There comes a time in every man’s life where he needs to learn about menses, for his own sanity, and so women in his life don’t think he’s a complete idiot. For my son, that time came yesterday morning. I was helping him finish up his homework when a force of nature reached into my abdomen and strangled my uterus. I winced, and kind of groaned, and my son asked what was wrong.
Now, I’ve been incredibly open about bodily functions with my kid since he started asking questions 5 years ago. My friend’s mom gave me this book from the 1970s when I was pregnant, and everyone is, like, super-groovy, man, and here’s where the baby lives, and here’s a picture of a cervix (“It looks like it’s smiling!” my dear son would exclaim), and at the end, there’s a gross baby, covered in placenta and goo, looking like an old, beleaguered Eastern European man. But my kid would ask questions, and by the time he was three, he knew a cervix was what “squeezed” the baby out and the uterus (“yooderus”) was where the baby grew. We still have not gotten to the specifics of how the baby actually GETS there, but FUCK OFF I CAN ONLY DO ONE THING AT A TIME.
Back to the conversation. So he asks me what’s wrong and the conversation goes like this:
Me: Okay…well…you know how I have a uterus?
Ham Guy: Yeah, that’s where I was.
Me: Right. So, every month since I was 11 years old, except for the time you were in there, my uterus seems to get really mad that there isn’t a baby in there.
HG: It gets mad at you?
Me: Well, uh, not really MAD but it seems that way. Uh…so yeah. Once a month, it needs to get rid of its lining and so my uterus is kind of…uh…jesus…it’s, uh, shedding. And with the lining and everything, there’s, you know, uh, blood.
HG: YOU’RE BLEEDING?? ARE YOU OKAY???
Me: Oh, yeah, dude, it’s fine. It’s something I’ve had to deal with for…uh…[calculates slowly in head] 21 years.
HG: YOU’VE BEEN BLEEDING FOR 21 YEARS???
Me: No…no. It just happens a few days a month every month, unless there’s a baby in there and that’s just not a thing that’s gonna happen again.
Ham Guy, at this point, is pondering this new batch of information. And also he is starting to worry. Which then, I’m like, “Well, shit. I fucked up.” But really, I just don’t want him to think it’s a HUGE DEAL. I’m not going to make him sit and watch the opening scene in Carrie or anything, but I’m raising him myself and sometimes I need to buy tampons when we’re grocery shopping. There’s no reason for me to be red-faced and stammering when he asks me what they are. Periods are a (fucking terrible, pain-in-the-ass) part of my life.
It’s always annoyed me that so many dudes are horrified and clueless about periods. I’ve had maybe one or two boyfriends in my life who weren’t totally afraid of them (although they probably were afraid of me in the week preceding), but asking them to get me tampons? You’d think I’d asked them to cut the still-beating heart out of a puppy. And I’m always left thinking, “You’re not even the motherfucker who has to DEAL with this shit every month, you ASSHOLE!”
Anyway, it took a lot of me reassuring Ham Guy that I was, in fact, bleeding and that it would, in fact, last a few days but that IT IS TOTALLY OKAY. Aside from this horrible, intermittent pain in my abdomen that can be fixed with some Naproxen and a heating pad, my life will go on as it has for years before, and will for (goddammit) years to come. I’m not entirely clear as to from whence he thinks the blood is coming, but that’s an issue for another day. All I want is for him to not be weirded out, and not look at women like we’re total weirdos for dealing with this once a month. But most importantly, I want him to grow up to be the dude who not only DOESN’T tell the, “Never trust something that bleeds for 5 days and doesn’t die” joke, but even goes so far as to make whoever DID tell it feel like the world’s biggest moron. So far, I think it’s working.