Does anybody read these?

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The Scarlet Letter

Somewhere along the way, women are taught (actually, young girls are taught) that it's impolite to talk about our periods. We call it stupid names like "the curse" or the oh-so-dreaded "Aunt Flo."

(Seriously, "Aunt Flo" makes me want to punch people in the face. I'm 37 years old, and I'm 99.9999 percent sure the only person I "know" named Flo is that annoying chick from the Progressive commercials. More annoying, I might add than my period. Perhaps that was intentional.)

The only thing more insulting to women than calling our menstrual periods by stupid names like "Aunt Flo" are period commercials. We don't ride bikes in white shorts. We're not walking along the beach with our moms because tampons are so awesome. And that whole "Have a Happy Period" campaign from a few years ago? That guy better hope I don't meet him in a dark alley.

When I was in grade school, I was pretty much down for the count when I got my period every month. I would sit in the school office, drinking hot tea and eating children's Tylenol for three days every month. It was pretty much hell. In high school, it was not much different.

At the beginning of my college career, there were still days when I couldn't leave bed to go to class. You can't miss several days in a row of college before it seems like you are flushing thousand-dollar bills down the toilet. Luckily, a girl in my dorm told me about her recent trip to the health center. She'd gotten on birth control pills and she had no cramps and her period was only three days long. Where did I sign up for this?

Needless to say, I completed the women's sexual health seminar, went to see the doctor and left with my little plastic packet of pills. I had no intentions of having sex; I was just sick of ruining all my clothes and crying while curled up in a ball watching Days of Our Lives. For most of my adult life, I took my little pills almost faithfully everyday. When I started having trouble with my blood pressure, my doctors switched me to the NuvaRing (also known as the most glorious pharmaceutical ever made) and I took that for several years.

Until I didn't anymore. Three years ago, I was having some health issues and my doctor told me to stop using my NuvaRing until they got cleared up.

After many years of delightfully balanced hormones, I was back to being a 12-year-old girl. And since my teens were the most glorious time of my life, it was so much fun. Acne (acne!), cramps, periods that last half my life and ruin all my clothes. And the mood swings...Oh, the mood swings. I am pretty sure I'd kill a man dead once a month for a Coke Zero and a Twix bar. Throw in some migraines, and it's such a wonderful time every month.

When my medical issues cleared up just shy of my 35th birthday, I asked for my NuvaRing back, only to be told that I am too old. When I went to the doctor last month (at 37), I asked if I could have it back if I lost weight because I would seriously starve myself to get my glorious hormones back, only to be told that women over 35 just can't have hormonal birth control. Why on God's green earth do we get our period until age 50 if birth control isn't safe after 35? In my next life, I'll be a chemist and save the world...for women, at least.

So, here I am utterly miserable. My body aches. I have a mid-grade fever. I want to kill people for candy and potato chips. I am getting ready to leave work to drink tea and watch Lifetime Movies while I'm curled up in a little ball. I wonder if everyone notices that every 28 days I miss the first Tuesday of the month. At least you could set your watch by it. I have to get home soon before my new tan dress pants are ruined.

I know this has all been TMI and you're all sitting at home wondering why the eff I've shared all this. I could blame my hormones and punch you in the face, but I did it for two reasons. 1) We should all talk about our periods so we don't all feel alone about it. and 2) I need to talk to someone because both by OB/GYN and my PCP just discount my problems. A grown woman cannot waste all her sick days to have her period. I'm sure it's why women are less respected in the workplace. My problems are totally real and they are scary and it bothers me that not only does no one care, but no one seems to have any type of solution.

I remember when I first got my period I asked what women did before there were pads and tampons and I was told that they just stood over a clump of mud and grass (no idea if this is true or not, and my 20+ year memory could be fuzzy). But really, even with an entire aisle of feminine protection items at our disposal, we haven't made much progress in the discussion and treatment of hormone-related illnesses. I just refuse to believe that this is my lot in life because I have two X chromosomes.

Happy period. Ha.