When I was in Year 11 I was at a new school. I had moved from the north west of Western Australia to Canberra with my family, and slotted into Stirling College knowing not a soul and being a very-young-for-Year-11 fifteen years old.
I was trying my hardest to get used to new routines and a new city and new friends, when a very familiar ‘disaster’ befell me.
It’s the sort of experience the Victorian Womens Trust and their clever compadres at Rosie are seeking to de-stigmatise and drag out into the very normal light of day, thanks to a team of brilliant people including educators and writers and designers like Karen Pickering, Aimee Carruthers and Jane Bennett (among others genius types!)
But back to me for a tick. So what happened was …
I was sitting in my English class when I felt a familiar feeling. I told myself it would be fine. I was wearing a pink and white striped linen dress, buttons down the front, cinched in with a bright blue polka-dot belt. I remember this very clearly for reasons that will become apparent soon.
I ignored the feeling and after class speedily headed to the bathroom. In a sort of revised memory of this event I imagined I was sort of clutching at my dress to gather it up. But realistically I went with the faux confidence ‘please no!’ approach of striding out of class ASAP … AHEAD OF MY NEW CLASSMATES. No clutching. Dress flying free.
When I got into the bathroom, I swivelled around to discover that I had indeed just got my period and it was a total CORKER of an effort from my reproductive system with giant splotches of blood festooning the back of the dress which I had nicked from my mum’s wardrobe after she went to work that morning.
In my head, I did a quick check of how many classmates would have been behind me – at least 18 and possibly my teacher – and tried to remember if they had been muttering anything menstrual as I disappeared into the bathroom.
With no clear answers, I ducked into the cubicle, sobbed quietly and did my level best to tidy up with the assistance of around 4 metres of folded toilet paper. I sat in there until around 10 minutes after I heard the bell for the next PERIOD go and was sure I was alone. #OhTheIrony
Then I slunk out of the stall and began to try and clean up my dress with even more toilet paper and cold water and truth be told probably my own embarrassed tears.
The dress was a particularly raw sort of linen, so it was not easygoing to tidy it up. In the end I just decided to clutch the back of the dress in a giant handful, as though I was an old-fashioned type of lady frolicking in a paddock pulling her skirts up, and determinedly headed for the back door of the school and walked home. No actual frolicking happening here, to be clear. More of a conflicted walk-run.
The memory of this is very, very clear to me still, 35 years later, because it felt so embarrassing and periods were even less talked about then. Reproductive chatter was all about not-getting-pregnant and less-so about the processes that allow pregnancy to happen.
Thankfully NOW the tide is turning and lots of good folk are determined to open up the discussion and awareness of periods so others don’t have to do a shameful sort of feelings-filled walk home from school (or elsewhere) in a damp frock or soggy jeans. Because periods should not feel shameful.
Phew. Of course, these important awareness initiatives often need help from others and in this case the VWT and Rosie Respect’s book About Bloody Time is seeking support via a Pozible campaign.
If you have ever hurried home in a soggy frock, navigated the day with a LOT of neatly-folded scratchy toilet paper in your undies or a jacket wrapped around your trousers due to perfectly normal bodily functions that sometimes creep up on us, then you might like to throw in a few dollars? If only to help change the conversation and attitudes around periods and menstruation so that other people who have periods don’t have to feel that it’s SUPER DOOPER embarrassing!
And if you think you know someone who has navigated this sort of experience – or had a period – you can chip in too!!
Head here to contribute or to find out more. 🙂
Have you ever had an experience like this too?! Argh. Fist bump in solidarity if so!
PS – I’ll be back here later today with a final Holiday Diary instalment!