The Menstruation Myth

Period, period, period, period, period. Are you comfortable with it yet?

When I was 17 years old I tried to send my brother to the local pharmacy because I needed tampons. Before he could step out of the door I could hear a mumbled conversation and then a resounding WHAT, before he was loudly told to get upstairs and my father stormed into the living room to give me a piece of his mind.

 Little had I known that my insensitive request had nearly turned my brother gay, or worse, transgender.

I was astounded by the ignorance flowing out of the mouth of someone I respected. A well educated, well read individual, and one who had no problem discussing fashion and makeup with me, hardly the manliest of conversations.

The line was drawn at periods.

The attitude towards periods he had experienced growing up was one where they were treated as a curse, a sign of uncleanliness, a burden women had to endure as discreetly as possible without tainting any innocent men with it. In the later years we managed to educate my father away from the fears borne from menstrual ignorance; he no longer handles a box of tampons at arms length, nor washes his hands compulsively afterwards.

My mum remains quite sheltered on the topic, like many Indian women of her generation. It was something whispered behind closed doors. Uttering it too loudly may cause your uterus to explode. She was taught that it was something to be ashamed of, something women suffered.

Maybe it was a good thing that she wasn’t around to give me the talk. I had to rely on my sister and PSHE for my information. My dad’s only recognition of the event was adding sanitary towels to the shopping list and then promptly reminding me I had to help him buy them, else he be considered a pervert by the rest of London. By the time she came home, my dad was now privy to my cycle, and I was using tampons.

Revelations that garnered an “Oh lord, the shame!” and an afternoon of praying.

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“They attract bears”

The ignorance surrounding the menstrual cycle used to really anger me as a young woman. Periods make women ‘unclean’ in my culture. You are not meant to enter a holy place when menstruating, nor are you meant to touch a man about to pray, or give offerings to god, and a whole other list of things you can’t do because you are tainted by your own biology. The most embarrassing part when I was a young teen, was you would be asked whether you had your period. I could understand this from a doctor, but not when all I wanted to do was step into a building. My mother would discreetly inquire if I had my period and if I did I didn’t have to go to temple, or religious events, or partake in religious ceremonies.

Needless to say, I was always on my period during such occasions.

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Yeah, he’s not convinced

For some of the men I dated ‘that time of the month’ was a punchline and an inconvenience. Periods meant sex was now a hassle. Ignorant fears of fathering a brain damaged baby, or seeing tampax in the bathroom were too much for a minority. In fairness these comments were made by the Bricks of this world who believe periods opened them up to bear attacks.

Most men my age aren’t that ignorant.

But that isn’t to say they are well informed, or that they want to be. An ex once asked me how I was able to be in the swimming pool of our local gym if I was on my period. Confused, I replied tampons. He continued to look at me awaiting an explanation. Why would he know the difference between a sanitary towel or a tampon? Why would he care? The Bodyform woman’s roar was obviously a signal to put the kettle on for him. What he could do though was wipe the terrified look off his face and stop scanning the water for Sharks.

A uniquely female experience doesn’t have be seen as a curse, or unclean, or a negative.

 Man up. It’s just a little blood.

 

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Biological Duty

Having a womb isn’t a good enough reason to have kids

I once dated a guy who informed me it was my biological duty to have children.

Yes. He said that.

Think of my uterus, if you would, as a bread maker that came with my ‘kitchen’.

The kitchen is great, but wouldn’t it be more of a kitchen if there was a rising heap of dough in that breadmaker? Wouldn’t that bread make me happier in the long run?

I mean you can’t have a breadmaker and not use it.

How am I still meeting people in this century who have this take on females and procreation?

I was never someone whose womb wrenched when she held a child, nor have I longed to feel life grow inside me. I’ve always been happy to hand a baby back, and get a burrito.

I’ve had the occasional flash panic, and stood in front of the freezer section in Sainsbury’s, frantically texting friends about embryo storage, whilst cooling my ovaries. But it was no bigger a panic than the undercut/no undercut dilemma of 2014.

I love the little humans.

Not because I have a uterus, but because I find them amazing. The incessant questioning, stubbornness, creativity and boundless energy is something I’m on board with.

We get on well.

As a result, I’m often told to have some of my own. Funny, because I’m also told I’m great with pets, but that ‘A puppy is for life, not just for Christmas’ campaign really did a job on folks. That’s something I should consider carefully.

