If you have a period, you probably have a few period horror stories. Do you want to hear some of mine? Here they come. Apologies in advance.
Middle School is Great
I am twelve years old and in the sixth grade. I’ve had a few periods before, but they’ve been the chill kind, where you just have some light spotting that turns brown before you even notice it. So yeah, I am NOT ready for the veritable flood that suddenly whooshes out of me while I sit in my desk in Social Studies class.
Somehow, I know what it is, even though this has literally never happened to me before. I discover that if I sit very very still, I can kind of contain it, but then I have to bend over to get a book from the little shelf under my seat. WHOOSH it goes again. There is, like, a worrisome amount of blood coming out of me.
After class I go straight to my locker and find an old t-shirt that I’ve been saving for art class and tie it around my waist. I go to the front office and call my mom, and ask her to bring me some pads and a change of pants. Then I go back to class. My mom comes with the supplies right away (shout out to moms!), but for some reason the office staff never actually tells me about it. My mom calls them later in the day to make sure that I’m taken care of and they’re like “Oh, yep, the bag you brought is totally still here! You’re welcome!!!”
So FINALLY after three hours of walking around in my disgusting blood pants, they call me down to the office and I get to change. It should tell you a lot about me that I never considered just, like, going home for the day. It was more of a WELL, THIS IS A THING I HAVE TO DEAL WITH UNTIL SCHOOL LETS OUT, IT’S FINE, kind of deal.
A Christmas Non-Miracle
I am sixteen and a very serious ballet student. For this year’s production of The Nutcracker, I am performing as the Snow Queen. My boyfriend of several years is also a dancer and is performing as the Snow King. Obviously, this is the most romantic thing that has ever happened to me.
My boyfriend and I rehearse our gorgeous, delicate pas de deux for months. I get to wear a short tutu on stage for the first time, and it is so beautiful, so pure white and sparkly. I wait backstage to go on for our first show together.
In the darkness, whispering and giggling with my boyfriend and our dance friends, I start to feel a little weird. It’s like my stomach hurts, but not really–it’s lower down. But I don’t mind much, I’m so excited. The lights go down, the music begins, the fake snow starts fluttering slowly from the ceiling, the lights come back up, and I run onstage to my first pose.
I can feel it happening, standing on pointe, waiting for my boyfriend to take my hand so we can begin. But what can I do? We dance the entire piece. I am EXTREMELY AWARE that I am wearing a short white tutu. The blood probably can’t be seen from the audience, but what are facts and rationality at a time like this? Everybody can definitely see it. My parents and my aunt and uncle who have come all the way to see me can DEFINITELY see it.
After the curtains come down, I run backstage–not only because I am bleeding copiously but because I have to make a quick change for the next scene. There’s no time. I wriggle out of the tutu , which has a deep, red-brown stain in the crotch. I panic. Run up to my boyfriend, who does not have a quick change and can relax for a while.
“Take this,” I say, thrusting the tutu at him. “Run the crotch under COLD WATER.” And then I scurry away.
I will find out later than my embarrassed boyfriend just dropped off the tutu with the costume fitters, who were kind and matronly and told me conspiratorially, later on, “It happens all the time. We’ve seen it before.”
3. Work It
I am in my mid-twenties, working at a prestigious Chicago university. It’s the height of summer. Work is slow. I’m sitting at my desk, staring blankly at the computer screen, when a familiar feeling rises up. Whoosh.
Being a responsible adult at this point, I’m like, okay, fine. I grab my purse and make to head casually to the bathroom. But this is not an ordinary day. Looking behind me before I stand up out of my chair, I see that the blood has gone:
-through my underwear
-through the microshorts I always wear under skirts and dresses to keep my thighs from chafing
-through my dress
-into my desk chair
I carefully get up and walk backwards through the main office door so that no one will see the back of me. Scoot across the hall to the bathroom. In the toilet stall I review the damage, clean myself up (RIP, microshorts), and stuff myself with sterile cotton supplies.
It should be noted right now that I am working in a somewhat remote Chicago neighborhood, at least a mile from anything resembling a clothing store, and I do not drive a car. And again, it’s summer–I don’t have a sweater or coat or anything with me, just the clothes I’m wearing right this second.
By a coincidence that has me mildly convinced of some sort of higher power/guardian angel situation, I happen to be wearing a lightweight knit dress with a pink-and-black splotchy pattern. There’s blood covering a good square foot of the back of the skirt, but it’s not very noticeable. Still, I gotta get it out. I stand at the sink and twist the dress around to my front and rinse it out in the sink. I am grateful that no one else walks into the bathroom.
By now it’s time to leave work. During my mile-long walk to the bus, I hold my skirt gently out to one side, airing it out. It’s dry by the time I make it to my date–meeting my new boyfriend, J.D., at his work downtown. He shows me around his office. No one else is around. I make appreciative, friendly noises, as if this is just the next part of a normal day.
We stand at the window, looking down over the city. The Chicago River is sparkling in the sunlight. J.D., apparently just as infatuated with me as I am with him, stands behind me and wraps his arms around my waist. “You’re breathtaking,” he whispers in my ear.
Yes I am, friends. Yes I am.
Epilogue: now I have an IUD and barely bleed anymore, thank Christ