The Punctuality of the Period

As per my promise, I’m tackling the tough issues this month.

  • Why don’t writers meticulously monitor menstruation?
  • Why are we temperamental about that time of the month?
  • Why are we beguiled by a bleeding bajingo?
  • Why don’t we celebrate the cycle?
  • Seriously, why is coming up with these so much fun?

It’s easy to pass things off when you say them casually.  “My period” or “that time of the month” gives people a clear enough picture of tampons and bloating and cramping, oh my.  But just like I could mention “having to pee” or “heartburn,” it’s something that is possibly easy to pass off.

There are writers that tackle the details.  For example, Libba Bray, in her Great and Terrible Beauty series, has her main character’s period start in public, and I believe while she’s in a white dress, in public in a Victorian setting.  The character complains of cramps and asks how on earth anyone can possibly go about their lives while menstruating and that’s about it.

But anyone who’s had a period should know that’s not the worst of it.  It’s not just some blood and some pain and there you go.  Just like any healing process, there are clots.  Yes, gentlemen, clots.  And the period itself is caused by the shedding of a mucus membrane.  I wish it was just a stream of liquid.  Hot damn do I wish that.  But it isn’t.

Instead, we get to contend with that oozy feeling of a big clot sliding out that you just know won’t hit the pad… a gob of bloody mucus sliding down the string of the tampon like it’s a fireman on a pole… that unnatural smell to it, so that there can be no confusion between menstrual blood and any other blood from any other source ever…

I wrote a short story recently where a victim of stalking wakes to find herself naked and covered in her own menstrual blood and gore.  She tries very hard to forget that the clumps in her hair are clots and mucus, but that doesn’t stop her from vomiting.

So while, yes, I’d rather read about “delicious friction” (Carrie by Stephen King) and all that good stuff, that same sensitivity does lead to unpleasant side effects.  But we like to skip those gory details.  Why?  Because they’re gross.

But there’s no shock value like truthful shock value, and I think this merits consideration.

I think we need to take the plug out, writers, and tackle this tough issue.  Who’s with me?

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One thought on “The Punctuality of the Period

  1. For whatever emotion a writer evokes in a reader there has to be a reason and a justification. I mean, any story has a message, so tackling an issue for the sake of tackling an issue doesn’t seem too justified to me. Besides, I think that various euphemisms and sarcastic remarks about menstruation add to the fun of reading a book; people love laughing at things that embarrass them, don’t they?

    I’ve also remembered a movie my mom used to like – The Thorn Birds. There was a scene when a girl had her first period and thought she was going to die, I found it sweet and funny 🙂

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