I love America. I especially love American marketing.
We have commercials where talking bears have pieces of substandard toilet paper stuck to their bottoms. We have commercials where men talk euphemistically about how a sugar pill makes their sex life more satisfying, mainly because their twenty-year old girlfriend just can’t believe the difference that it has made in his er, uh, size. We have commercials where women sit around at a bridal shower gifting each other vibrators while their IQ points visibly drop.
Because of the openness of television, we can put condoms on fruit, we discuss Kama Sutra, and we talk genital waxing at parties. We can talk about everything, save one thing.
Why can we not talk about menstrual cycles in this country?
I ask you. Sure, sex sells, and let’s face it: bleeding like a stuck pig once a month really doesn’t ooze sex appeal.
But then again, do I trust Madison Avenue with this delicate subject? If I leave it to TV to educate my boys about a woman’s cycle, they are going to think that once a month, women watch Lifetime movies while taking commercial breaks to pour Windex into maxi pads. Then they share silent, tearful glances and, while clasping hands, drive off of cliffs.
This isn’t helping my cause.
The Bible doesn’t help us here either. In Leviticus, Moses kicks the women out of the camp once a month so that he and the rest of the men don’t have to deal with rubbing backs and going out for Tampax and Ben and Jerry’s. This seemed good for a time, until a merciful God decided to sync up women’s periods so that they would all be gone at the same time. God did this to help men see the errors of misogyny. When all of the cooking, cleaning, mending, and child rearing went undone five days out of a month, Moses reconsidered, but the women stood firm. As a result, no one knew about menopause until the time of Christ.
I’ve got guy friends. A lot of them. I’m married to one of them. And we talk about everything. Save one thing. They can’t talk about periods. At least not willingly.
I asked one of my particularly open male friends about it once. After a brief bit of hesitation, he explained to me that there is a code. The only time a man is to talk about a period is with his beloved, as going out for ‘her brand’ of maxi pads or tampons can score bankable points. Kotex, Always, Stayfree, OB, Natrucare, Tampax, wings, no wings, pearl glide, deodorant, applicator, no applicator, ultra-thin, super, regular, sport. He must act like it doesn’t bother him. And he must never bring home Midol unless she specifically asks for it. This could be a Liz Lemon dealbreaker.
The drugstore has an aisle that many a bewildered man has paced. My friend referred to it as ‘the wall.’ The wall is ever changing, never constant. And it’s a once a month purchase, and they change the packaging up fairly frequently. So you can’t remember what you bought last time, because she probably bought them the time before last.
The manufacturers of feminine hygiene products got smart after the ‘wear a belt around your waist and hook a pad to it’ decades. They realized that women will see a new promise on the box of a pad or tampon, become fascinated about how ‘this’ will change her life, buy the product, and be profoundly disappointed until the next claim of innovation.
American women, God love us, are suckers for marketing. Even those of us who claim to be diehards can get vulnerable in this aisle. We buy these innovations in honor of women who stuffed their pantaloons with cloths as they traveled across the prairies in Conestoga wagons. Women used to die a lot, and there were no creature comforts. With every advance in women’s hygiene, we remember and honor their memories by ponying up at Walgreens.
As an aside, why do men never go into women’s purses? I find this fascinating. It’s like there’s something in there with teeth that will bite you. Look, if I am driving, and my phone is ringing, and you are a guy riding shotgun – dig in there and get the damn phone. You know who you are. All three of you. But I digress. (I’m a little emotional today…three guesses as to why.)
I’ve come to accept my monthly blessing as a fact of my life. And it’s true…I feel more emotional on day one of my period. I’m crampy, bloated, do not feel like working out, and the littlest things make me sad.
Like the realization that none of my kids are going to turn one again. None of them. It all has gone by so fast. God, they are nearly grown. Every day, a new milestone. And every day, I am closer to an empty nest, where I bury my nose into old baby clothes and remember better times. And WHO THE HELL stuck CHEWING GUM to my NEW DESK? They think my office is a trash can where they can just dump their old garbage? And look at this! A dirty sock in my desk drawer. I am freaking touched.
Okay, I need another glass of wine. Clearly.
In this postmodern age, look at movies and video games aimed at even the most passive of men. Blood all over the place. Provided that it comes from a gunshot wound to the head and doesn’t come from between a woman’s legs. We can do violence, but not menstruation? It’s a body. It’s what a body does. Bodies were never meant to be shot or gutted, but that is somehow tolerated.
I suspect that my open male friend was right: that men are afraid of their emotions, that anger is a secondary emotion, and that menstruation represents getting closer to that real, raw emotion that they are so conditioned by this culture to avoid.
So boys? You know we girls love you. Don’t be afraid, and don’t buy into what the entertainment culture is selling. It’s just a little blood, and fun fact? It’s red, not blue. Our bodies are teaching us how to handle a little pain during childbirth, and we get to practice once a month. We know that biology doesn’t permit you to give birth, but here’s what you can do.
Offer us a soft pillow and a drink. Rub some feet. Hug and kiss us. Offer a heating pad. If you’re young, do the dishes for your mom or sister or offer to clean out her car. Don’t chastise our emotion as “being on the rag” because you can’t handle a little sentimentality. Learn, instead, to embrace your own. We will love you for it.
And could you pick up a box of the new Kotex that now come in the black box called U – and look for ultra thin long supers with the Tru-Fit wings and the CleanSorb covers? And some Lindt truffles – the black kind? Grazie.