Friday, April 10, 2009

The Beginning and the End. Period.

On February 8, 1982, 2:50 PM, that sudden, desperate need to pee hit me, but because it was almost time to pack up and get on the bus for home, I debated whether or not I could hold it in. My bladder must have heard my internal debate because it somehow communicated that a slow leak would be inevitable if I didn't book it to the girls' room - and fast. After getting permission from my teacher, I ran as best as one could run while pressing one's thighs together. Finally, and thankfully, I made it without peeing myself first. When I glanced down mid-pee, I noticed something on the undies I'd swiped from my sister's drawer that morning (because they were so cool). The realization that I'd just gotten my period, two days after my twelfth birthday, made me dizzy. And excited. I couldn't wait to get back to class to tell my friends. But I first had to tell my teacher, a woman I strongly disliked, so she'd let me go get a maxi pad from the gym teacher, as we'd been instructed to do when we had the sex ed class a few months earlier.

Twelve-Year-Old Me: "Mrs. O'Hara, I need to go see Mrs. Duchin."

Teacher, eyeing me up and down: "Did you get your period?"

Either I came back into the classroom leaving a trail of blood behind me, or "Mrs. Duchin" had been previously determined by the the faculty to be code for "student got her period." I nodded the affirmation of my womanhood, and ran out the door. By the time I left the locker room in the gym, I had something stuck to my undies equivalent to the size of a canoe. Wearing sweatpants didn't help, as the huge bulges in the front and back looked suspicious. I tied my sweatshirt around my waist, ran back to class, and proceeded to tell a few (disbelieving) friends. When I got home, I changed into my robe, as if having my first period sapped me of all energy, and required hot soup and bedrest. I called my mom, non-chalantly adding to the end of the conversation that she needed to bring me home a box of pads. Then I called my sister's best friend, my mother's best friend, and told anyone else that happened to call or come over that day.

Each month I waited anxiously for my new "friend" to come visit. Sometimes she came, sometimes she didn't. But it was still exciting knowing I was one of the first to get my period. From then on, my mother stocked the bathroom wicker cabinet with enough maxis, minis, pantyliners, and tampons for all four females in the family. It was a time for celebration; a new beginning of sorts.

Or was it?

A celebration? Hardly. A new beginning? Yes - to monthly agony. Long gone are the days when I anxiously counted the days on the calendar, waiting for the proof of my womanhood to show up. I think the novelty of that shit wore off when my periods started becoming more regular, rather than skipping a month or two, and when the cramps and mood swings started.

Male reader(s), take note: it is not a myth that hormones are a bitch, nor are they empty excuses women use for anything we need to excuse. They are the cause for everything from bad attitudes, ("MUST you breathe like that?") to extreme and insatiable hunger ("Yeah, so WHAT if I downed the fucking tortilla chips and the tub of Cool Whip?"), to rainy days on Mondays. The strength of a woman's will when her hormones are kickin' is powerful, well except when it comes salty and sweet, that is.

Forty-Three insists that I have one good week a month. Really, I'm in a perpetual state of periodness. There's the week before, when the appetite starts stirring, the week of, when people who cross my path are really in for it if they say hello to me without the proper tone, and the week after, when I feel like shit for the previous two weeks from eating too much and for yelling at people, my kids especially, because my hormones told me to.

Where the hell did I get the idea when I was twelve that my period was something to celebrate? I've had that bitch with me for twenty-seven years, or twenty-five and a half, if you minus my pregnancy years. It's nothing but a nuisance. I'm not having any more kids, (although not by my choice, but by Forty-Three's insistence that he was too old even when he was thirty-six to have kids), so it's not like I need to have my period anymore. But that, my five or six friends out in blogdom, is another blog all by itself.

Who wants to search for period-designated underwear every month, remember to lose the thong pre-period, just in case of early arrival, and schedule activites and outfits around it? I've had enough. Really. But then again, now that I'm Thirty-Nine, and menopause (or even perimenopause) isn't too, too far away in my future, I'm wondering if having my period might be the lesser of these two evils. Aging sucks for the very reasons I already mentioned in Damaged Goods, but even though it annoys the shit out of me, the thought of not having my period is a little frightening at the same time. It would mean I couldn't even entertain the idea of having any more biological children (if my partner was actually willing), and that all the changes I thought were bad in my thirties were really not bad at all, by comparison.

With the decrease of estrogen levels, there's an increase in other things that no woman in her right mind would want. It's bad enough having to tuck my tits into my jeans while still in my thirties, so I don't need start growing facial hair on top of that. You all know what I'm talkin' 'bout. Who hasn't seen a woman well past menopause with a mustache any pubescent boy (and some mature, semi-hairless men) wouldn't kill for? I have plucked an errant hair here and there, and I refuse to have any more than that. Refuse. If the day comes when I suddenly find myself in the bathroom, fighting for mirror time while Forty-Three and I shave our beards together, it's all over for me; the end. The couple that shaves together, stays together, my ass! I'm gonna need to find someone who deals estrogen - the good shit. Not those pansy hormone replacement pills the gyno gives; I want the strongest stuff in the estrogen-drug market because if I ever find a hair sprouting from any weird place on my body - a nipple, out of my ear - God help anyone within the vicinity.

I'm not hearing or reading favorable things about menopause, although there is one good thing: no more panty paraphernalia! But that's it. Periods are bad enough with the mood swings and constant hunger. (My mother-in-law constantly tells me that I "need to see someone about that.") but menopause has additional horrors: night sweats, hot flashes, loss of libido, vaginal dryness? Vaginal dryness? Come on, now. Hasn't my vagina suffered enough between the two childbirths and the unkind remarks by my gyno? If she could speak, she'd be begging for therapy. Loss of estrogen is so brutal. I mean, my voice is already getting deeper as I age without being in menopause. What else can I look forward to? Growing a penis?

I sit here, cramps upon me, craving a blob of melted mozzarella cheese, browned and bubbly. My stomach is distended, I'm yelling at my daughter, and I'm fighting a sudden bout of crabbiness, so I know it's the week before my frenemy's arrival. After thinking about the pros and cons of period-dom and menopause, I think if given the choice, I'd have to stick to the period. Let's face it: it's the beginning of womanhood and it does have some privileges, like getting out of gym class when you're a kid, (and sex as an adult), and allows for at least a couple of days when calorie consumption is allowed to go unlogged. By not having it, I'd feel like something, besides my estrogen production, was slowing down, if not coming to an end, like my thong-wearing days and the assumption that people would know I was a woman simply by the sound of my voice. I mean, really, am I gonna have to unbutton my pants to flash people my tits to prove it?