The nights are drawing in and there’s a certain smokiness in the air that’s synonymous with Autumn. It’s October, and soon will be Halloween. Last year to celebrate this magical time (if you can’t beat a gimmick we’re going to bloody well join it) we brought you Bloody Horror Stories by our divine Fundraising Coordinator and blogger Natalie Baker.
Almost every individual who has ever had a period understands the importance of affordable and reliable menstrual products. We should be able to choose the products we use down there, after all, who wants an unhappy vag? When we have access to the right products, then we menstruators can go about our business like everyone else. We can attend school, go to business meetings, travel without fear or relative discomfort (okay, we might have to take the odd painkiller!), and focus on gaining life experiences that aren’t tainted by a series of period horror stories.
One of my favourite things about volunteering with BGP is the many discussions I’ve had on what has wrongly been an off-limit subject for many years. . Whether it’s with other volunteers, friends, family, colleagues and even strangers, talking about period poverty and the work we do is a great conversation starter. Only through talking can we begin to challenge our mindset surrounding menstruation.
One of my aunts recently shared a story of her own. In the 1960s whilst caravanning on a family holiday in France, she started her period. Her Mum quietly asked her Dad for some extra francs to buy some sanitary products (she had no personal spending money of her own).
Quelle horreur avez-vous des “pads”?
This story is illustrative of the themes that most period stories seem to contain, which include (more or less):
Feeling like it’s an economic burden
And if you’re lucky, your first period story includes a supportive family member or sympathetic friend with a spare pad or tampon.
A brief survey of fellow BGP volunteers’ mortifying first period stories further fuelled my fury ( I was looking for something to do over the weekend, and a bit of righteous indignation goes a long way).
This year, however, after hearing so many stories I’m feeling a little bit of anger that no number of ghost costumes or pumpkin-shaped chocolates can quell. So I’m going to take a slightly different tack.
With Halloween on the horizon we thought we’d share a few of our own period horror stories. I’ve noticed that these stories reveal some common themes just too terrifying for even the scariest Halloween film. We hope that this will prompt conversation and maybe a bit of outrage at the sexism of this whole bloody business.
Grab some popcorn, get yourself comfy, and prepare to be petrified.
Penny Sweets and Period Shrieks
‘I was ten when I started my period. I don't think my mum was expecting me to start so early, so we hadn't talked about it, and the girls-only assembly didn't happen for another year at my school. Also, this was 1986 so the internet didn’t exist and there wasn’t anywhere to get information from.
My mum used to work in our local paper shop one day a week. On that day, my older brother and I would go there after school to read the comics and pilfer penny sweets for a couple of hours until she finished.
One day I went to the toilet and it all felt a little weird ‘down there’, as if I'd had an accident. I looked down and there was blood on my underwear. I remember instantly going ice cold in fear, I wiped myself and there was more blood on the toilet tissue.
I then did the only thing a 10-year-old would do and took my knickers off and ran into a packed shop screaming, crying and holding my bloody gusset in the air screaming that I was dying and that I needed my mum.
I don't remember too much after that apart from my mum calming me down, taking me to the bathroom and packing my knickers with this hideous 80s-style tracing paper toilet roll, and then taking me home as soon as she finished her shift. She then put me to bed with a hot water bottle on my tummy.
The next morning she put a pad in my knickers and kept me home from school for the rest of the week. We live in Rugby, Warwickshire, where the Relate training college used to be. It had an amazing bookshop and my mum went and got me a couple of books to explain things.
The thing is we never really talked about it, I had major problems with my periods pretty much up until I had a coil fitted and then stopped about 14 years ago, and even with all the trips to doctors, hospitals, and specialists we've never had a conversation about it.’
Pads work even if they’re not in your pants, right?
‘I got my first period when I was away visiting family with my Dad. During a routine trip to the bathroom, I found a smear of brown sludge in my pants and had absolutely no pads with me nor money to buy some.
11-year-old me certainly wasn’t going to tell Dad (a medical doctor), so instead, I managed to take a single pad from a family member’s bathroom. Having no idea what to do with it, I hid in my overnight bag.
I spent the weekend furiously wiping every time I went to the bathroom, but for some reason never thinking that the pad would work better inside my knickers...’
Uninvited sleepover guest
‘I was sleeping over at a friend’s house and woke up having started my period for the first time. I was so shocked and remember my friends were too, having no idea what to say.
I was so ashamed, I ran home crying and was embarrassed to tell my own mum!’
Happiest place on Earth
‘Disney World Florida, 1986. I was 13. I had spent an hour queuing in the rain for a go on a racing car ride when a man walked up behind me to tell me that my soaking wet white shorts (OF COURSE WHITE) were covered in blood.
I removed my anorak to tie around my waist and then went into full panic mode. My father, a military man with the accent of a 1930s newscaster, was sent into a souvenir shop on Main Street to request assistance and, once fully understood, had his request for sanitary 'napkins' broadcast across the store.
I hid outside by the bins.
No joy there, so on to the monorail in order to try to find something useful in one of the hotels.
Ended up with more white shorts, this time too small, and a pad the size of a small double mattress. No chance of retreat by military Dad so it was back to the rides while I spent the afternoon staggering around looking like I had just got off a horse.
Magical memories etc...’
Blue chair nightmare
‘At some point in year 7-ish, I bled through my clothes onto a pale blue plastic chair in a classroom. I don’t think anyone else noticed luckily, I just tucked my chair in and ran away. The next time I went in, it was clean… a fairly traumatic moment for a 12-year old.’
This was met with a lot of shared anxiety with one BGP babe declaring ‘I had so many nightmares about this exact scenario, I feel for you!’
Less of a story, more of a statement:
‘I started mine on the way to IKEA, as though that isn’t a stressful enough experience.’
So, of course, let’s keep telling stories and everyone has the right to own their narrative, but maybe let’s also check in with whether we should be spicing them up with, say, some rage?.
After all, it’s Halloween and there’s nothing scarier than angry menstruators, right?
Illustrations courtesy of Sarah Dutton @sarahjessillustrations