Go with the flow: A period piece

I’m fairly brave. I let my roots show. I routinely socialize with family members while sober. I attend formal events while wearing a “Will Commit Sins for Chipotle” t-shirt.

Mad brave.

But fellow runner Kiran Gandhi recently took bravery to a whole new level.

The night before she ran her very first marathon, Gandhi got her period. Any woman who’s trained for a marathon, who also knows the sometimes terrible-timing of our often-irregular cycles, is wincing right now.

What would you do?

Gandhi considered her options – use a tampon and deal with leaking on top of cramping on top of bloating, or just bleed freely and run her ass off.

She chose to bleed.

She also used the opportunity to shed light on period shaming. This is an issue facing millions of women, including many here at home. Poor, indigent, and homeless women routinely suffer from lack of sanitary napkins. Female prisoners contend with guards who often withhold necessary products in order to humiliate them.

In India and other countries, mainly in Africa and the Middle East, women are shunned and forced into hiding several days out of every month.

Religious practices encourage much of this behavior.

Diseases and infections resulting from unsafe and unclean menstruation practices are killing millions of women, yet it barely gets a mention because world leaders are too embarrassed to discuss it.

Gandhi, a Harvard graduate and drummer for rap artist M.I.A., doesn’t care if you’re uncomfortable. Get over it. She had been raising money for breast cancer research while training for the London Marathon and decided to also use her biological predicament to raise awareness and remove this stigma.

That’s a whole lot better than taking a Midol and going to bed.

Women shamed for bleeding, for the uniquely female process of a body cleansing itself and starting anew every 28 days (or thereabouts, as we know, it can be unpredictable at times) is tragic, but not surprising in countries where science and biology are not topics for discussion.

What’s our excuse?

Why do enlightened, educated, modern women feel ashamed when we menstruate?

Back in the 1980s, my independent and bold Nana would lament the unholy sight of maxi pad commercials on television.

“Men don’t need to know about wings!” she shouted. “There’s no mystery anymore.”

The only mystery to me was why they used blue liquid in those fucking commercials.

Half the world’s population menstruates. We go about our lives – running companies, heading organizations, fighting wars, moderating panels, and raising our children – all while the lining of our uterus breaks down and leaves our bodies.

Feel free to commence with PMS jokes, but most of the time no one can tell what’s happening because we’re too busy getting shit done.

This is amazing.

And something to be proud of.

What happens if someone can tell? We almost want to die.

I have a friend who runs a marathon every year. She once crashed her bike during an Ironman competition, dislocated her shoulder and still finished with an impressive time. Oh, and she raises two kids and runs a business. Yet, a few months ago, she bled through her clothes at Target and experienced an anxiety attack the likes of which those folks in Household Goods had never seen.

Then she hauled ass out of the store, embarrassed and ashamed.

How many of us can relate to her? I know I can.

No one wants to bleed on the bed or on a partner during sexy time, but it happens. It once happened to me. I thought to myself, “Oh thank God we turned off the video camera.”

What would you do?

I considered my options – ask him to leave and forget my number or smile and say, “No need for Astroglide!”

(I actually got on my belly and had him take me from behind…in case you’re looking for a hero.)

But I still cringe when I think about it.

And I need to stop.

A major manufacturer of maxi pads researched ways, using advanced technology from NASA or some shit, to develop (not a kid who listens the first time or even a remote control that works after being accidentally flushed down a toilet) a quiet maxi pad. This is a pad that doesn’t make much noise when it’s being removed from its wrapper.

Think about that for a moment.

If a maxi pad is opened at home, kids or partners can hear. What’s wrong with that? When my kids are made aware of my disintegrating egg moving at a snail’s pace through my cervix, they tend to shut the fuck up about an ingrown toenail.

If the pad is opened in a public restroom, other women can hear.

We don’t want other women to hear us doing what those same women do each month – open a pad or a tampon in order to use it?

There more important things to be embarrassed about – like the night your Facebook crush caught you in the Personal Growth section of Barnes & Noble.

Or that decade you dated Marxists.

A few months ago, Instagram removed a photographer/poet’s self-portrait because the picture showed menstrual blood. If you’re wondering why someone would take a picture of leakage and call it art, you’re missing the point of oversharing online. What’s more disturbing is that Instagram thought a perfectly normal picture featuring menstrual blood was beyond the realm of good taste.

This is the same site that hosts an account called THATLOOKSLIKEADICK.

Menses is something our mothers, sisters, wives, lovers, and daughters experience every month. Life is difficult enough without adding anxiety on to something perfectly natural. So let’s hear it ladies, next month rip open that maxi-pad, run through the streets of downtown London, or walk out of Target with your head held high.

Periods are not shameful. Outdated attitudes are.

Sorry, Nana.