with grace, perseverance, love, kindness, and more than just a little grit. They did it all and had it all, not in spite of being women, but because they were women.

Curse? What curse?  That ain’t nothing but fabulous.

 

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Beth says:

    As thorough a discourse on “that time of the month” as I have ever read. My darling daughter calls it “Shark Week” and has a stuffed zippered shark that she carries in her backpack to store her necessary supplies. Once when I was a school teacher, a tampon fell out of a poor girls purse onto the floor. She kept going but the rest of the kids surrounded it like it was a venomous snake. Being the only actual adult in the room, I had to take care of it and lighten the mood at the same time. So, I casually walked over, looked down as if in amazement and said “Oh, my goodness, look what I have found! I guess someone is going to have to pick this up. I suppose that will have to be me.” We all laughed and got through the moment.

    1. Thanks, Beth! One does reach a point where one is no longer embarrassed!

  2. Margaret says:

    What a great story and story within a story! Writing to others and to the next gen is so (SO) important, indispensable. You have the gift. Keep using it!

  3. Mandy says:

    I love, love, LOVE this piece. I’d never heard a period referred to as “The Curse” until I read Go Set a Watchman. I really appreciated the humor—I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard about periods before. I used to be really mortified about people knowing I was on my period, seeing me buy tampons, etc., but then I decided it was completely unnecessary to be embarrassed about something half the population does and can’t control. There’s such a stigma, which I think only feeds into this notion that women are “other” or less than or incapable. These days I carry my tampon boxes proudly in the grocery store and, when needed, I’ll even send my boyfriend out to buy me some. He even knows my preferred brand and absorbency level, bless him!

    1. Bless him indeed! But you are exactly right. There’s no need for stigma and embarrassment! And thank you for your kind words!

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