I’m at that age where all my friends have had, or are having children. Some as I type. I am often told there is nothing like the joy of motherhood. That it’s the best thing I’ll ever do.

I think a more realistic description is that motherhood is a completely different kind of experience from those I have had to date. No one is making it look like ‘the best thing’ when they are wrestling a pound of ‘pick n mix’ out of a screaming child’s hand, handling a flooded bathroom, or being bitten.

My trip to Vegas measures up better.

That being said, the love my friends have for their children is contagious. Their relationships are rewarding. The way their children love them is moving. Good people are being raised in the world and it’s a beautiful thing to see.

But from a distance.

For me.

For now.

 

My So Called Life

Life, or something a lot like it

Last month on My Life: I got a job. I started a course. I downloaded Tinder. Again. I quit the job. I finished the course. I deleted Tinder. Again.

Despite the boring summary, I feel like things have changed. Albeit microscopically.

Instead of putting the same effort into a CV as I did into making pencil cases out of Pocky boxes, I chose to play narcissistic date roulette again and hone my use of the ‘How you doin?’ GIF.

Normally, this would distract me for at least a month before I got fed up of the superficiality of it all, and returned to binge drinking for entertainment.

Not this time: It lasted 16 days. And I’m not drunk right now.

It’s not because the internet is rife with sexual deviants who have decided to use their opposable thumbs to tug themselves off and video it simultaneously. Nor is it because it has become acceptable to ask a stranger for a blowjob based on the fact they liked your picture. Although, let’s face it, neither of those guys are doing men a favour in the dating stakes.

The reason is that for months my entire life has been conducted through screens.

I say it like it isn’t the norm. Update status, Snapchat your day, IG your food, Whatsapp your genitals. It’s modern life for many.

Much more of my time has been invested in a virtual reality. I work remotely and rarely have to speak to colleagues beyond emails and online chat. I date remotely and have ‘conversations’ via text. I don’t have to spend any ‘real time’ with people at all.

I miss real people.

I think a lot of pressure was taken off my awkward social skills in the advent of growing social media. I didn’t realise how distant it had made me. I’ve favoured Whatsapp chats over phone calls. My phone is always on silent. I express myself through sarcastic updates  and my last two relationships have been mainly conducted remotely over Skype.

This year has changed me though.

In the spirit of personal development, I told a guy I was texting that we should have a chat, get to know each other properly.

His response was to text me diary entries of his day until I asked him to kindly stop.

Maybe switching my phone off and going outside more is a better start.

Rebel Rebel

I clearly do not like being told what to do

A paramilitary tried to train me for a cross country run once. I thought running with someone else would be fun.

Wrong.

The clue was in the fact he was paramilitary. As a result, he thought barking at me to run faster, run backwards, slow down, go faster, would motivate me. I stopped about 2k in and said I wasn’t going to do anymore. He did the whole, “Don’t quit on me now!” soldier bollocks that might get a different person hyped up and grunting like a frat boy.

I just stopped turned around and started running in the opposite direction.

“I know you’re type.” he said when he caught up to me. “Don’t like being told what to do.”

He was right. I don’t like being told what to do. I don’t like being yelled at. I definitely don’t like the combo with the added stress of an increased heart rate when I am covered in sweat.

Before I could wheeze something offensive at him he pulled out some ninja death stars and a butterfly knife, and said we could go and practice being ninjas in the park instead.

Funnily enough I didn’t mind being told how to throw a knife.

My dad says I always have to be difficult. Do things the hard way. Or the weird way.

Maybe he’s right.

It’s unfortunate we seem to be so diametrically opposed in our approaches to life.

I never considered the tattoos, piercings, short hair, red hair, late nights, drunk nights, or any of the rest of it an act of rebellion. I was just doing what I wanted to do. It just so happened there was someone on the opposite side telling me not to do it.

Is that what makes it rebellion?

Discussing the topic with a friend she told me of her own rebellion: joining the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It was a bizarre situation.

Her parents thought she needed spiritual guidance. Unfortunately it’s rare to get a Hindu priest knocking on your door.

Cue the change of religion.

I’m still not clear what they hoped to achieve by having the nice Watchtower ladies talk to her once a week. Maybe they thought they would calm her down enough for Hindu control. I bet they didn’t expect her to join the Jehovah’s Witnesses though.

It took two years before she felt her point had been solidly proven and returned to being a happy agnostic.

Was this a completely necessary point to prove?

Probably not.

But when you’re a teen there’s the need to assert who you are. Followed by the notion you will slow down, calm down, or grow out of it.

