We’ve all heard the stories of the times long ago when women would be sequestered during menstruation. When it was forced, this was of course a bad thing. So those of us raised on second and third wave feminism were taught about women worked the fields on their periods, and sometimes gave birth while working, wiped the baby off, and kept working. So we were supposed to be like those women and treat periods like any other day. Suck it up, since it only happens once a month, and it’s just bleeding. The pain is all in your mind. Okay, so you passed out, and nearly had a heart attack, so maybe it’s not just in your mind, but here take some drugs and keep going. Here’s a commercial of a girl playing lacrosse in white pants wearing our tampons…
So no matter what I’ve done or said, few people seem to understand that I’m one of those people who does have actual PMS, and does have severe pain, headaches, and other “fun” things going on during my periods. There are two days of it in particular that we call “slaughter sow” days because I am bleeding through four to five maximum absorbency old-people-diaper level pads per day. It should be needless to say that if I had my way, I’d like to spend most of that time sleeping.
When I was young and going to school then in the military, I didn’t have a choice. So to get through my periods kind of as if nothing was happening, I took a lot of drugs. I took the kind of drugs people take for severe back pain. Then to stay awake when I needed to be awake required a lot of caffeine and I also learned you can boost that with certain other herbs otc medicines I won’t mention. I would swallow these pills and get back to work.
Now, I don’t want to have to take a handful of pills to get through the day. I don’t want to risk liver failure or put more strain on my heart than a woman my size already does supposedly, just to make other people happy. So I’m giving everyone one more month of this shit. One more month, and that’s it.
Starting with my next period, due around the end of this month, I am opening…well, closing the Red Tent. I am no longer calling those days “slaughtered sow” days, because as charming as that description is, it is a justification. I am done justifying my period. I did not arrange my life to be self employed so that I would have to dance to someone else’s schedule. I am not longer letting people manipulate me into doing things my body is telling me not to do to make anybody else feel good. That is done. I only probably have a few years of periods left, and I don’t want to spend those suffering more than I already suffer in the name of “love” that should include some consideration for the fact that I am bleeding copiously and painfully from my vagina.
I am calling them Red Tent days. Red Tent means leave me alone unless it is an emergency. Whatever you want to talk about or do can wait two days. If it can’t then I may rise up from my imaginary coffin on pure adrenaline, but then when it’s done, back to the plan of leaving me the fuck alone until this is over. I am no longer describing what is happening to my body. I am giving instructions on how things are going to be.
Though I shouldn’t need to justify it, I am giving friends the courtesy of an explanation. I am starting to have a cumulative effect from having the sanctity of prior periods intruded upon. Granted, this is partly my fault as I should have said something before things got this bad, but live and learn. So I’m drawing a line. For my health and for my continued career of self employment, I need that two days to myself to get through what may be common in frequency, but physically feels like a crisis. If people grabbed you for two or three days a month and beat you almost the whole time, then magically healed you at the end, and sent you back home, and there was nothing you could do about it, and no therapy you could go to to fix it, and that was just how things were going to be for 40 years of your life, and people expected you to cook, work, and entertain while you were having the crap kicked out of your abdomen, your back, and sometimes just behind your right eye, then maybe you could get how I’m feeling.
At least let me take the fucking drugs and fucking sleep when I need to fucking sleep and don’t expect me to be social.
One more month.
When I was younger, I could probably tolerate more. I had more energy, and I had more patience, and maybe my maternal hormones quelled my inner grandma a bit. As it is, between physically feeling like crap, and mentally, being mad at a world that with all our technology and progress, a woman can’t just be let to bleed in peace and comfort anymore, it’s hard to shut up that inner voice, and stuff my actual Grandma did say…”Be glad if people want to tend to you when you’re sick, but beware of people who always want to be around you too much when you’re sick or hurt.”
So most of my life, I let very few people in on it when I am actually sick or on my period unless they need to know for some reason. Then in Israel, I was told that there is less of a concept of personal space, and that this is a “dugri” culture, so I should just get over myself. I tried. I really did. I just can’t. So if I’m fucked in the head, according to some, then I’m just fucked in the head. I can’t let myself become useless to be nice or viewed by others as “healthy”.