For the last decade or so, like so many others who read and write for this blog, I have been researching, reading and writing about how we think, talk and act (out) about menstruation. My particular interest is the various interventions that some brave activists make to disrupt the dominant narrative of menstruation.
But this post isn’t about my work or even the work of others. Not exactly.
This post is about my daughters and what sometimes happens when my work comes home.
In 2006, when my oldest daughter was 13, we had one of many Mom-initiated short talks about her approaching menarche in the (of course) car. Posing as a super nonchalant mom, I casually asked:
ME: So what do you think your period will be like?
HER: I will hate it.
[GULP...I was grateful she could not see her feminist mother’s face completely cave in]
ME: Why do you think so?
HER: All my friends hate theirs.
Later that year, her first period. My daughter did not share this with me, rather, I “discovered” this new development on my own. That evening, after we talked, she agreed—none-too-cheerfully—to a dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, but we were not permitted to discuss “the event.” The next day, I set the kitchen table with candles, tea and her favorite dessert—just for the two of us—and I presented her with a lovely bag to store her menstrual supplies (that I am pretty sure she never used).
Photo by Aaron Conaway // CC 2.0
We had decided, years before, that when she began menstruating, she would get her ears pierced. So we went to Claire’s and did the deed, but again, no fanfare—just a mom taking her teen daughter to get her ears pierced.
From that point forward, we rarely talked about her menstrual experiences, though I tried and failed several times. For example, I suggested she try cloth pads (and why), but she was not the least bit interested
When my book on menstrual politics came out, my daughter was 16. She and 4 of her friends, all dressed in red dresses, circulated trays of menstrually-themed (read: red) appetizers at my book party. The party favors, the decorations, and the conversation were all highly MENSTRUAL, and I heard no titters, detected no blushing between my girl and her pals.
So did my daughter HATE her period, after all? Maybe not, but she, the child of a feminist committed to challenging the dominant cultural narrative of menstruation, became a girl, who, at best, managed her period. And I wanted better for her.
Today, my second daughter is 8. She is 9 years younger than her older sister.
Since she could talk, she has called attention to my period. When she glimpses me changing my pad on the toilet (yes, we have an open door policy), she typically remarks:
“You are having your period, Mama.”
“Yes, Honey, I am.“
She speaks as if her first period might be any day. It could be, but I doubt it. Her trajectory toward puberty seems to be moving at a pretty average clip.
She is very excited about getting her ears pierced when she begins menstruating. She loves wearing stick on earrings and clip ons; this is a girl enamored with ear bling. But she has never once asked if she could get her ears pierced BEFORE her menarche, even though several of her friends have theirs pierced now. I think she likes the link between menarche and ear piercing, seeing it as an established rite of passage. Continue reading...