Why are you so ashamed of bleeding?

Whenever it’s that time of the month for either one of us, we are fortunate enough to be able to use sanitary napkins. That itself is a big deal in our country. So, we go to the nearest grocery store or pharmacy to buy the sanitary pads. Regardless of the store where we buy the napkins and regardless of the brand, they are wrapped in more layers than nuclear weapons. And rightly so, because one glimpse of the green packet and all men will faint from the exposure to a thing so toxic. That totally happens.

Every time the shopkeeper insists on wrapping my packet of pads in two layers of newspapers and hands it over in an opaque, black plastic bag, my blood boils in the blood vessels and I want to scream. If I am shopping alone, I refuse the unnecessary extra packaging. Yeah, I get shocked looks and taunts but I do it anyway. When I am shopping with you, however, you give me a glare and my protests die at the tip of my tongue.

Why are you so scared of people finding out that you bleed?

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The situation continues to be similar once we get home. The packet is hidden away in a drawer which none of the men of our family will even think of opening. Not a single word is uttered about this expense while discussing the family budget. And when the time comes to actually use these sanitary napkins, we sneak them into the bathroom in the folds of our clothes. Papa does not even know when we have our periods and he is completely ignorant to our pain and discomfort too.

I really don’t understand this paranoia, ma. Why are you so scared of people finding out that you bleed? We are both women who are capable of bearing children. It should be obvious then that we will get our periods every month, shouldn’t it? I mean, regular periods are a sign of a healthy woman. Is that what we are ashamed of? Being healthy?

You have always taught me that periods are a completely natural process. They happen to every woman across the world. Now, I get that periods are painful and annoying but they’re definitely not something to be embarrassed about. Periods are the scars of the battle against extinction of our species. Without periods, humans don’t have a future.

Are you sure that buying sanitary napkins isn’t illegal or something?

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Mom, I am so tired of this ridiculously complicated process of buying sanitary napkins. I don’t want to act like a criminal every time the four dreaded days of my period draw near. As if it isn’t bad enough that I have to deal with the cramps, I don’t want to also worry about random strangers’ judgements. Are you sure that buying sanitary napkins isn’t illegal or something? Because it sure does seem so at times.

I don’t need to hide sanitary napkins in back plastic bags. And neither do you, mom. If we don’t stop hiding this reality of our lives, the stigma associated with periods will never lessen and it’s just not fair. All these additional antics and not being able to express the discomfort, it’s not fair. And if you think that men are not capable of dealing with periods, then I think you’re underestimating papa. He has bought us sanitary napkins in case of emergency right? He’ll be just fine.

With exasperation,
Your outspoken daughter.

Author: Maitreyee Mhatre


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