I was ten and eight months when I got my first period. The night before I’d felt a twitch in my stomach, and a slice of sadness wrapped around my throat. By morning there was a smear on my underwear.
Although for this first cycle my flow was light and only lasted a day, a few months later blood would strike again. This time, there would be no holding back. My period quickly evolved into a heavy flow and it lasted eight days.
Most men and young girls who are yet to succumb to the ovarian grapes of wrath associate periods with profound emotional fluctuations, pains in the stomach, and, well, blood. But menstruating is a biological process that goes way beyond a couple of belly stabs and meltdowns. So, what does it really mean to be on your period? Read on to learn about the Second-Day Syndrome, the Dos and Don’ts for when it’s her time of the month, and, last but not least, the butt cramps, which nobody ever seems to talk about.
1. The Chunks
The images above are neat, monochromatic and plain; in reality, you will find a much more devastating scene. Mixed shades of red. Varied consistencies. Uneven distribution throughout the pad. And, worst of all, the Chunks. The Chunks are as disgusting as they sound: voluminous blobs of some reddish-brownish substance (is it blood?) that yield a mountainous vibe on the pad. Some may know them as “blood clots.” No images will be provided.
2. Second-Day Syndrome
If you’ve noticed that she is particularly out of humor during her period, she might be going through “Second-Day Syndrome”. That’s right, ask any woman and she will tell you: the second day is the worst. For me, not only is it the bloodiest of all, but it also replaces your stomach with cement, and then stabs at it with little sharp knives.
3. Other symptoms. They’re weird.
Finger aches, ear discomforts, acne break-outs, extreme back pains, even hair affairs. And, possibly worst of all –– the leg cramps. These are deadly, and they come like scorpions in the night.
4. The Budget
Depending on the flow, a woman is spending up to fourteen dollars on pads per cycle; since the average woman will have about 450 periods in her lifetime, she might be spending up to 3150 to 6300 dollars just over pads. For an older woman with a good career and financial situation, these prices might not be too much of a burden; but for younger women still learning how to make it on their own, the prices on pads can wipe her out. As a result, she will often have to reduce pad use to avoid purchasing more. A woman should not have to choose between hygiene or no hygiene due to costs.
5. New bathroom patterns
Yes, my bathroom patterns change when I am on my period. Bladders get very small and many women have abrupt urges. No need to get into further detail.
6. That moment you realize you’re in a public bathroom and you threw out your last pad
Because pads are not supplied in public bathrooms, a period-haver always risks running out of pads if she does not take extra precaution. In these episodes she will be often forced to use toilet paper to create her own pad –– but in Havana I’ve had several incidents where there is no toilet paper. While in some countries you are almost certainly supplied with toilet paper at the very least, in many you are not, and this requires an immediate return home or else. How grim.
7. The PMSs
Premenstrual syndrome and post-menstrual syndrome. Haven’t heard of the latter? Well, post-menstrual syndrome is just like premenstrual syndrome, but after your period instead of before. While premenstrual syndrome serves as a heads-up of what’s coming using, post-menstrual syndrome is just the maddening residue of your cycle.
8. The butt cramps
Why doesn’t anybody ever talk about them? Butt cramps are uncomfortable thrusts into the rear end that a period-haver can experience quite regularly throughout a cycle. Kind of like lightning jabbing into your butt. While I originally thought this was a unique symptom for me, my theory rapidly dissipated upon discovering several other individuals who’d also felt the rage of the butt cramps.
9. Water is bad
My periods always come in the most inconvenient times of the month. Exams-season. The week my family comes to visit. Those unique occasions in which I find myself sick with a cold and a vaginal infection at the same time. But the worst time to get your period is in beach time, because all women know that when menstruating, water is the enemy. Water will expose you. Water will distinguish you. Water will destroy you, publicly. Unless it’s being used for drinking/cleaning purposes.
10. Not all women are period-havers and not all men are non-period-havers. Don’t forget it!
Gender dysphoria is a real thing and can be defined as a conflict between the sex to which an individual identifies and the sex that they’re born into. Don’t forget it!
Tula Jiménez Singer is a 17-year-old Cuban-American who recently moved to Brooklyn after spending several years in Havana. You can read her work on The Teen Magazine, Write the World, The Weight Journal and her blog El Cuarto de Tula, among others. She wants her pieces to be a slice of her life — filled with jazz, oceans, identity crises, and chocolate. She writes because she cannot let it go.