On bleeding

Living this ‘American Dream’ where we’re doing our own cooking, cleaning, laundry, has meant that the rest of the family is pitching in with a lot more help. The OA does the relaxed brunches and extravagant dinners when he gets home from work. I mostly do harried and hurried breakfasts, tiffins and lunches.

The Bean and Brat have been making coffees, chopping fruit, decorating cheese platters and shining wine glasses, and laying the table. And yes, doing the laundry.

I mention this because I am scarred by a friend once telling me that she always dried her underwear under a towel. She’d been taught by her mother that no one should know what a lady’s underwear looks like. I have always assumed that meant no one should see it while it’s on you. But isn’t it interesting to see how being a lady means a lot more work? She went on to say that she had been forbidden from staining her bed while having her periods. Forbidden. That only an animal would sleep so unselfconsciously. I want to parse that sentence for each unacceptable word but I think my brain would explode in outrage.

Telling a twelve year old to lie still and not have her nightie hike up, not to twist in her sleep so that her pad twists and she stains… would that not count as cruelty?

To say nothing of how all this affects the men in the family. Men who grow up imagining that a woman’s body and it’s workings must be shrouded in mystery. And that it is dirty.

The Brat has been given the responsibility of hanging out the wash and bringing it back in, and everyday he is hanging out socks, shirts, bras, panties, jeans, everything. And he sees the difference between the unisex vests he and his sister wear, and the bras his mother wears. And there are no questions.

Actually there is only one question – Does this run colour?

What inspired this post? The Sabrimala drama over menstruating women. That they will only allow women in after a machine to scan and identify menstruating women has been invented. I am always amazed by how people conveniently cherry pick and choose from modernity. I will use modern technology to uphold a backward notion. I will take flights to places while shrouding my wife in fabric.

And have you all been introduced to the wonderful Rupi Kaur? If not, please go follow her. This one of hers, on menstruation.



14 thoughts on “On bleeding

  1. This reminds me of a few conversations with my husband back when we were dating. Apart from the minimum medical facts (which his dad had explained to him once) he didn’t have the slightest idea about what a period involved and he had so many questions for me. Growing up at my house, it was so different… I would go to my dad and tell him that I had really bad cramps and ask him to massage my back. In the home we’ve made together, I’m hoping to keep things different. To start with, whoever is free folds the laundry. I don’t believe in not celebrating festivals/not lighting lamps when I have my period. If it makes me happy to light a lamp and celebrate a festival, I just do so ๐Ÿ™‚ I agree with this post completely – it is so important that boys are exposed to these things at a young age so they understand what is normal.

    • I once dated this guy who would offer to get me a hot water bottle, chocolate, run my errands. I thought it was incredibly sweet, if unnecessary. A simple acknowledgment of the discomfort I’m in is great. Treating it like it’s an infectious disease, is not.

  2. Why is a woman’s menstruation anyone else’s business? They pray to the Gods for fertility, but look down upon periods. A country of contradictions, a sad sad state of affairs. During my own wedding I was asked if I was going to take something to delay my period so it won’t overlap with the religious ceremonies. (Nope, I didn’t. Tambrahm ceremonies didn’t have anything to do with my period)
    I had friends in school who were asked to sit separately, eat in “special” utensils and not allow anyone to touch them. They hated it but couldn’t change their family’s attitude. Fortunately, all our husbands have witnessed child birth and have seen through a fair amount of blood and gore. I hope that by the time our next crop of daughters is raised, that at least they have a more positive body image and learn to question these misogynistic practices.
    And then they go on and argue about tolerance — GAHHH

  3. V used to call ‘them’ mommy’s diapers when he was younger and I never really corrected him because it was so cute they way he wrinkled his nose and said ‘mommy’s susu diapers!’ but when he was 8 or so we sat down, had a chat about it keeping it to basic facts. Recently this year we upped it when he turned 11 realizing that soon girls in class would begin getting periods. As for laundry, I’m lazy, so each family member folds their own(V started age 4 or so) and many a times V folds mine too. V also does the washing/drying of clothes, taking out the garbage, loading dishwasher, keeping the vessels away etc etc. I decided to make use of free child labour while it was still in the house living off my dough and it works beautifully. This year they did begin their sex-ed talks at school but the girls got a different versions from he boys so periods were left out. Well, V is fortunate, he has a mama who fills in the gaps:-)

    And your brat, what can I say but muah, muah and muah. Want to squeeze him tight because he’s the bestest out there.

  4. It’s ridiculous, the sabarimala drama. I come from a fairly religious family and for the past few years I have refused to pray to Ayyappa, the Lord of sabarimala, with the justification that he hates women so I don’t see why I should pray to a God that hates me.

  5. I don’t think we need to teach boys explicitly .. As they grow they notice ! My husband is grew up without sisters but he was pretty sensitive to my sensitive days. Now that I have 2 boys when they do the laundry I tell them to leave my bras aside ( my hubby washes and folds them and the only male I am ok with). But I am sure in a few years they are going to notice it when they are at that age ๐Ÿ™‚
    Regarding the Sabarimala incident , certain temples have things specific to that temple / deity. Unfortunately now we want one size fits all !! I used to hate observing periods when I was a kid and even tried going to a temple !
    But now I realize unless I know the real reason for what we had such practices , it is foolish to ridicule them.

  6. Yup..I too grew up not having to hide my bras and panties from anyone. I could complain of cramps and an aching back to dad, uncle it G’dad. “Forbidden” to stain the bed sounds ridiculous..coz really if one is the kind of person who stains their bed on purpose,then there is a whole different and bigger problem to deal with!

    Talking about periods, what is your take on the celebration/function that some communities have when their daughters start getting periods? Personally I cringe at those..there is something wrong about telling the world that I have started my periods, right?

    • There is frankly nothing wrong with starting periods, staining, wearing bras, hanging them up to dry. But I do think the ceremony is something we find uncomfortable, because it’s not consistent with the way we view things anymore. I have questioned my dislike of the ceremony and I realise it stems in part from the signal that – here, our daughter is now ready to breed. What else can it signify? We don’t do one for men. Why?

      • Good point… The origin of the celebrarion was prolly to annouce that the girls are now in the market to marry?

        n yup, nothing wrong with starting periods ; but having to let the entire neighborhood know about it is something else!

  7. I used to like Rupi Kaur, not so much anymore…she tends to use broad diaspora experiences rather than her own to weave into her poetry. I had thought they were all her thoughts, her experiences, but they aren’t (is she even old enough to have experienced everything she writes about?) That bugs me, not quite sure why. It just does…

    BTW, hello again, after a several years!

    • I’ve heard a lot more controversy about her recently, that left me very disturbed. It seems like one can no longer trust anything. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
      And hello right back at you. Good to see you!

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