Now that I’m older, I feel somewhat obliged to behave in a sensible moderate way. But the need to assert who we are isn’t something confined to our hormonal teens.

There’s no one really telling me what to do anymore. Only my brain.

What do

Well brain, I do what I want.

 

 

 

Happy Endings

Things work always work out in the end. Even gastroenteritis.

All it took was one bite of the egg.

I heaved up the banana milkshake quicker than I’d drunk it. Then whatever else was left of the Tonsai devil burger I had at the start of my journey.

That’s what I get for eating a burger at the beach.

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I should have known…

I was climbed out. Tired. And I had been eating pretty healthy for about a week. One burger couldn’t hurt. Plus I thought it would see me well on my epic  boat, bus, plane and train journey to Ayutthaya.

But now it had me hunched over the toilet bowl of a tiny restaurant at 7 am.

My first instinct was to head back to bed. Or even better: Bangkok. But when would I get to come this close to Rama’s city of Ayodhya? That’s what Ayutthaya was meant to be, the city of temples, old capital of Siam. A slice of history, mythology and my childhood.

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Ayutthaya

The Ramayana was one of my favourite stories as a child, stories of princesses, demons, flying monkeys and a city all lit up to welcome home an exiled prince.

I couldn’t just leave.

So I pushed myself to do a five hour walking tour of the temples. A tour which ended with me hailing a tuktuk to help me round the last leg.
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I even went on a riverboat tour of the waterside temples. Each one filled with ornate Buddhas and crumbling buildings. There was a calm beauty to it all. But I was feeling out of sorts.

It could have been too much in a short span. I had temple overload and zero perspective to appreciate what I’d seen. More likely the food poisoning had muted the experience.

It wasn’t how I’d wanted my trip to end, but it was how I returned to Bangkok.

Funnily enough though, Bangkok was the real surprise. I didn’t expect to enjoy the tail boats and temples as much as I did. Nor that I would feel as peaceful and calm in the city as I had at The Sanctuary wandering around the temples and palaces that Ayutthaya had inspired.

Maybe I’m just a city girl at heart. Maybe I’d found some inner peace.

Or the parasites had changed me irrevocably.

The temple at Wat Pho fast became my favourite place for peaceful meditation and a massage. I’m addicted to Thai massage now. There is something strangely relaxing about being forced into yoga positions and cradled by a stranger who will then crack your entire spine.

It put a smile on my face.

Though I’m pretty sure it shouldn’t have.

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I visited the reclining Buddha one more time before I left.

The immensity of it, filling a whole temple had me in awe when I first saw it. Looking upon it again I felt content and at peace before I left and ready for whatever might happen next in life.

Leaving countries is always so bittersweet for me. It’s like cutting a conversation short when you’re really getting to know someone.

I’ll be back Thailand.

If for nothing more than another massage.

Know your role

Everyone is good at something…right?

As I stood there watching the young man writhing on the floor, lip locked with a rubber IKEA oven mitt, I wondered what the hell I was doing here.

My friend Abner has been encouraging me to go to auditions, to network, make contacts with script writers. “You’ve got to get out there and follow your dream!” He was right.

Consequently, I’ve been signing up for auditions and taster classes. It’s been something to get me out of the house at weekends. Plus it’s free, which sums up my criteria for entertainment these days.

It’s definitely been entertaining.

At the writer’s workshop, I felt like a moody teenager. I was sat at the back, all dressed in black, screwing up my face every time someone bleated at the opportunity to read their work out.

I was grateful for the pair work. At least then the other person could strain their arm enthusiastically in the air, while I continued to slouch apathetically in my chair and text.

The activity was a silent dialogue, set at a party. Pradeep and I commenced our silent conversation. Needless to say, in real life Pradeep and I would a) Never be found at the same party b) Would never have commenced to converse because I would have been able to see his conversation coming a mile off and hot-tailed it to the bathroom.

Writing classes and workshops are a great place to meet a writing partner; your lobster.

Pradeep was not my lobster.

There weren’t any lobsters. Just people trying to figure out what their ‘love’ was. But maybe loving something wasn’t enough. Nor was Marcela. She gleefully shared her comedy creation, Paul: an extremely fat man good at his job. “Fat isn’t a character flaw. What’s his flaw?”

“He works too hard? But sometimes it’s difficult because… he’s fat!”

“So it’s funny because he’s fat?”

“Yes!”

This went on for a while before we all just gave up.

