I don't care how you paint it, I don't think there is a single beautiful or spiritual aspect of menstruation. Moon time? I'm supposed to celebrate this nonsense? I'm not baking a cake for my uterus. It’s done literally nothing to deserve a cake this year. I don't feel a spiritual cleansing or a deeper, more meaningful connection to the earth. You know what I feel? Irritated. With everyone. And hungry.
Mostly just those two things.
I don't even need my uterus anymore, so it's basically just in the way. If I could remove it, all the better; its absence would make way for my intestines, which would give my stomach some space to spread out. Bam. No more food babies. I don't care if that's not how anatomy works. Don't tell me.
Here are some things I wish I'd been told before all this blood and estrogen rained down upon my unsuspecting 12-year-old prepubescent body. There are many.
1. Cramps. Such assholes. Take 600 mg ibuprofen. Starting now. And then every six hours. Until menopause. (Don't actually do that. Because you need your liver.) Cramps are like menstrual labor, only you're birthing a mess instead of precious human life. They can range from "Oh, that's annoying" to "GET ME AN EPIDURAL. YES, I KNOW I'M NOT PREGNANT. NO, I DON’T CARE. CALL ANESTHESIA. NOW." Midol is supposed to "relieve menstrual discomfort, including cramps and bloating." You know what else relieves menstruation discomfort? An epidural and a five-day nap.
2. Diarrhea. Oh yeah. Enjoy. If you thought the uterine cramps were fun, wait for the impending hyperactive peristalsis. That's just a fancy way to say diarrhea. It’s a real thing and no one wants you to know. Because women don’t poop and our farts are made of glitter. And poop is gross. But guess who doesn’t care if poop is gross? Your intestines.
I care about you, and because I care about you (and your poop situation) I’m going to share with you a super-secret secret: Ibuprofen will actually stop the diarrhea. To be fair, you need to take a whole bottle paired with a pint or so of whiskey, but hey, no diarrhea (P.S. don’t do that). But seriously, ibuprofen is a prostaglandin inhibitor. If you don’t know what in the holy name of Oprah a prostaglandin is, it doesn’t matter. Just take the ibuprofen every six or so hours and poop less water. That’s all you need to know.
3. Irritability. You will be irritable. The end.
4. Where the fuck do you even put all this blood? It's not enough that there is blood, you have to catch it somehow. There's no way around this, unless you want to free-bleed. If you do want to free-bleed, feel free to do so, but avoid open water (because sharks) and white home furnishings.
Blood receptacles fall into two categories: internal and external. Internal covers tampons, menstrual cups, and for the real hippies in the crowd, sea sponges. External covers, well, pads.
Let's cut the crap. There is nothing that is going to make this awesome. Just aim for tolerable. The entire first year I wore a tampon, I walked around like I had a wad of toilet paper shoved in my vagina. Because a badly-inserted tampon basically is a wad of toilet paper shoved in your vagina. No one could teach me how to insert a tampon, and I was afraid to put it in too far because either A. it was going to be unbearably painful (think childbirth) or B. my vagina just led to a black hole, wherein the tampon would float forever. So I went about my business with a half-inserted Playtex.
I don't love tampons for a couple of reasons, but mostly really just one: Toxic shock syndrome. See this woman here? She was just going about her menstruating, happily employing a tampon, next thing you know? Amputee. If loss of limb isn't enough to scare you away from chemical-laden "cotton," I don't know what is. Passing on tampons, thanks. I like limbs.
Enter the menstrual cup. When it comes to the menstrual cup, there really isn't any middle ground. You either love it passionately or despise it with the fiery hatred of 1,000 burning suns. The menstrual cup will not make your period beautiful. Flowers will not germinate and bloom in your vagina. What the menstrual cup will do is make your period affordable. One of the primary complaints about the use of a menstrual cup is the mess. This gets better with time and finesse, but let's face it: bleeding is messy business, and it's going to be a mess no matter how you slice it. Just bite the bullet for the eight hours of wear.
If you are staunchly opposed to putting any sort of cup into your vagina, then you're left with either the free-bleeding thing or a pad. I'm just going to assume you didn't go to UC Santa Cruz and paint feminist art with the byproduct of your uterus. Disposable pads have evolved from looking like a post-whiplash neck brace to barely noticeable, super-absorbent . . . something. They aren't expensive but they also aren't super-comfortable, and God knows what exactly it is that makes them mysteriously capable of holding an entire cup of blue liquid. It can't be good. I do know that. Also, if you're bleeding a cup of blue liquid, you should call your physician. Immediately.
Enter cloth pads. Gladrags are a personal favorite. Well, as much as anything that ends up blood-soaked can be a favorite. People don’t really want to hear about my menstrual pads but hey, you’re already here, so too bad. It’s gross, you say? You know what’s gross? Your period. Period. So the difference between a chemically-laden maybe, possibly, part-cotton disposable pad and a cloth one is that you have to wash one. I washed cloth diapers. Period blood doesn’t scare me. At all. Nope.
5. Food cravings. I don’t care what you’re craving — pickles, chocolate, Lay's BBQ Kettle Chips — your period is causing that craving, and it demands fulfillment. If anyone contests your need for a Taco Bell bean burrito with extra fire sauce at 1 a.m., see #3.