I got my period when I was 13YO, the weekend before entering middle school. The pain was excruciating for a whole week before and I remember telling my mother about it, but she never explained anything to me, she just brought tea with lots of sugar and told me the heat of the tea would alleviate the pain. It did.
Then it happened: I was playing outside with my friends, wearing my favorite white shorts, when one of my friends gasped and pointed at my crutch, then exclaimed a euphemism that I later understood referred to the menstrual period. It was a very confusing moment, to see my friend’s face transforming from happy to disgust like I was suddenly gross.
I ran inside, feeling horrible. I went to the bathroom and figured out “that” was happening. “That” thing that we are not supposed to talk about. “That” thing is embarrassing and dirty and should be kept a secret. No one had explained a thing to me, but I knew enough to go through my sister’s drawers and get myself a pad.
What came afterward was a very lonely and steep road, where no one said one word or explained anything, but I was expected to know how to clean myself, how to sneak the sanitary pads out of the store, wrapped on paper and from the bag to my backpack, all while I kept my smile even though I felt terrible.
School wasn’t easy, either. Without any guidance or knowledge, accidents happened a lot and boys made things worse with their jokes and blatant ignorance.
Fast forward many decades, who could blame anyone for how poorly this was handled? No one had the courage to be anyone’s guidance, no one had the knowledge nor patience to openly explain things to us, therefore no one thought it important to speak up and make girls confident and boys empathetic.
I decided to end that in my household. I am the mother of a teenage daughter and a young boy. I have openly spoken to both about puberty, menstrual periods, personal hygiene, and emotional health. I have taught her everything I know; I have brought my husband to the conversation and have shared with him the dos and don’ts. I have also taught my son how to show support, how to make hot tea with lots of sugar, how to heat a pad, and even how to clean blood stains.
It is our duty as adults to teach the children around us that menstruation is part of nature and it concerns both men and women. Women should not feel the need to hide it and men should show their support. And it all starts at home.