Break the period taboo: my name is Lindy West and I hemorrhage

In this second exclusive extract from her new book, Shrill, West dares to imagine a world where daughters feel free to talk about menstruation in hollers instead of whispers

When youre a little kid, everyone talks about your period like its going to be a party bus to WOOOOOOOOOO! Mountain. Its all romantic metaphors about blossoming gardens and unfurling crotch orchids, and kids buy into it because they dont know what a euphemism is because they are 11. But its also a profoundly secret thing a confidence for closed-door meetings between girls. Those two contradictory approaches( periods are the best! and “were supposed to” never ever speak of them ), attained me feel as if I was the only not-brainwashed one in a culty dystopian fiction. Oh, yes, you cant imagine the exhilaration readings in your subjectivity port when the Administration gifts you your womans flow! SPEAKING OF THE FLOW OUTSIDE OF THE MENARCHE BUNKER WILL RESULT IN DEACTIVATION.

The reality, of course, is that when you make puberty you dont magically blossom into a woman youre still the same tiny buffoon you were at puberty-minus-one, only now, once a month, hot brown blood only glops and glops out of your private region like a broken Slurpee machine. For ever. Or, at least, until youre inconceivably elderly, in an 11 -year-olds estimation. Dont worry, to deal, you just have to cork up your hole with this thing thats like a severed toe made out of cotton( and if you dont swap it out often enough, your legs fall off and you die ). Or you wear a diaper. Also, your uterus is knives and you poop a bunch and youre hormonal and you get acne. Have fun in sixth grade, Margaret.

I invariably failed to tell my menopausal mom when we had run out of stuffin corks and diaper nuggets: Lindy West as a child. Photograph: Lindy West

When my Aunt Period Blood eventually did come to township, my avoidance was so finely calibrated that I blocked out the memory almost completely. I believe, although I dont know for sure, that I was swimming into the sea near my uncles home. I can recall quick ashes of disarray and panic, guiltily unspooling toilet paper in an unfamiliar bathroom by the beach.

I did not want to talk about it. I avoided talking about it so assiduously that for years I invariably failed to tell my menopausal mama when we had run out of stuffin corks and diaper nuggets (# copyrighted ), forcing her to run to the grocery store at inhumane hours while I squeezed out silent, single tears in the car.

One time, I noticed that the little waxy strips you peel off the maxi pad adhesive were printed, over and over, with a motto: Kotex Understands. In the worst moments, when my period felt like a demise the death of innocence, the death of safety, the harbinger of a world where I was too fat, too weird, too childish, too ungainly Id sit hunched over on the toilet and stare at that motto, and Id cry. Kotex understands. Somebody, somewhere, understands.( Some 47 -year-old advertising copywriter in Culver City named Craig understands .)

The most significant source of my adolescent period nervousnes was the fact that, in the US and much of the west, recognise the completely normal and mundane function of most uteruses is still taboo. The taboo is so strong that it contributes to the widespread stonewalling of women from seats of power for fear that, as her first act in the White House, Hillary Clinton might change Presidents Day to Brownie Batter Makes the Boo-Hoos Stop Day. The taboo is strong enough that a dude once broke up with me because a astound period started while we were having sexuality and the sight of it shattered some pornified illusion he had of women as messless pleasure pillows. The taboo is so strong that while weve all watched swimming pool of blood shed in horror movies and action movies and even on the news, when a woman ran the 2015 London Marathon without a tampon, photos of blood spotting her go gear constructed the social media rounds to near-universal abhorrence. The blood is the same the only difference is where its coming from. The disgust is at womens natural bodies , not at blood itself.

We can mention periods obliquely, of course, when we want to delegitimise womens real concerns, dismiss their more inconvenient emotions. But to suggest that having a period isnt an abomination, but is, in fact, natural and good, or my God to actually let people see what period blood looks like?( This is going to blow a lot of you guys minds, but: it looks like blood .) You might as well suggest replacing the national anthem with Donald Trump harmonising with an air horn.

Yeah, personally I dislike my period and think its riling and gross, but its not more gross than anything else that comes out of a human body. Its not more gross than faeces, urine, pus, bile, puking, or the grossest bodily fluid of them all in my mothers professional opinion phlegm. And yet we are not frightened every time we go to the bathroom. We do not stigmatise people with stomach flu. The active ingredient in period stigma is misogyny.

Maybe periods wouldnt be so frightening if we didnt refer to them as red tide or shark week or any other euphemism that evokes neurotoxicity or dismemberment. Maybe if we didnt perpetuate the idea that vaginas are disgusting trash dump, government officials wouldnt think of vagina care as literally hurling money away. Perhaps if daughters felt free to talk about their periods in hollers instead of whisperings, boys wouldnt grow up thinking that vaginas are disgusting and mysterious either. Maybe women would go to the doctor more. Maybe fewer girls would die of cervical and uterine cancer. Perhaps everyone would have better sexuality. Maybe women would eventually be considered fully formed human beings, instead of offbrand men with defective genitals.

The truth is, my inconvenience with my period didnt have anything to do with the thing itself “its just” part of the lifelong, permeating alienation from my body that every woman absorbs to some extent. Your body is never yours. Your body is your enemy. Your body is gross. Your body is incorrect. Your body is broken. Your body isnt what humen like. Your body is less important than a foetus. Your body should be perfect or it should be hidden.

Yeah, well, my name is Lindy West and Im fat and I bleed out of my pit sometimes. My body is mine now. Kotex understands.

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