This would never happen at TGS

The following weekend I was amidst a group of actors. Some of whom found it hard to mask their disdain at the fact I was a tourist. ‘It seemed like fun’ is not what the competition want to hear at an audition.

They want the part.

They will even use a five minute break to try and get it, as I found when I was faced with the ridiculously energetic Eva. Her heart-rendering performance of the day she fell over in the rain went sadly unnoticed by the director. I think I’d asked her if there was a Tesco nearby.

I couldn’t bring myself to participate in the improv. The group of people on the floor fighting over a toilet brush, while one waggled his tongue in and out his heat protected hand, left me speechless.

I have no problems looking like a fool. I just won’t fight other fools to do it.

They really wanted this. I needed to have that ‘willing to pretend to make it with a glove’ type of desperation. But I couldn’t even make eye contact with anyone. Every line I delivered was aimed at someone’s crotch or my own cleavage.

I was their Pradeep. Their Marcela.

My friend got a part in the play, without having to romance homeware. I signed up for the comedy writing class.

I think my first piece will be a drama about a woman trying to write a play about an overweight man trying to make it as an actor.

Maybe IKEA guy could play him. He seems like he would commit to putting on 20 kilos.

So this is Christmas

 

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Not this year it isn’t…

John Lewis and shiny stuff would lead most of us to believe that this is the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas can be pretty wonderful: friends you haven’t seen in years, time with family, spreading joy, giving and receiving, great food, the list goes on. This year my attitude, normally on a par with Buddy the Elf, is a bit more like the weather: lukewarm.

Christmas comes but once a year. At least that was my mantra in past years when I forced a smile when being nagged by my parents about when I was going to meet a nice boy. Or when I was being nagged about when I was going to move closer to home. Or when I was wincing at drunken shouting and trivial arguments. Or when I was joining in on the shouting. I still managed a smile because a week down the line I would be back on a plane and far away. Future conversations could be tolerated. Or at least muted.

This year Christmas feels like it is building up to be Wrestlemania. All the previously small bouts that have taken place lover the last four months will now culminate in this one off spectacular event.

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All things festive

There is no tapping out.

A chair may be employed as a last minute act of desperation.

My plan to hide in the gym was thwarted. I may no longer have any idea what day of the week it is, but most of the normal working world have been counting the sleeps until they could go out, get battered, safe in the knowledge there was no getting up at 7 am the next morning.

This is my life.

Maybe that’s why my cheer isn’t as cheery. The biggest factor in my love of Christmas was desperate relief. The winter term was the longest one at school. After seven weeks of crowd control, marking, observations and prising kids off windows and walls, I wanted to sleep for two weeks. It’s like the Eddie Murphy joke about the cracker you get offered after weeks in the desert.

Christmas was the best cracker I had ever eaten.

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Christmas Hip Hop Carousel

Every day is like Christmas now. In the sense I get to stay at home watching bad television, balancing my finances and drinking anything mulled. All I’ve been missing over the last four months was a festive hat at a jaunty angle.

The traditional Christmas dinner is also a festive selling point.

Roast potatoes, Turkey, Christmas pudding, even sprouts, there’s something about that Christmas spread. It warms the heart.

As I sit staring at the swede that will be the crowning joy in vegan Christmas, I find it hard to get excited.

My brother is an excellent cook. It will be a Vegetarian/Vegan delight. But it’s not quite Christmas this year.

I nearly went full Scrooge when Facebook asked if I wanted to see what 2015 looked like. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

The Ghosts of Facebook Statuses past have helped me to gain some perspective this Christmas Eve.

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Still smiling. Kind of

This hasn’t been my worst Christmas. Not by a long shot.

There was the Christmas Air France lost all my luggage. The Christmas I lost my phone in a taxi on the way to the airport. The Christmas I nearly lost my hand and had to have surgery. Last Christmas, when  I was sent blow by blow details of how my then boyfriend liked to get down in the bedroom, and then had to spend the day comforting him.

This has been quite an uneventful festive season in retrospect.

Christmas has it’s good points. I get to make it magical for my nephew.  I stay up watching cheesy movies and playing board games with my siblings. It’s the only time of the year when I can hit reset with my parents and start afresh. I also get to see friends I love and laugh. Drunkenly.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. If I let it be.

So I’m going to get me some wine and listen to Jingle Bell Rock until the spirit of Christmas, or Christmas spirits restore me to my normally hyperactive Christmas state.
Happy holidays. Get merry. ’tis the season.

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