My former stepdaughter (or whatever I should call my ex’s child with whom I’m still close in spite of the fact that her dad and I broke up a while ago) got her first period last month. She’s 11 ½. Not really a big deal given I was 11 ¼ when I got mine. It happens.
She’s spending the month with us, and being the long weekend full of big plans, guess what came “early”? Now I only use quotes because as anyone who has ever had a period knows, there is no such thing as “early” or “late” when you’re starting out. Until your body sorts itself out, you can get your period any time it bloody well feels like showing up (pun intended).
So even though her mother had a talk with her, and her dad had a talk with her, nobody had the talk with her. And no, I don’t mean the “well this is why you get your period” chat. She’s heard that all her life (her mother’s an OB/GYN). She knows very well how the reproductive system works.
So today when she was getting ready to go out, I made her sit down in the washroom while I did her hair so we could have the talk.
It’s the talk that I wish someone had had with me when I first had my period. All I heard about was the cramps, the thick pads, the blood, the bloating, the “women can’t do what they normally do when they’re having their periods” excuse, and our pet names for that time of the month. Aunt Flo. The Curse.
The resentment that women have for their bodies begins on the first day of our first period. Women tell young women to hate this naturally-occurring part of our maturity. We take drugs to make it go away. We are told it makes us weak, worthless, ugly, smelly, bloated, and full of pain.
That’s a bucket full of confidence and self-worth right there. No self-loathing at all, right? No wonder women hate their periods so much.
I asked my stepdaughter if this is what she had been told – that it’s horrible. That it will hurt. That it’s, well, a curse. And she said yes. She said she had been looking forward to it until it arrived. A month ago. And now she hated it because everyone has told her how awful it is. Not because she has felt anything awful herself.
So I told her the truth. And none of that bullshit I described above is the truth.
NONE OF IT.
This is what I told my stepdaughter:
The truth is, our periods give us power. Women have the power of creation. Periods are made up of, well, blood. And what’s that motto the Red Cross uses? Blood is the Gift of Life.
Sure, there’s bloating (drink water, replenish yourself, and you will never retain water) and there’s cramping (keep your feet warm – reflexology. Warm feet mean little cramping), and there’s that feeling of malaise and mood swings and tenderness and…
That’s how it’s supposed to be. Our bodies let us know when something is wrong; we have simply chosen, through chemicals and other means, not to listen. When we are gearing up for our time of the month, we can feel our bodies changing. Let yourself become aware of what those feelings are, so you know what’s normal for yourself and what is out of the ordinary. Our bodies need to be at their peak to create life; they tell us when we're healthy and when we're not taking care of ourselves.
You will find that, as you are about to start your cycle, you will want to create more, whether it’s writing, cooking, painting, drawing, composing, colouring – the body wants to create, and thus gives powers to the mind and soul. (try it – I get my best writing done when I’m ovulating and PMSing).
And then I told her something that I’m sure nobody has told her in her life.
“Do you know that you are made up of carbon compounds? And do you know what else is made up of carbon compounds? Everything. Including the stars. Everything we know in the universe that is natural has carbon compounds. So when your body decides that you are old enough to have your period, it’s telling you that you have stardust inside of you. And that stardust is there for you to create your own universe with.”
Whether you are starting out on your magical menstrual journey, whether you have chosen to have children, whether you have chosen to remain childless, or whether your body is physically incapable of giving you a child, you are full of stardust. You are a woman. Without women, creation cannot exist.
And that is what we should be telling our daughters, nieces, granddaughters, friends. It is not a curse to have a period. It is not horrible to experience the power of creativity. Our periods are not burdens sent to weaken us.
Sometimes certain people have bad experiences with their bodies. I can hear women screaming at me through their screens right now because their periods lay them to waste. While you're screaming at me, remember there are people out there who deal with different types of physical limitations, by birth and/or by circumstance, and they don’t let those stop them from living. Nobody should be using their gender as an excuse to be weak, and by perpetuating this period myth, we encourage the next generation to do just that.
We need to stop.
We need to embrace the stardust. No more using those “curse” words. No more hating your body because of its monthly biological cycle. And no more tales perpetuating feminine weakness just because it's time for you to wear a maxi thin pad.
Embrace the stardust within you, ladies.