It’s the thing no one likes to talk about, in person or on the internet. It’s the thing that leads to photos removed on Instagram. It’s the thing that has advertisements pouring blue liquid on pads because god forbid we actually portray it in any kind of realistic way. It’s the thing a lot of people have to deal with every single month for a lot of their lives.
It’s the period. Or periods. Or menstruation. Or, you know, the lining of a uterus ripping away from the walls of a uterus and gushing out of a vagina in the form of blood.
Ohmygod. I said the word vagina. I said uterus. I said blood. And I’ll say them again because this is something that is real, and it sucks, and I am sick to death of the lack of talk about periods.
I could go into the reasons why society as a whole is so terrified of the thought of blood coming out of a vagina, but I wanted to talk specifically about books today. About the fact that YA books (because this is 99.99% of what I read) never mention periods, and if they do they only mention it in passing, using a reference to tampons.
Now, I was a mere, wee twelve year old in my first year of high school when my period arrived and settled in as a permanent, and quite unwanted, fixture in my life. I hadn’t been taught a lot about periods, and when the first day was over and there’d been hardly any blood and no pain I thought: that wasn’t so bad.
Oh, my poor little baby self.
Cue onslaught of period pain so bad that I couldn’t walk, couldn’t go to school, couldn’t sleep. Cue a heavy enough flow that I didn’t feel safe enough unless I was wearing night time pads all the time.
Throughout high school there were many days where I simply could not go to school. But when I reached senior years, and I knew that missing a class could mean that I’d miss something on an exam, I started to force myself to go. Nothing worked in terms of pain relief. My aspirin did jack shit. Heat packs did nothing except make me sweat. The pain was something I just had to deal with.
I distinctly remember one time in grade eleven or twelve, when it was the first day of my period. I’d woken up that morning and known it had come, known that pain was going to arrive within the next few hours. I was in the library for my ancient history class, and we were told to go and look at books for research (which, to us, meant it was a bludge class where we weren’t going to do anything). My best friend and I sat down in the puzzles aisle and proceeded to look at Where’s Wally books. I remember being in so much pain during this class that I was curled up on the library floor, trying not to cry. I remember the bell ringing, which meant I had to go to another class, and just the thought of standing up had me literally whimpering. I couldn’t bear the thought of moving, not when I was in so much pain. But I did. I fucking got off the floor and went to classes for the rest of the day.
There are so many other memories like this. Like the bake day my friends and I had planned, where all I could do was sit on the couch and watch them bake because the pain was so bad. Like the time I had to run back to the car, leaving my mum in the shops, and lie down inside because I just couldn’t stand up any more. Like the countless nights I have woken up in pitch dark, crying, curled in over myself in pain. So many other memories of pain, pain, pain.
And I’ve never once read a book where a main character mentions a period like this. Where that time of the month is hell and pain, and blood and blood and blood. Where you literally can’t do anything because it’s just not freaking possible. Where you wish there was some way to just make the pain go away, to stop having these goddamn periods because you don’t even know if you want kids and what’s the point of a period unless you want to have kids? Where your friends don’t really understand the pain you’re in because they have cramps for maybe a day, but they’re bearable, but you’re debilitated by the pain of yours. Where it takes a doctor years to give you medication to make the pain bearable because they didn’t believe you, or didn’t care, or just didn’t know.
I want periods to be in the books I read. And I wish I’d read about characters who had to deal with this in high school like I had to deal with it in high school. Because this is real. It happens. And it shouldn’t be something that’s never mentioned, or only mentioned as a tampon. It should be something that is talked about, and taught about, and just made normal because it is normal for so many people.
YA books shouldn’t be shying away from mentioning something that impacts someone’s life so much. They shouldn’t be pretending that people don’t have to deal with this. They shouldn’t be pretending that periods don’t exist. Because they do. And they can be hell. And they are real.
Why is it normal to mention dragons and never-ending love and prophecies of the chosen one but not normal to mention periods? Why do YA books touch on so many other things that high schoolers have to deal with – love and friendship and sex and parents – but periods are taboo or forgotten or not mentioned? Why are pimples and bad hair days things that YA books talk about but not the shitty thing that comes knocking every month?
And whenever periods aren’t talked about, aren’t normalised, it adds to the taboo surrounding them. Adds to the collective societal disdain for mentioning them. And there are so many reasons why this taboo needs to disappear. For the people who are suffering from endometriosis but have no preventative measures or cures because there’s no research being done. For people who have other menstrual- related disorders (of which there are many) that impact their lives.
I am just so sick of the lack of talk about periods. About the way that society, and the books we read like to pretend that it doesn’t exist, that it doesn’t happen. We need to include it in the books we write and read so that people grow up knowing that this shit happens, and that it’s okay to talk about it. Because without talk we get nowhere. Because without talk the taboo continues. And people stay in pain.
So. Let’s talk about the thing that no one likes to talk about. Let’s talk about periods.