The first tampon commercial said it all. It was in the 1934 Sears Roebuck catalog, and the headline for a product called Wix tampons cried "Save Embarrassment Order by Mail!" We’ve come a long way baby? Not so far, it seems. Until 1972, sanitary protection products were banned by the National Association of Broadcasters in the United States. Fast forward 30 more years. During the 1990s, ads for tampons and sanitary napkins were still forbidden on British TV during "family viewing times." No wonder it’s so hard to view our periods as natural and positive parts of the maturation process. No wonder it’s always been so difficult to view menstruation as anything other than a dirty, shameful, disgusting secret. What’s a girl to do?
Statistics show that 85% of girls think it inappropriate to discuss menstruation with boys. If we buy into the negative old wives’ tales that teach it’s shameful if anyone sees you dealing with the details of keeping up with the bloody inconvenience, if we live in fear that life is over if someone ever sees evidence of our period on our clothes, the furniture or the floor, how can we hope to get any other response from far less educated boys?
Going from believing that your period is a repugnant, almost disease-like condition, to viewing it as a healthy affirmation of womanhood is not easy. There is still so much culturally inspired negative conditioning going on, even at the dawn of the 21st century. But change our attitude, we must. Researchers have found that how we interpret the feelings that accompany our menstrual cycles have a dramatic effect on our health, not to mention our social lives. When you’re in the throes of red-faced embarrassment, brought on by your brother, your dad, or your boyfriend, try to remember these tips.
1. Just as every healthy woman will have a monthly period, every man knows that they do. If some immature jerk opens his rude mouth, memorize what he says. Then share his dumb words with any woman close by, and bond. Nothing brings women closer together or makes them laugh harder than sharing the misperceptions of men!
2. Cold water works magic on blood stains. They’ll wash off easily if you rinse with cold water as soon as you can. And no one looks twice at a sweatshirt tied around your waist during drying time.
3. If you think of your period as a painful, bloody mess, it certainly will be just that. Studies show that negative attitudes play a major role in PMS. And they are contagious. Deal and go on, and so will the boys. Or get stuck in the mire of negativity: the choice is yours.
4. Put things in perspective. You could always move! Certain African and Native American cultures celebrate the coming of menstruation with feasting, dancing, ceremony, and joy. There are ancient traditions in India and Australia that have a deep reverence for the menstruating woman and her period. American attitudes are not the norm!
5. If your worst nightmare happens and you’re mortified in front of the absolute last person on earth you’d choose to see you that way, make yourself feel better by rewarding yourself with some chocolate, a new magazine, or a soap opera accompanied by a hot water bottle. Wear your best earrings during your period, take a long bath, and celebrate the woman you are becoming.
6. Understand that girls’ passing into puberty has been fraught with shame and disapproval since time began. Ask your mom about her experiences. Then try talking about your period more openly with positive images and language. Today’s woman has the chance to redefine menstruation as a positive, profound force in our lives. You do not have to be weak, out-of-control, and miserable.
7. Just remember you will use about 10,000 pads and tampons during your lifetime... and there’s not a woman alive who hasn’t survived a bit of embarrassment along the way.