AS WOMEN, there is one experience we all share.
It may not be the best thing to happen to you, but not having it could be far worse for some — and comes with its own challenges.
That’s right ladies. Periods. Menstruation. The time of the month. Aunt Flow. The Red Sea. Moon Time.
Whatever you call it, one thing’s for sure — we all get it, so we may as well talk about it.
In fact, the subject came up with a group of girlfriends at my birthday lunch last week.
When you put seven women (three of whom are Mums) together and the topic goes there, you are bound to get some hilarious stories.
And I wasn’t disappointed.
As we all went around the table sharing our tips and tricks, my friends — some of whom are old mates, while others have never met before – all bonded over their similar sad, traumatic and down-right hysterical tales about their first periods.
Now if you’re a guy reading this and are about to turn the page in disgust, think about this.
If women didn’t have periods, you wouldn’t even be here, so listen up.
You might have a daughter or niece one day who will get a period.
And what if her first time happens to be with you?
Do you want to be the type of father who panicked and rang a woman ‘‘to deal with it’’?
Or do you want to be the kind of dad who steps up and helps her through one of the most emotionally challenging times a young girl will ever go through.
Because they will remember. We always remember our first time.
The good, the bad and the ugly. And of course the funny.
We all hope it will happen in the comfort and safety of our own home, where we can awkwardly but discreetly navigate this strange new world, with no-one the wiser.
Unfortunately for some, it can be the most mortifying occurrence of her life if it happens at school, in front of 20 pre-pubescent boys who think it’s funny to yell out ‘‘she’s got her rags!’’ as she stumbles helplessly to the toilet.
Thankfully that didn’t happen to me. But I did believe it was the end of the world as I knew it.
I was bedridden for three days — over Christmas of all days! — when I woke up to what I thought was me bleeding to death after a possible chainsaw massacre.
I guess I’ve always been a little dramatic, so when Mum hugged me and started planning a chocolate period party to celebrate my ‘‘womanhood’’ — I cried ‘‘How can you celebrate the worst day of my life!’’
So sadly there was no chocolate party, but I get what she was trying to do.
She just wanted to let me know that I wasn’t alone and make me feel better with chocolate. But when you’re a moody teenager, whose only thought is ‘How am I going to deal with this every 28 days for the rest of my life!’, not even chocolate can help.
Eleven years later, when it happened to my youngest sister at school, Mum came to pick her up in the car and decided putting a red towel on the passenger seat would make a funny joke. Tara did not think it was funny.
We all shared funny stories about having to bring pads and tampons to school. Coughing or waiting for the hair dryer to turn on so we could open the crunchy packet without anyone hearing.
One of my friends, who was lucky enough to get her period in primary school, said her Mum would pack her a brown paper bag full of pads, so when she took off to the bathroom, all the kids would ask her why she was taking her lunch to the toilet.
Yes, it’s funny to look back on, but definitely not at the time.
In fact, most of us wish we didn’t have to have periods. It would be nice to just get a text message every month to say — congratulations, you’re not pregnant.
Of course, when you first start having sex, periods can come as a welcome relief.
You know, when you’re a day late, and you start wondering if that ravenous appetite could be because you’re now eating for two, madly think about the best way to tell your parents you’re going to be a 17-year-old Mum before you casually start flipping through a book of unusual but cool baby names.
They are certainly the times you can’t wait for your period to come on time.
And these days, with all these new hygiene products coming out, you could easily forget it’s that time of the month.
Now there’s something called menstrual cups — which are not something I’d use but many women swear by them (plus they’re environmentally friendly) — and also period undies.
Now I love the sound of these. Not quite sure how they work, but if it means not having to use anything at all, I’m all for it.
Now, as a mother of two girls, I will have to navigate through this all again — but this time from a more experienced and educated position.
And when it happens, I don’t think I’ll go all out with a party, but there will be chocolate and lots of funny stories. Full stop. Period.